Tuesday, December 1

How To Renew the Church?

An Old-Time Revival Tent?

Mark Galli, editor of Christianity Today wrote the title article in the October issue "In The Beginning, Grace." To assess the spiritual malaise in our country, he cites a poll taken by Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Published in 2005, they interviewed 267 American teenagers and "concluded that a new religion had emerged in America whose chief tenets are as follows":
  • A God exists who created and orders the word and watches over human life on earth.
  • God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions. 
  • The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. 
  • God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  • Good people go to heaven when they die.
Galli continues, "Smith and Denton noticed that this "de facto creed" was particularly prominent among mainline Protestant and Catholic teenagers, 'but is also visible among black and conservative Protestants.'"

Smith and Denton's Conclusion?
We have come with some confidence to believe that a significant part of Christianity in the United States is actually only tenuously Christian in any sense that is seriously connected to the actual historical Christian tradition, but has rather substantially morphed into Christianity's misbegotten step-cousin, Christian Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
Galli suggests that while this poll represented teenagers, it could actually be applied to "large segments of evangelical faith" as well.

Tomorrow, Lord willing, I will present Galli's conclusions. But . . .

But allow me to draw a couple of observations from the above poll. First, with deference to our pollsters, may I suggest that it really isn't all that necessary to question teenagers or any other cross-section of our society in order to discover the "default" position in sinful man's heart. None of the above creedal statements reveals anything new. It is but a collection of superficial mishmash of generally perceived religious feelings. Given a little time, even the few divine references will disappear. Either way, they represent but the downward spiral of godlessness. Which brings me to my second issue: If we are to be amazed, it is not at culture's inability to perceive their true spiritual state. After all, natural man cannot understand these things because they are "spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14, ESV). What should astound us is the church's complicity in promoting such a trivial god in the name of communication (or popularity), such that only a vestige of the original gospel still remains, thus leaving the hearers to wallow in their own confusion. The trumpet must once again be blown, and that with a clear sound calling the church back to biblical faith. It has always been the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). The church leadership needs to repent of her unbelief and return to explicit trust in the power of God to save and to keep. And forget numbers; that's God's bailiwick (domain).

As Galli states, many voices are crying out for renewal--and rightly so. The question is what kind of renewal? Is our cure as infected as the disease? The answer must arise from no less a source than the eternal Word of God in Jesus Christ. That, you may offer, is obvious. I would say that it is not as obvious as it should be.

Tomorrow: Vertical versus Horizontal fixes.

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