Modern Christianity's Suicide



I remember once looking through a Pastors Catalogue. Within its pages were concealed an unimaginable abundance of tools: hundreds of Biblical commentaries, lexicons, preaching and teaching guides, Bible studies by the scores, linguistic computer programs. Books on: leadership, discipleship, marketing, finances, communication, counseling, personalities, marriage. If you could imagine information about anything even remotely related to ministry--you could find it in that catalogue.
 
As I thumbed through the pages of that catalogue I remember thinking to myself, "What is the problem?" It is no secret that with nearly limitless resources the Western church is struggling to keep its head above water. It is not my intention to sound the doom and gloom alarm, but it seems that every year more data is added to the pile further confirming that Western Christianity is nearing its demise (see 2015 pew research here). In my generation in particular millions have long left the church and more look to follow. "Religious Nones" (people who are affiliated with no religion) have increased, secularism is on the rise, and the moral revolution now reigns supreme.

We have all of these tools and yet America awaits the death of Post-Christian Europe. How?

Then I read things about what is going on around the world. I hear stories about fresh seeds of the gospel hitting fertile soil in places like Iran and China. I hear about Muslims coming to Christ and embracing the gospel in earth shattering ways--many even through dreams and visions. I hear stories of the gospel going forward with power and lives being changed. How have they got it and we don't?  It is not like they have the innovative teaching methods that we enjoy. Nor do they have the impeccable expository assistance we have grown accustomed to. How could it be that the church is MOST alive in places that it is LEAST likely to be alive in?
 
To attribute the demise (or steady decline) of American Christianity to one factor alone would be simplistic and false.  But I might suggest one substantial reason for impending doom: "self sufficiency."

Could it be possible that in all of our doctorate degrees and dissertations, commentaries and catalogues, we have expelled any sense of dependency necessary for Christianity to survive--anywhere? Could the numerous Christian "experts" and "professionals" ironically be bringing the collapse of the faith they live to proclaim?
 
Os Guinness' book The Last Christian on Earth, which is fictional account of  two dark spies corresponding with one another (think Screwtape Letters) about a secretive scheme to destroy the Western Church. Though I may not agree with everything Guinness writes, most of it is really eye opening. He writes about the subtle disenchantment brought about by modernization:
"By disenchantment I mean simply that, as the controlling hand of practical reason stretches further and further, all the 'magic and mystery' of life are reduced and removed. When reason has harnessed all the facts, figures and forces, divine intervention is as unwelcome as accident, divine law as antiquated as the divine right of kings. Human spontaneity becomes 'the human factor,' the weak link in the chain of procedures. Wonder, along with humility and notions about the sanctity of things, is totally out of place. Problem solving, twentieth and twenty –first century style, is a matter of working a Rubik’s Cube rather than unlocking the riddle of the universe."


Guinness writes about how modernization along with scientific reason has given the West, and the Church especially, all that we need. We no longer cry out for God to change hearts, we have a method for that. We no longer pray in weakness, humility, and desperation-- we are competent in ourselves! We would prefer to stand on our own abilities and achievements than rather stand with lowly Paul when he says: "My power is made perfect in weakness." Instead of begging for intervention of the divine--God's hand has become what Guinness calls an "unwelcomed accident" encroaching on our mighty methods and proven formulas. Why would we ever stoop to begging when we have all that we need in ourselves? We have outgrown real prayer--outgrown a need for God and His Spirit's work. 

In our self sufficiency we have dug our own grave.

What we need is revival. We need a work of God to touch our land and our churches like never before. No abilities of oration, no strategies of church planting, no marketing tactics can bring this about. We are at the mercy of God for Him to "establish the work of our hands." If He does not show up and do His work of heart renovation--on a massive scale--all of our plans are for naught.

So let's beg.




“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."  --John 15:5

Comments

  1. We live in a pluralistic society. It's time for the church to adapt or get left in the dust (aka die).

    ReplyDelete

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