Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Repeating History?

Thom Rainer has written an article included in the April 2014 edition of The American Church Magazine entitled “14 Predictions for American Churches for 2014.”  Here are those predictions:
  1. Increased church acquisitions – small churches seeking to be acquired by larger.
  2. Downsizing of denominational structures.
  3. Decline in conversion growth.
  4. More mega-churches.
  5. Greater number of churches moving to a unified worship style – fewer offering two service styles (i.e., one traditional and one contemporary).
  6. Increased emphasis on high-expectation church membership.
  7. Increased challenges for congregations to build and acquire land due to restrictive governmental policies.
  8. More large churches will function like mini-denominations.
  9. New worship centers will be built smaller.
  10. Increased emphasis on small groups.
  11. Longer pastoral tenure.
  12. Local churches increasing their roles as ministry training leaders.
  13. Church movement to the community.
  14. More multiple teaching/preaching pastors.
Upon reviewing the list, I summarize it like this: American Evangelicalism is jettisoning the Church Growth model in order to embrace a pre-medievel (ca. sixth century) model.  Instead of Rome, Carthage, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Constantinople as the centers of Christianity, we will have East Texas, Georgia, Southern California, Southern Florida, and Suburban Chicago.  Effort will be made in each of these new “bishoprics” to “reach across the aisle” within their regions and attempt to bring unity to the American church.  Conclaves of sorts will be developed with recommendations for church governance and practice.  These recommendations will be enforced in strict measure that attendance and unity may continue.  Eventually, one center will assert its prominence or preëminence (or both) as the only rightful seat of authority.  You can guess the outcome.  And what will get left out of all this?  Right doctrine.

Feel free to disagree with this assessment, but I am still left wondering why the American church wants to revisit this trajectory.  After battling the heretics and schisms for the first few centuries, the Church thought it had matters in hand, then it started to believe in itself rather than its Creator, and set itself as head rather than looking to its true Head.  History repeats itself, and it can certainly do so with a different look and feel.  I enjoy reviewing the historical church to see how things worked, where we might be off course, and where we are improved.  Paul’s first epistle to Corinth was a litany of issues and errors that needed correction, not a commendation for their ingenuity.  Use mistakes of the past as examples to be avoided, not emulated.

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