I just read a very insightful article by Michael Horton (A professor at Westminster Theological Seminary). In the article he tries to answer the question, "What is the largest threat to the church today?. His response is not what most would expect. Horton believes that the church is suffering most from compromise within the church rather than the threats of outside forces. (Moral relativism, loss of religious liberty, etc.) Horton believes that the church is loosing any understanding of ecclesiology, what he means by this is that there is no sense of church leaders being, well, "church leaders". Horton wants to show that the church has very much turned everything over to the people of the church to pick and choose what they like rather than the church leadership proclaiming truth to the church from the word of God. He states:
I hear “every believer is a minister, we’re all ministers … every sheep is a shepherd.” Basically, the pastor has become the chief motivator and coach and planner for events, and that’s a big concern I have. Maybe the greatest concern in this milieu that I have is that we’re losing a sense of the catholicity of the church. We’re carving the church into niche markets and setting generation against generation, and socio-economic group against socio-economic group. As such, we are increasingly unchurching the churched.
In an age when the faith of young Christians is going to be tested more than ever before, they are the least equipped to meet those challenges because they have not been integrated very well into the life of the living church. They have been in children’s church, youth group, then in a campus ministry, and they never had to join a church. And we wonder why according to one study eighty percent of those raised in evangelical churches leave the church, they don’t join a church, they don’t even go to church by the time they are sophomores in college. Well, you have to ask the question: are they really leaving the church, did they ever belong to it?
I think Horton hits the nail on the head here. We have turned the church into a "shopping mall" he states in this same article. People of differing socio-economic classes, generations, and moral convictions can pick and choose between stores, I mean churches, that they want to shop at, I mean worship at. Ultimately the church is increasingly "unchurching the churched".
Instead of in encouraging the children in the church to be apart of the body of Christ and to participate in the communion of the saints on Sunday mornings we send them off to youth group. This only perpetuates the divisions between ages, race and class in the church. Ultimately when these children grow up and go to college there is no desire to attend a church; they have only ever been with people of their own age. When they graduate college there is no longer and youth or college ministries for them and so they have to find a church of people their age and stage that they can connect with. When they find that this doesn't exist they figure that they do not need the church because the only thing they have been taught from their childhood is that "the only thing that matters is your personal relation to Jesus". This sounds great but it's just not biblical.
The New Testament frequently speaks of the importance of the fellowship of the saints of all ages in the church, particularly in John's letters. The church needs reform. It needs leadership that feeds the people the word of God, not people who choose leaders that sooth their itching ears.
Until next time,
Michael lives with his wife (Caroline) and dog (Beau) in Athens, GA where he teaches history and economics to high schoolers. Michael enjoys reading, watching soccer, drinking bourbon, and taking walks with his wife and dog.