Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Six Trends in the Modern Church

The Barna Group has established six "megathemes" of the church in 2010. You can read their full article here:

Six Megathemes

I'll list out the themes and give my own commentary on them.

1. The Christian Church is becoming less theologically literate
I have certainly noticed that the church at large is generally Biblically illiterate, even those who claim to be scholars are so specialized that they can't seem to remember any passage except the one they are working on. How can we even claim to be a social group when we don't know what that grouping is based on? Part of this has to do with our preachers and teachers being more interested in reflecting on the newspaper or Christianity Today rather than God's word. The Bible is used more of a jumping off point or a hammer to drive their own points in. We need to read and teach God's word holistically.

2. Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented.
The examples the Barna Group give is people not inviting people to church as much or speaking to neighbors about Jesus. I think they may be mistaken about this trend. Rather, I have seen Christians using a different kind of evangelism that is more effective and less content oriented. It is to have relationships with non-Christians and have one's Christian life be a part of life, rather than an evangelistic tool to force down a non-Christian's throat. If there is a less outreach-orientation, it is simply because the old tools don't work and new ones are coming into place. In Portland, the churches have been working with the homeless more and have been doing service at public schools. This IS outreach, but outreach of a kind that shows the gospel rather than just talks about it.

3. Growing numbers of people are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life.
I think this has always been evident in American Christianity. American Christians have always had the American worldview take the front seat over Jesus' principles. It has only been relatively recently that the popularity of people like Shane Claiborne has introduced a practical lifestyle of Jesus' principles. This has drawn a following, but still few follow this radical change of life.

4. Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating.
This is a positive trend and the Barna Group proves that they can see a negative in every possible trend. Look, guys, this IS evangelism and outreach. This is a powerful change in the church. Perhaps the theology of this isn't as defined, but theology doesn't usually change things anyway. The only spiritual principles we need to do good is to love God and love our neighbor.

5. The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church.
What Barna seems to forget is that there is a biblical tolerance which requires for us not to fight. The church has "fought" too hard in many wrong areas. The focus on creationism, the claim that homosexuality is a sin and insistence on a two-gender marriage is all fine within the church. But we MUST be tolerant of the opposite trends outside the church. We cannot impose church values on an unchurched world. Do we want to go back to the days of Sabbath laws or prohibition. Some would, but it would be in error. The church must learn to allow unbelievers to make their own mistakes in the freedom God has given them. When we don't, then we ARE judgmental and hypocritical and we are rightly condemned by the world. We are supposed to be the light of the world, not the wall which separates the world from being worldly.

6. The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible.
I think that this is not necessarily a bad trend. Pastors, priests and fundamentalists all have a bad reputation in the world right now. We have made ourselves out to be hypocrites to the world and we have caused the world to reject our proud ways. It is time to be humble, to be quiet and allow our influence to be due to the good works we do and not because of the policy decisions we force, or because of the hateful speech we have carelessly used against politicians and social groups. Let us return to humility, not being silent, but allowing our loving actions to speak more than words. Only if we show the love of Christ will people believe in it again.

Let the church take time to find out who they are, what they really believe in and what is the best way to communicate that belief. We have allowed the pendents and the judgmentalists be our speakers for us. Allow the Christ-like to represent the church again.

1 comment:

John Wilson said...

Hey Steve, my name is John. I read a lot of blogs on religion and prayer and I've i feel like I've ended up here once before. I'd love to hear your thoughts about this prayer exchange website I thought it was an interesting idea and would be curious to hear what you (or other Christians) think about it

I'll check back here in the next day or two, thanks & God bless
John W.