5- Decay

Gotta Serve Somebody


You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you're gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody


Bob Dylan, Gotta Serve Somebody 
 

I was saddened to hear recently of Eugene Peterson’s on again, off again support for same-sex marriage.

He’s written some great books on spiritual formation. I particularly recall his reflections on Jonah: Under an Unpredictable Plant.

His writings are a great help in learning obedience to God's word. He wrote as a man under God's word. That's where he should have remained.

For thousands of years, the Jewish-Christian scriptures have clearly spoken on the nature of marriage. Jesus made it clear he stood in that tradition (Matt 19). One man, one woman for the whole of life, forsaking all others.

No Christian scholar has questioned that teaching, until recently. The cultural wind has changed and now influential leaders are taking advantage of it. Or at least remaining silent for fear of alienating the people who attend their churches and conferences, buy their books and read their blogs.

Jesus warned (Matt 24) that in the time before his return false prophets and false messiahs would emerge and attempt to deceive God’s people. The love of many will grow cold. Despite this falling away, the gospel will be preached throughout the world. God will triumph.

Paul warned the Ephesian elders that after he left, "savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock" (Acts 20: 29). We’re at war. Expect incoming missiles, expect casualties. Why then did Paul leave? What resources did the Ephesians have to remain true to what they had received? Just two—Paul committed them to the Word and the Holy Spirit.

Ask yourself, whose word is supreme? Ours or God’s? Progressive or liberal Christianity places human experience, culture and rationality above Scripture. Start there and anything goes.

The incarnate Son of God submitted his life and ministry to the living Word of God, we must do the same. Place culture above the Word and you’ll live a peaceful life, accepted by those around you as enlightened. The pressure to conform is enormous. You won't be a target if you remain silent or even better, bow the knee and sacrifice to the Emperor. Get your certificate of approval.

In 250, the Emperor Decius ordered everyone in the Empire to sacrifice to the Roman gods and to the well-being of the Emperor. The sacrifices were to be performed before a magistrate and a certificate issued confirming the act. The religious motivation was minimal. The Emperor wanted to know that his subjects were loyal to the state. Yet Christians died rather than bow to the demands of a pagan culture.

A disciple is someone who is learning to obey what Jesus commanded (Matt 28). No matter what the price. In the end, we all have to choose. Has God spoken? Do we place our lives under the authority of his Word? Do we follow the example of Jesus who went the Cross rather than disobey the Father?

Satan offered Jesus the world if he would bow. Jesus chose instead "It is written!." He preferred the Cross to expediency.

Defending a Scandal

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Southern Baptists have passed a resolution defending the truth that Christ died for our sins, in our place, taking upon himself God's just judgment on sin.

Why the need?

Every generation must choose whether to affirm what the Scriptures have always taught. Ours is no exception. In the 1960s mainline liberal Protestantism turned its back on orthodoxy. Now progressive evangelicals are repeating their error. 

Red Letter Christians â€” following the spirit of the age and French Catholic philosopher Rene Girad â€” reject the notion of a God who requires the sacrifice of his Son for sin.

At a popular level, William Paul Young (The Shack) has said the idea that Christ died as a substitute sacrifice to save sinners and satisfy the just wrath of God the Father — is a “monstrous,” “evil,” and “a terrible doctrine.”

So well done Southern Baptists for affirming what the Scriptures have always taught.

Movements decline and decay when they drift and deny their core beliefs. They remain dynamic when they stay true to core beliefs and adapt their methods to reach a changing world.

Want to learn more?

 

Theology Matters

 Katharine Jefferts Schori

Katharine Jefferts Schori

Why do progressive/liberal/mainline churches decline?

For years academics and church officials have denied that decline has anything to do with beliefs. Decline resulted from external factors, not internal factors.

Former Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, claimed that since Episcopalians were better-educated and cared for the earth, they had lower birth rates than other Christians.

Recently a Canadian study has concluded that theology does matter.

The authors of Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Mainline Protestant Church Attendees and Clergy surveyed 2,225 churchgoers in Ontario, Canada, and conducted interviews with 29 clergy and 195 congregants.

Some of the results:

  • Only 50% of clergy from declining churches agreed it was “very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians”, compared to 100% of clergy from growing churches.
  • 71% of clergy from growing churches read the Bible daily compared with 19% from declining churches. 
  • 46% of people attending growing churches read the Bible once a week compared with 26% from declining churches. 
  • 93% of clergy and 83% of worshippers from growing churches agreed with the statement “Jesus rose from the dead with a real flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb”. This compared with 67% of worshippers and 56% of clergy from declining churches. 
  • 100% of clergy and 90% of worshippers agreed that “God performs miracles in answer to prayers”, compared with 80% of worshippers and 44% of clergy from declining churches.

