Wednesday, May 20, 2015

We Brought It Onto Ourselves

Many have commented on the recent survey from Pew Research Center on the dramatic rise of the religious group that are “Unaffiliated” or “None.”  I full understand the concern for this shift.  One Facebook acquaintance lamented that a major reason for people leaving is because God handed them a bad break in life, and they failed to remember that God always works good to His own (Rom 8:28).  The truth of that promise is eternal, so what is the problem?

For decades the three major denominational wings cited in the study (Evangelical Protestant, Mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic) have worked to be as inclusive as possible while acknowledging some identifying distinctive.  Entrance into these groups became increasingly easy as the identifying marks of what constituted Christianity were watered down or set aside so as not to impede free access.  Doctrinal statements were relegated to antiquity or the curio cabinet as relics of history, while by-laws were interpreted individually or changed in accord with the whim of societal norms.  The only draw was an increasing appeal to social conscience toward those outside or amusements for those within.  What enduring appeal remained constant came from the family bond from one generation to the next, though this waned with increased mobility.  They became groups having no other purpose of gathering except for a generally comfortable acceptance of one another while sharing the same building and governance.  We should not be surprised by the exodus.

Having been part of the Evangelical community for most of my life, I can see the downward trend.  We have largely moved away from preaching Law and Gospel in view of a thrice-holy God.  While faithful men continue to preach Christ and Him crucified, an increasing number are delivering up a God who desires to salve consciences and ease life’s turmoils.  He is painted as a deity who will do anything and everything for you.  Not only do preachers continually promote this combination demi-god/BFF, but all avenues of media are involved.  Whether print, audio, or video, Evangelicals (some in name only) are in high gear promoting the deity that will deliver the goods.  You might say we are being played as welfare recipients waiting for our weekly allowance with preachers and denominational headquarters reaping the rewards.*  The previously mentioned acquaintance should not have been surprised by those who thought they got a raw deal.  With so little substance being delivered, why would they stay?

Is a trend reversal possible?  Can pastors begin leading their congregations in the paths of righteousness once again?  Indeed, but it requires a shift from cultural Christianity to one biblically based, though this would be akin to a tugboat with multiple fully-loaded barges performing a U-turn.  Some will leave because of the reclaimed apostolic witness, but better the offense be from the Gospel rather than over a church program or social justice promotion.  Some may even think turning attention to the whole counsel of God will be boring, but Scripture rightly proclaimed and manifested in baptism and the Lord’s Supper is anything but.  Better to suffer for righteousness’ sake and doing good wherein is blessing (1 Pet 3:14, 17).

* I am painting with a broad brush, but in a discussion of trends that happens.  Our own pastor has thus far stayed clear of the trending currents and not been swept away, but no man is without his weakness (see Acts 20:28-30).

1 comment:

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Well said,

Unfortunately, at the church we have attended for 13 years, several months ago they decided to start leaning to the "market-driven" philosophy. Some, like us, have left, while many others are unhappy and not really sure what to do.

When you try to please the world, those who are truly seeking God don't want to have anything to do with it.