Alibris Secondhand Books Standard

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Bosco Peters is concerned:

I think the word “orthodox” might be in trouble. Let’s try and save it from losing its meaning.

I am seeing a lot of people calling themselves “orthodox” Christians and using the term to put down others as “unorthodox”, “heterodox”. But actually I don’t think these particular people should be allowed to use the term “orthodox” – as they are changing its meaning (and hence emptying its meaning IMO).

These self-proclaimed "orthodox" Christians, according to Bosco, are better described as "homodox," a term meaning, "of the same opinion."

Many people who are misusing, abusing the term “orthodox” are in fact not orthodox at all, they are homodox (let me preempt the comment now: it does not mean worshipping gays ) They want everyone to think exactly like them (yes, often particularly about gays). Orthodox can cope with diversity, do not need everyone to agree about everything, celebrate diversity, honour difference: In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas. (In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.)

Above all else, says Bosco, the term "orthodox" refers to "right worship":

If you call yourself orthodox, at the very least it should mean that most Christians for the first 1500 years or so of Christian history should be able to walk into your worship and pretty much feel at home.

See the full post.

Labels: ,

Sunday, November 01, 2009

next time, don't invite the baptists

When Rebecca Middeke-Conlin's church sent out invitations for her installation service to other churches in her area, they probably weren't expecting the reply they received from one Baptist pastor:

We, desiring to please Almighty God, have separated ourselves from the Lutheran churches as disobedient to the Scriptures and from Rebecca Middeke-Conlin as a shameful person, for thus saith the Lord.

Therefore we cannot accept your invitation but rather exhort you to receive what the Scriptures say and repent of this disobedience or to cease calling yourselves a Christian church.

And what does Ms. Middeke-Conlin do that is so shameful?

See her post to find out.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

the coming evangelical collapse: some thoughts

A couple weeks ago, I pointed to a series by Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, on The Coming Evangelical Collapse. After considering some of the things Spencer says, I think he's mostly right about the direction Christianity is going in the U.S. Mainline Protestantism has been in a steady decline for decades now, and I don't see any indication it's going to change. Evangelicalism, after more than 20 years of growth, both in numbers and in power, has reached its peak and may already be starting to decline. Spencer suggests that the main beneficiaries will be the megachurches, Pentecostal churches, and Catholic and Orthodox churches. I think he's probably right.

I have perhaps an unusual perspective, as I'm a member of a Mainline denomination and my wife belongs to an Evangelical church. We split our time worshipping at one or the other. Since moving to a new city about two years ago, we've had some adventures looking at several different churches.

I'm going to be making some sweeping generalizations here; these will not be true of all churches, and almost certainly don't apply outside the U.S. But here's my two-sentence summaries of Evangelical and Mainline churches:

  • Evangelical churches seem to be moving away from being worship centers, and toward being community centers. From singles' programs to seniors' programs, from aerobics to art classes, from basketball to ski trips, from coffee shops to bookstores in the lobby, there's something for everyone. But in all that activity, is worship getting lost?
  • Mainline churches have lost their identity. While some congregations are rediscovering practices that Catholics and Orthodox have never lost, others are trying to imitate the Evangelicals. Is there any reason for the Mainline denominations themselves not to be absorbed into one or the other?

So when Spencer says:

I believe that we are on the verge- within 10 years- of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity; a collapse that will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and that will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.

I think his only error is in thinking that the U.S. church scene is typical of the Western nations. U.S. Protestant Christianity bears little resemblance to the religion practiced by 2 billion people worldwide.

Again, when Spencer says:

We are soon going to be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century in a culture that will be between 25-30% non-religious.

I think he's largely correct, at least on the numbers. Recent numbers I've seen put the number of non-religious in the U.S. at 15%; it's not hard to imagine that number will double within the next generation, or perhaps even sooner.

Spencer's next statement, however:

This collapse, will, I believe, herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian west and will change the way tens of millions of people see the entire realm of religion. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become particularly hostile towards evangelical Christianity, increasingly seeing it as the opponent of the good of individuals and society.

is just paranoid drivel.

