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.