Not Dead Yet

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” – Mark Twain

Citing statistics from the ARIS study and the Pew Research Center, the decline of church attendance and affiliation is a hot topic in the news lately. From USA Today to Newsweek, articles are being written about “The End of Christian America.”

“Young Christians are sick of pablum. It doesn’t work anymore. They are tired of rabbinical hair-splitting, empty liturgical apparatus, Sunday school minutiae, the ghostly voices of the old regime; they reject stuck minds and methods and by their indifference to structures and traditional authorities have declared them bankrupt, cancelled.”

– Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God

Somewhat surprisingly, in Charisma, J. Lee Grady recently said,

The charismatic movement as we know it has ended.

A “new generation” church is emerging.

No one has coined a term for this movement yet, but it is growing—and it represents the future of Christianity in our country.

Apparently he doesn’t read my blog. ;) I said quite a bit about this topic in The Future of the Church and, from a charismatic perspective, Extreme Charismatic Makeover.

He also seems unfamiliar or unaware of the emerging conversation and the growing Post-Charismatic conversation. Charismatics are notorious for not realizing that christianity exists outside of their industry circles.

They are not the only ones. Many denominations and congregations can be like people who live in houses without ever looking out the windows. As long as everything is fine inside the house, they are unaware of problems or changes. If there is disruption to their house, they come running out with apocalyptic warnings.

Another quote that I read recently along these lines…

“The problem for the western church today is that people have done what the church told them to do, they have done what the preachers told them to do, they have followed the program, the bizarre religious ritual with its Bible labels. And they have found no glory, no river, no great dance.

Everyone in the western world seems to know this but the church. People are not listening to the church. And it is not because they hate God. It is because they have listened, and they have done what the church told them to do, and it has left them empty.

Could it be that the disinterest of the world in Christianity is owing to the fact that the world sees the religious nothingness it produces and wants nothing of it?”

– C. Baxter Kruger, The Great Dance

It doesn’t have to be this way. The church has an incredible opportunity at this time to redefine itself and its message to something that more accurately reflects the heart of God, to offer to the world a spirituality that is actually good news and brings life and love that can truly transform.

God forgive us for representing christianity as a lifeless form of dogma, tradition, and religiosity.

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6 thoughts on “Not Dead Yet

  1. Check out the Charisma Magazine comments on J. Lee Grady’s article. Someone there echoes your perspectives… ;)

  2. Here’s why I enjoy this blog so much. I so completely identify with this post, with so much other material you so articulatley present here, and with the place in their spiritual walk that many others at this site share. As hunnybee simply puts it; to know we’re not crazy.

    I’m 60+ years old, been a follower of Christ for 30 of those years. I have been involved in church leadership on some level for 25 of those 30 years. I served with an international Christian relief and development organization for 10 years. I’ve been on paid staff of a church for the past 12 years. For the past 5-7 years I have been trying to use my influence to get this message across in our congregation, and I have the scars to prove it. I have finally come to the conclusion that it is not the place of a ‘junior’ staff member to do this. If change of definition and direction does not flow from the vision and heart of the church leadership, it’s a losing battle. The problem with the leadership is its dependency on the institution. How does one retrofit a sinking ship in the middle of the ocean?

    “Live in denial and keep bailing! Our faith will keep us afloat.”

    Or perhaps, “We’re too established to fail.”

    They talk about change. They even go to conferences that promote change … and then they attend monthly meetings to discuss what they learned at the conferences. But the only change I see are attractional changes. “If we make it look more contemporary, they will come.” *sigh*

    I am at the point where I feel I can no longer use my energy to support a sinking ship where the leadership chooses to live in denial. I will soon be tendering my request to have my name removed from membership. Once the decision was made, I had a great peace about it. I will no longer be emotionally involved as leadership continues to function from denial. My only concern is that in detaching myself from this fellowship (and there are simply some great folks in it), where do I go?

    I am praying for the Lord’s leading. I don’t need a long-range master plan. I just need to know where to plant my next step and then trust the Shepherd. The adventure continues …

  3. joseph,
    I see you’ve been busy over there. I hope that the charismatic/pentecostal branch of the church will change. There is great potential for spirit-filled believers to embrace what the spirit is doing in the world.

    Some have developed such a dependence on the uber-anointed spectacular show of celebrity ministry, that to live and walk in a more simple manner might seem very foreign and empty.

    I don’t believe it is their anointed apostles and prophets who will be leading the way in this path to simplicity and faithfulness.

    hunnybee,
    You’re not crazy, but I might be. ;)

    ken,
    Yikes, your post scared me and prompted the next post.

    Although if you’re praying for the Lord’s leading, I guess I shouldn’t worry.

    I just hate to believe and take responsibility for the fact that I contribute to peoples’ dissatisfaction with their church. Not just you, but other people who read the blog and even my friends and family.

    I try to be very careful to not be militantly anti-institution, and the truth is that I really am not.

    The reality is that organizations tend to be very self-protecting and self-advancing. Is it possible for the family within the organization to live contrary to that? I would think so, but perhaps not always easy when one’s interests run contrary to those of the organization.

    My thought for anyone in that situation would be to minimize the differences and conflict and to maximize the love and unity. Perhaps detach yourself from the responsibility of the direction of the organization without detaching yourself from the fellowship of the body?

    Sometimes it is possible to fully live into the vision in your heart in parachurch ways while continuing to enjoy the fellowship and community of a group of people gathered under an organization that may not share your vision.

    I trust you will know the Lord’s direction in this. Just be careful about continuing in fellowship with the believers around you.

    My love and prayers for your situation…
    along with this boatload of unasked for advice. :)

  4. Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you :)

    Your blog did not ‘prompt’ my decision – it did, however resonate with some (not all) of my reasons. It’s complicated.

    I am not really ‘walking away’ from my current fellowship as of yet. When I feel that my motives are pure and the time is right I will just be asking that my ‘membership’ be removed. There was a ‘regime change’ five years ago. I was initially commited to support the vision and direction that the new Pastor indicated he was wanting to go. Over the period of the next few years it became apparent that there were differences in what I perceived what he was ‘saying’ and what was ‘happening’. I guess that voicing my opinion was forbidden because I was confronted by some of the ‘ruling leaders’ and asked if I could trust in the authority of the Pastor and support him in the vision and direction of the church. I replied that trust had been broken (this is the complicated part – too much to go into), and I feel that trust is earned, not demanded. I did say, however, that I could respect the office of Pastor (it’s in the organizational flow chart) and would honor that in the process of restoring trust. That was a couple of years ago, and I see no real evidence of a move toward restoring relational trust. Since that time two seasoned staff members, (very close friends who were a pleasure to serve with) moved on for much the same reasons – trust had been broken.

    I am not here to fight or cause division. The first six years of my tenure here under the former Pastor was the best ‘job’ I ever had in my life. I looked forward to coming to ‘work’ every day. Sadly, he resigned under less than favorable circumstances when a political faction began to cause trouble. Then for a year I worked with a well seasoned and organic stafft that held things together until the dust settled. We even grew a little through that stormy period. In spite of the spiritual battle and turmoil, it was still a satisfying and fruitful time for me. Now everything is changed. God moves certain people in and out for His own reasons. I have now come to the conclusion that he moved me into this place 12 years ago “for such a time as this”. My time is done – maybe it was done a couple of years ago and I just didn’t realize it.

    In the meantime, the Lord has been revealing a change and leading my heart to something more authentic (for me), something of that marvelous organic feel that I had with the former staff here. There was no ‘authorative structure’ that motivated us. There was only a servant attitude, and the authority of mission was our motivation. I agree, even though there is no such thing as a ‘perfect church’, I am looking for something with a more missional-Kingdom-functional structure than that of a political institution. I’m not sure what that will be, but if and when I come into contact with it, I want the freedom to move into it without having to extract myself from a previous commitment in a manner that might cause damage.

    I am prayerfully and carefully moving, and I have some very trusted people praying with and for me. I have peace.

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