Let's look at the numbers again. Current U.S. demographics show:
75% Christian
15% non-religious
10% all other religions

Now suppose Spencer is right that the non-religious group will double in size, from 15 to 30 percent. Let's suppose, too, that the other religions will grow, as a group. This seems highly unlikely, but let's say they increase by half, from 10 to 15 percent.

That would give us 45% of the U.S. population belonging either to a religion other than Christianity, or to no religion at all. The remaining 55% would, by default, have to be Christian.

Does Spencer seriously think that a still-majority Christian nation could produce an "anti-Christian chapter" in U.S. history? Does he think that a 30% minority of non-believers would (even if they could) create a public policy that is "hostile towards evangelical Christianity"?

The only way this might be possible is if Evangelical Christianity sets itself up against all comers, fortressing itself against non-believers, other religions, and fellow Christians alike. I don't see that happening except in hardline fundamentalism, which even Spencer agrees is headed for extinction.

No, I think what we are more likely to see is U.S. Evangelicals simply ceasing to engage a society where their voice is no longer dominant. And that may be a worse fate than facing outright hostility.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, March 16, 2008

the chick-fil-a church

A couple years ago, it made for a good joke. But how quickly life imitates satire! The North Point Community Church in Atlanta has replaced outreach with franchising. Franchisee Eddie Johnson of Cumberland Church in Nashville explains ten ways that Chick-Fil-A restaurants serve as a model for North Point and its affiliates.

Frankly, I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, this is similar to what the mainline denominations have always done. On the other hand, there are some disturbing differences.

In #2 of his ten parallels with Chick-Fil-A, Eddie Johnson says:

Our church model is not going to offer a gluttonous “buffet line” of ministry programs for every type of interest group, life stage or bible study we can possibly offer. Our mission is simple. It is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. We seek to do it by creating helpful, engaging and irresistible environments that help people take that “next step” towards a small group.

Forget about ministry, just get people into small groups. Christianity lite. Who needs discipleship when you can play it safe with fellowship? (Of course, many of the mainline denominations have the same weakness.)

In point #6 Johnson speaks of the "innovative concepts" that he expects will fuel the future growth of his church.

One cool thing we did at Cumberland Church this past summer was to have a Sunday worship band TOTALLY on video. Yes, video. The worship set was previously recorded at a live service at North Point. ... While not everyone liked video worship, it gave us a "Purple Cow" for discussion and debate in the community about what is and isn't "worship".

Cumberland Church's web site explains that the church often uses videos from North Point for their sermons on Sundays. Last summer they tried using imported worship music too. And why not? If the sermon is being preached by someone from another city in anther state, who is completely disconnected from the worshipers of this congregation, why not disconnect the songleaders too? After all, it might spark a debate about what worship should be. And surely debate is what Sunday morning worship is all about.

What kind of Christianity is that?

8. Just like Chick-fil-a, I can be in business for myself, but not by myself. North Point now has 3 campuses and 14 Strategic Partnership churches.

This is one of the things the Chick-Fil-A church gets right, unlike many megachurches across the U.S. Still, this is no innovation. This concept has been a part of mainstream Christianity for two millennia. We can see it in Paul's letters to the young churches. We can see it in all the denominations.

Underlying all of this is the disturbing paradigm of church as consumer product, and nowhere is this philosophy stated more clearly than here:

5. Just like Chick-fil-a, we strive to know what matters to our customers.

This attitude is common among megachurches, but it seems to be seeping out into the mainline churches, as shrinking congregations turn to outside growth consultants or focus groups to help determine the church's future plans.

I'm not convinced this is healthy for Christianity.

It may be that Christianity is not in step with 21st century American culture. If this is indeed the case, the answer is not to add technological dazzle to Sunday morning to appear more hip. The answer is not to drop ministry in favor of getting people into small groups.

The answer, it seems to me, is to get back to what the church did right in the early days: To care for each other, to provide for neighbors' needs -- neighbors inside the church and outside. To take a stand against the excesses of the popular culture. To speak up for those who are down. To give until it hurts. To be willing to face ridicule, even ostracism. To fast and pray, to listen for the voice of God to help guide the church in its future plans.

On second thought, that all sounds too hard. I don't think I could do it. I'd rather sit at my computer and type snide comments.

But maybe, just maybe, God expects something better.

Labels: , ,