About two-thirds of congregations at growing churches were under the age of 60, whereas two-thirds of congregations at declining churches were over 60.

Why study the decline of the Protestant mainline? We watch and learn, or their future will become ours.

Firing Your MetaMissional™ Imagination

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I’ve just come from a workshop on Firing Your MetaMissional™ Imagination with Dr S Crewtape. He’s a Meta-Missional™ thought leader.

His message to a room full of cutting-edge, world-focused, MetaMissional™ followers went something like this:

MetaMissional™ is a game-changer but we’re losing the game. 

Today’s faith consumer has a problem with the Cross. Our focus groups reveal that it’s an embarrassment. Christ dying in our place for our sins? It just doesn’t fly in a MetaMissional™ context. We don’t do the wrath of God anymore. We don’t do sin and death.

You can still believe all that stuff. Just don’t mention it to anyone. (I still believe and tremble).

What we have to do is reimagine what it means to be who we are and who we are becoming and what this sentence means. You heard me.

What we need is a MetaMissional™ response to a MetaMissional™ world.

What is MetaMissional™? It’s the people of God in the MetaMissional™ mode of engagement. MetaMissional™ IS MetaMissional™ You got it.

It’s the GoodNews. God is nice. He lets bygones be bygones. Love reigns! High five! Everyone wins.

God doesn’t need the Cross to save us. Love means never having to say sorry. We’re all forgiven, even before we ask. Even if we never bother to ask. WOW.

Doesn’t that make you feel better? Our research shows this generation will buy the Meta-Missional™ message. It’s going to be HUUGE.

So let’s get on with the MetaMissional™ mission and make this world a happier place for everyone.

Visit www.metamissional.com/rucrazy for the full transcript.

[ed. Could this be the next big thing?]

PC USA collapse picks up speed

PCUSA membership chart 2014

The PCUSA is a church made up of vibrant congregations doing their best to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ in their communities and in the world. Membership declines continue, but on a whole the denomination is settling into the new thing God is creating.

Gradye Parsons, top official of the PC (USA)

The PCUSA has announced it’s largest ever percentage decline for the year 2014. The denomination has lost a staggering 645,895 members since 2005, 28% of the denomination’s members.

Every major American church that has taken steps towards liberalization of sexual issues has seen a steep decline in membership.

UPDATE: It's not all bad news for the Presbyterians...

The Rob Bell show continues . . . on Oprah

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Ever wondered what happened to Rob Bell?

In 2006, the Chicago Sun-Times wondered aloud whether the Michigan megachurch pastor could be the next Billy Graham.

Now, the man who built a church of an estimated 10,000 people isn’t even attending an organized church. Instead, he surfs the waves near Hollywood and has teamed up with the goddess of pop theology, Oprah Winfrey.

“The Rob Bell Show” will premiere Dec. 21 on the Oprah Winfrey Network, a one-hour show that features Bell and is co-produced by him. He also recently toured the country with Winfrey on a “Life You Want Weekend.”

In many ways, some elements of typical evangelicalism are a good fit for Oprah’s lineup of public confession and personal transformation, said Kathryn Lofton, author of “Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon.” The difference, however, is that The Church of Oprah incorporates as many religious concepts as possible, while evangelicalism commits to exclusivity.

“I think an interesting way to think about Bell and Oprah here is to observe how easily she incorporates him into her pantheon of spiritual advisers. She remains, as ever, the determining corporate deity,” said Lofton, a professor of religious studies at Yale.

“One way of looking at this is less a merger of two equal powers than it is the acquisition by one large corporation of another small business.”

“She [Oprah] has taught me more about what Jesus has for all of us, and what kind of life Jesus wants us to live, more than almost anybody in my life,” Bell said.

Last year Rob Bell described conservative evangelicalism as a “dying subculture.” 

Quite the contrary, Bell represents a form of religion that defines itself by what it rejects. In a previous generation is was known as theological liberalism. Today it’s known as progressive Christianity or Emergent. The outcome will always be the same. It always leads to the decline and decay of Christian movements. 

TS Eliot’s critique applies equally to this new generation of progressives.

In religion, Liberalism may be characterized by a progressive discarding of elements in historical Christianity which appear superfluous or obsolete, confounded with practices and abuses which are legitimate objects of attack. But as its movement is controlled rather by its origin than by any goal, it loses force after a series of rejections, and with nothing to destroy is left with nothing to uphold and nowhere to go.

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever (Is 40:8).