Monday, December 31, 2012

Do we need a savior to save the Savior?

As tradition spirituality wanes, some are attempting to build a spirituality (and a church) around coffee houses, art galleries, engaging music, personal fulfillment, etc...  Read on...

The mural painted on the side of a building in the Deep Ellum warehouse district here is intentionally vague, simply showing a faceless man in a suit holding an umbrella over the words “Life in Deep Ellum.” Inside there are the trappings of a revitalization project, including an art gallery, a yoga studio and a business incubator, sharing the building with a coffee shop and a performance space. 

It is Christianity which these emgergents are attempting to revitalize and some say you must first destroy what you need to build.  So they have ditched nearly every trapping of Christian faith and identity.  But will what they build actually be Christian or the Church?

Life in Deep Ellum is part of a wave of experimentation around the country by evangelicals to reinvent “church” in an increasingly secular culture, and it comes as the megachurch boom of recent decades, with stadium seating for huge crowds, Jumbotrons and smoke machines, faces strong headwinds. A national decline in church attendance, the struggling economy and the challenges of marketing to millennials have all led to the need for new approaches.

“It’s unsettling for a movement that’s lasted 2,000 years to now find that, ‘Oh, some of the things we always assumed would connect with the community aren’t connecting with everyone in the community in the way they used to,’ ” said Warren Bird, the director of research for the Leadership Network, a firm that tracks church trends.

According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans who are not affiliated with any religion is on the rise, including a third of Americans under 30. Even so, nearly 80 percent of unaffiliated Americans say they believe in God, and close to half say they pray at least once a month.

The “spiritual but not religious” category is an important audience that evangelical leaders hope to reach in a culture that many believers call “post-Christian.”

So they arrange meetings in movie theaters, schools, warehouses and downtown entertainment districts. They house exercise studios and coffee shops to draw more traffic. Many have even cast aside the words “church” and “church service” in favor of terms like “spiritual communities” and “gatherings,” with services that do not stick to any script. 

It seems that to be relevant, one must be irreverent -- disdaining anything that once defined Christianity and the Church.  No script or plan is necessary.  The whole thing is literally made up as they go along.  Well, not exactly.  They know the secular landscape pretty well and mirror back to the people some of the stuff the people themselves know and value -- technology, for example.

For new leaders coming out of seminary, “the cool thing is church planting,” Mr. Bird said. “The uncool thing is to go into the established church. Why that has taken over may speak to the entrepreneurialism and innovation that today’s generation represents.”

That generation includes Mark Batterson, the 43-year-old pastor of National Community Church in Washington.

“If the kingdom of God had departments, we’d want to work in research and development,” Mr. Batterson said. 

“It’s pretty low risk to wander into a bar or movie theater or hotel,” Professor Thumma said. “It ends up delivering the message of relevance: we’re just like you, we’re struggling, we might have a beer together — and our faith is also relevant.”

Oh yeah... faith.  Well, we cannot say exactly what we believe but we are pretty sure we do believe. . . something.
Maybe I am being harsh and unfair to these folks.  But I am tired of those who want to save the Savior and redefine church out of the church.  The Church has always has an abundance of saviors and God has no shortage of helpers to reshape the message and the messenger.  The only problem is that there have been few, if any, lasting successes that did not embrace the faith once delivered to the saints and practice in accord with the tradition of the apostles.


Mr. Mcgranor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr. Mcgranor said...

As a dissenting member of Generation X; i can tell you both by experience and reason; that the vast majority reject Christ, and reactionary Western piety. That legacy of the Counterculture's: 'social justice'; has turned Western man on himself and has been done on purpose.
I was self raised as non-denominational--in a traditional sense. I had no family that was interested. I had not embraced the institutional church, because; i had reasoned in Christ, that such was corrupt and continues to be so. Due to the social upheaval of the 60's.
I could tell that there was a disingenuous espousing, self-defeating social concerns and another faith involved in the postmodern and their churches.
They celebrate the dismantling of history and reason; without a faith in Christ. Then they attribute Christ as the author of their postmodern plight.
It is a game --a game played at the expense of those who have been marginalized-- for having not a postmodern perspective, nor personality. As the condition of society is due to its vast majority.
I did not know that either we were so few; or that we were so suppressed. I am still pondering that.

Rev William Smith Jr said...

You are not being harsh or unfair, pastor. Thank you for being bold, and standing up for the truth of the Word. There are far too many churches like the ones you are addressing here that ignore the Word; some of them don't even read the Word during their services. Then when they do, they frequently take the verses out of context.

Janis Williams said...


Right on taking the verses out of context. And when that won't do, Mark Batterson draws on Jewish myth for his latest book: The Circle Maker. Ir becomes the basis for a teaching on prayer that is totally weird.

Deconstruction seriously damages not only the Church, but the people who engage in it.

Proper to call him "Mr." Batterson, Fr. Peters.

Anonymous said...

"Spiritual but not religious" is the biggest ball of nonsense to come along since the "guitar mass." It is the death-nell of a spiritually corrupt and devoid populace. Smoke machines (try not to choke on the irony there!) and big screens are not the answer. The Answer to a sinful and broken generation is the same as it always ways and ever shall be, Jesus Christ.

Mr. Mcgranor said...

Madam Williams, where are the opponents of judaizing?

Anonymous said...

I thought Matt Harrison was the savior to save the LCMS.