In many respects the Christian Church appears to be splitting at the seams. Foundational doctrine is being questioned. The Christian right is getting hammered by a rapidly growing and diverse Christian left, fueled in large part by a well-connected Christian LGBT community. Church attendance continues to fall. More and more are speaking out against Church policies and beliefs. Add to this a generation reared on skepticism, consumerism, Google, FaceBook, and Twitter, and you’ve got serious change ahead.
Some are arguing that the Church will split and fall apart – perhaps over the gay issue, or something else. Or perhaps another large sect will emerge (e.g., The Emerging Church – though I doubt it) further diluting Christianity’s influence and credibility.
There are indeed big challenges ahead. Can the church pull itself together? I’m no Church historian, but Christianity is a 2000-year-old institution founded upon God. Will it topple? Hardly. It will learn, adapt, and correct itself. (It’s also Jesus’ Church and nothing will overcome it).
With God, these difficult times are opportunities. Even a cursory glance at the Bible (New Testament or Old) shows how God folds such trials as we see today into his plan. Tim Keller, noted author and founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, points out that the Church has “self-correcting” measures built within its foundations.
The Church has repeatedly corrected itself throughout its long history. It will do so again. This latest turmoil is interesting in that more and more people (even non-Christians) are pointing out the hypocrisy of Christians. They’re going back to Jesus’ teaching and saying, “Hey, Jesus said don’t do that!” I can just hear God saying, PERFECT!
The Church has missed Jesus in many respects. It gets the theology. It gets the Church practices. It’s done a great job expanding and organizing. But it has missed Jesus’ call to radically change the lives of its practitioners. Change to what? To be like Jesus!
The Church has lost the ancient practices of teaching and training for real spiritual growth and change. Just preaching atonement and church beliefs aren’t lighting up or salting the world – I don’t care how good the preacher is.
Dallas Willard writes this in his book, The Spirit Of The Disciplines:
By the middle of this century, we had lost any recognized, reasonable, theologically and psychologically sound approach to spiritual growth, to really becoming like Jesus.
No wonder Christians are so irritating! They’re not following and becoming like their king, Jesus. Willard goes on to note that change is already happening. People are seeking out the disciplines to become like Jesus – fasting, meditation, prayer, study, simple living – and holding God’s grace front and center.
So what will happen to the Church? It will revive itself. It is self-correcting now. It will self-correct because, at this point in history, there is only one way to go. The Way. The way of Jesus – the Good News. Christianity will comeback with more grace, compassion, humility, and power, as its members turn back to becoming like Jesus in every way, dying to self, living for God.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson