THIS article by Bill Muehlenberg titled “On Leaving Church” provides a number of reasons why people are not attending or are leaving the church. It claims it is not because people are losing their faith or don’t believe in God anymore. It suggests they don’t go because they are bored with it. Same old same old. Or it isn’t relevant to today’s culture.
I think of "relevance" differently than the most common usage. Not in the sense of the Church needing to reflect and accept our fallen and perverse culture as most mainline churches have done. The rock bands and encouragement of gays don’t really help. Those things destroy the church.
I think of the failure of church relevance in terms of ignoring the perversions of our culture, being passive toward them, not instilling a Christian world view, and ignoring the liberal and licentious path of government and culture.
Churches refuse to engage the culture. They have given up the idea of influencing the government. They are fearful of offending anyone. They are willing to tolerate any idea and any morality. They gave up being "salt and light" over two decades ago - many much earlier. I suppose the liberal and godless culture overwhelmed the church with their insults against Christian attempts at influencing the culture during the days of the "Moral Majority. The Moral Majority became a pejorative, an insult. We were mocked and marginalized.
The Church fell for the lie that we cannot and should not legislate morality even if we could. We stupidly fell for the lie that we "can't legislate morality", even though every piece of legislation ever adopted legislates someones morality. Whether we begin legislating Sharia (Islamic morality), or promoting euthanasia and abortions (atheistic morality), or criminalizing various freedoms of speech and expression (fascist or communist morality), someones morality is being legislated.
Churches are stuck in the rut of being purveyors of first century ancient history as if none of it really applies to the political and cultural challenges of OUR day. Many pastors just teach ancient history without understanding that the Bible was reflecting, responding to, and engaged in the culture and politics of its day. The Church today needs to do the same. It needs to move from its ancient history context to today's context. It needs to apply all of the moral do’s and don'ts from its unengaging ancient historical context and enlighten us on its essential place in confronting our challenges today.
But, to my chagrin, that is not happening. It might offend someone, church growth will be stunted and the revenue stream will dry up. And what church has enough faith to let that occur? Not many.