Friday, November 23, 2007
Fool Me Once
'Why do I have to sit through boring sermons and old music that don't speak to my real needs and problems?'"
Welcome to American ‘Christianity’ where the phrase ‘me, myself and I’ is our mission, motto, vision, creed and confession. For many of you that’s probably not news. What’s ironic is how this version of ‘Christianity’ has apparently taken the church by surprise. A recent article in Leadership journal detailed the faith attitudes of five distinct kinds of Christians. No longer do we identify ourselves in terms of denominations with distinct confessions of faith. (that’s sooooo last century) The terms Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian etc. have about as much meaning as the Whig and Bull Moose Party. According to the article Christians should now be identified as belonging to one of five camps: Active, Professing, Liturgical, Private and Cultural. For many their beliefs aren’t so much convictions grounded in scripture that move and shape the way think, speak and live but feelings centered in what they feel God should be like.
The reason for this latest bru ha ha is you guessed it a significant (and possibly growing) segment of those who identify themselves as Christian no longer see the church as a primary outlet for spiritual growth. Once again folks this is not news. Even Willow Creek has come to the conclusion that giving the people what they want doesn’t translate into the people wanting the living God. Treat sinners as religious consumers and eventually they will follow consumerism to its logical conclusion. That’s what many retailers are finding out on this Black Friday. Why struggle and press to wait three hours in the cold for the big box store’s special one day sale when you can get up, make a cup of coffee and surf the web in your jammies. So goes Best Buy, so goes First Baptist or Presbyterian, or Methodist etc.
As I said before however this is not news. What is interesting is that 25 or thirty years after the church growth revolution supposedly delivered us from boring worship and irrelevant sermons a whole new generation has arisen who don’t see the church as relevant for their ‘relationship’ with God. Now you’d think our latest crop of experts would have learned the lessons of 25 years of basically Christ-less Christianity. You’d think that after observing that over 60% of those who identify themselves as Christian don’t see Jesus Christ as central to their faith that they would counsel pastors and leaders return to Christ centered and focused worship, Christ centered and focused preaching and Christ centered and focused ministry.
You’d be wrong. In fact after noting that tolerance in our society has produced a climate in which ‘God’ is in and Jesus is out one expert offered the following counsel: “What we need to do is reintroduce people to Jesus, his story, his life and his teachings.”
Now here’s bonus quiz question: How many people do you know that have a real problem with Jesus’ story, life and teachings? This is especially true when we divorce His story from its old covenant context, reduce His life to just an example and cherry pick His teaching to suit our comfort seeking ears.
You know what they say, the more things change the more they stay the same. When will we learn? Over two decades ago the pied pipers of church growth told us that downplaying our theological convictions and moving away from the dreaded ‘D’ (doctrine) word was the path toward connecting with our culture. The holy grail of relevance was to be found by showing our heart for people which will of course awaken their hearts. And now guess what? The culture is telling us that they’re connection to God is going quite well without the church, without the cross and without Christ. Well, Job’s counselor’s are back and in light of the our present challenges what advice to they give? The article ends with this quote "Christianity is about Christ, and it is about that personal relationship. We have to not focus on explaining Pauline theology, but on the person and ministry of Christ. We have to be people who live out the life of Christ. People aren't generally interested in theological teaching. But everyone has a heart for the one who had a heart for us."
Thanks but no. Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me!
To Him Who Loves Us…