Tuesday, April 04, 2006

THE EXTINCTION OF THE CHURCH ?


“Christianity is always only one
generation away from extinction.”

Boy, did I get scared when I first read that!

My former pastor put it in an article he once wrote. I think whoever first came up with that phrase was trying to frighten the daylights out of the reader. I don't think anyone even really knows who first said it. But that doesn't matter because what's going on today in churches is that evangelical pastors of the Church Growth Movement (CGM) and Emergent movements are using this saying to put just enough fear into church members (especially the older folks) that they (out of frustration) decide to leave it all up to the culturally savvy "pundits" to reach the upcoming generations.

You know who I'm talking about reaching, today's young people, the 18 to 35 year olds, the ones that are "oh so extremely unique and different" than anyone over forty. If we do not step back and allow the generation-culture experts run it all, then Christianity is doomed! Get on board or you'll get left behind. They alone have the answers and must do "whatever it takes". In other words "trust them" (of course I'm using sarcasm to make the point).

This statement is used to manipulate church members (called "traditionalists") into putting the church leaders in control of the fate of the church. I don't believe this for one minute but many involved in the CGM do. How do I know this? It's what they're saying. This is an example of what Os Guiness, in his book Prophetic Untimeliness, calls "the citing of one extreme to justify the collapse into another".

But Christ did not shed his precious blood on the cross to redeem the church only to place her survival into the incapable hands of frail, sinful humanity.

While I believe their intentions might be sincere, the end result in many churches is a neglect to rely on the Holy Spirit and the power of the gospel preached for results. Rather, the reliance ends up on the local church leadership "experts" to navigate the church through an over exaggerated gen-x, post modern, mosaic, MTV secular world created by even bigger "experts" of the CGM and Emergent movements.

The statement taken at face value is heretical. It does not align itself with scripture. It may be true that our families or nation may become less christian, and the institutional church may suffer, but to state that the future of christianity is one generation away from extinction, based on our lack of action, is unbiblical. Don't worry, the church will survive. Christianity will survive.

Consider Matthew 16:18-26 and Romans 1:16. In Matt. 16 Jesus said that HE will build the church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. The main point? That He, Jesus, would build it. Not man.

What we read in the following verses I think is a similar problem present in popular church growth and Emergent trends in the evangelical church today. I call it the "Soft Gospel".

Jesus talked about how he would suffer. Peter tells Jesus, NO! It must not be so (the hardships Jesus must suffer). Peter proposes a soft road, a softer gospel without death. Jesus immediately slams him and exposes how Peter is being influenced and controlled by Satan (man's methods). Jesus tells Peter that he does not have in mind the things of God but rather the things of man. Man's methods. And this in the same breath just after Jesus commended Peter for his knowledge of and belief in Christ! Within minutes of Peter's profession of Christ the devil began his deception: to attack the church and to choose ANY plan other than the one where Jesus is the one to build the church.

Jesus next informs the disciples what it WILL cost them (the church) to really follow him, to take up their own cross and to suffer, to die to the sinful self.

Lastly, let's consider Romans 1:16. Here Paul tells us that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, for the Jew first and then to the Gentile, and to all those who believe. This means that we can trust the simple preaching and teaching of the plain Gospel to bring about the salvation of the lost and dying world. The gospel crosses over to all whether Jew or Greek or anyone who believes. This verse covers it all. All people no matter what the culture, the generation or the history. Paul nowhere in this text even remotely implies that we need preachers who are cool, can relate to the kids, can speak the same cultural language, know how to move the masses, market the church, be the mystics, teach the "spiritual disciplines", stir the hearts, be the experts, build the church, write the books, offer the PEACE PLAN, etc.

In the local church we need to pray, teach the Word, preach the Truth, worship reverently and go out into the streets and spread the Gospel, unhindered by man and let God and God alone build the church, on his terms, in his timing, his way. Not ours.

-KCO

3 Comments:

Blogger Andy said...

Where specifically do you draw the line on certain things. The bible doesnt talk about certain modern practices in church, so who is to say it is either right or wrong, wouldnt that be more a matter of personal preference, especially when some of these people believe themselves to be as much under God's direction as their critics. Examples would be using video during service or dance or drama or interaction with the congregation or music type. Understandable that certain methods might not cultivate reverence towards God and these shouldnt be implemented, but if "In the local church we need to pray, teach the Word, preach the Truth, worship reverently and go out into the streets and spread the Gospel, unhindered by man and let God and God alone build the church, on his terms, in his timing, his way. Not ours." can be achieved through using technology and approaches people can understand, whats the harm? Even now the internet is being used predominantly for evil in my opinion, but that doesnt stop us from promoting our Christian ideals and utilizing it to promote God's kingdom.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Kennyo said...

great questions Andy--I could respond but I want Keith to answer them.

10:49 PM  
Blogger KCO said...

Andy,

Where the line is drawn in a church's methods of outreach and worship should be decided by the church elders and leadership. They are the ones to say what is appropriate and this should be based on biblical reasons, not personal preferences. This becomes difficult and confusing when a church does not follow the model set forth in the books of Corintians, Ephesians, Timothy (especially) and Titus of church authority. Most Baptist churches do not follow that model.

I can't determine the extent to which technology, drama or dancing should be used in a church. But what I can do is look at each church body's methods in light of scriptural standards and principles. The problems come when churches allow trends and philosophies of the day to influence their teachings and methods instead of sola scriptura (scripture only).

As an example, nowhere in the New Testament or Old do you find entertainment as a method of evangelism in the church. However, you can hardly find a church that doesn't use it as a method of outreach. But does that mean a church cannot entertain to reach? Well maybe, maybe not. Church leaders need to make the decision based on scripture.

But what is the case most of the time today is that where you see strong teaching, preaching and praying, there you will usually find a church that does NOT follow the latest and greatest methods of the day. Os Guiness talks a lot about this in his two books, "Fit Bodies Fat Minds" and "Prophetic Untimeliness".

On the other hand, the church that is big on the latest and greatest methods of the day are indirectly saying that the message of the Gospel needs man's help. It needs to be "relevant" to the times. But nothing and no one is as relevant and can relate to the hearts of men more than the Holy Spirit. He should be the one who is sought and consulted the most!

Thousands of pastors today are looking at decreasing numbers in their churches while at the same time rarely evaluating the spiritual growth of the people they already have. They're saying, "Man! I've been teaching and preaching and praying for years and our church is declining or stagnant". So in fear are desperation they run to Bill Hybels of Willow Creek, Rick Warren of Saddleback, Rob Bell of Mars Hill or whomever and are deciding that how those churches do things is how their church must also do it. And if not, then their church will only be one generation away from extinction.

We know that Paul and the early church did not have the internet or power point but those things should be only minor tools in our efforts. The results need to be the Lord's. We need to look to his Word as our manual and the one we should be consulting on a daily basis is the Holy Spirit. "Pastors.com" must never replace the Holy Spirit. But too often in the CGM and Emergent world it does.

-KCO

4:57 PM  

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