Big words. While I will need to explain the scope of what I mean, I don’t think that many would disagree that more and more, the church is becoming an irrelevancy. The difference in how I mean it and the way most others would mean it is where this post will address itself. You could best sum up what I am going to say by saying: the church is becoming an irrelevance to the church.
There are several ways that the I do not mean that the church is becoming an irrelevancy, regardless of what seculars or emergents might say:
- The church is not becoming an irrelevancy in teaching. In fact, more and more people are receiving their teaching from several churches. Younger Christians are listening to who-knows-how-many preachers a week thanks to podcasting. The Internet has been well seized by churches and they are making more and more material available in an instant.
- The church is not becoming an irrelevancy in benevolence and missions. Regardless of what you might hear from the left, it is conservative Christians who give more of their income and time to social causes. More money, more hours, more adoptions, more mobilizations. Period. The stats are conclusive. Could they do more? Absolutely. But that does not mean that they are not already doing more than everyone else.
- The church is not becoming an irrelevancy in attendance. I know that you see everywhere that church attendance is dropping, but that is one of those stats that is all in how you frame it. Church attendance IS dropping in the old Protestant categories, but it is not dropping in the newer Evangelical ones. Most old Protestant denoms, if you ask me, are losing people to Evangelical denoms because they are turning liberal. People are fleeing churches as those churches flee the Gospel. I happen to work at a church that for a time took in refugee Episcopals. Most moved on to conservative churches with more appropriate worship styles for them, but some are still here.
But it is precisely this last point that gives the entry point of what I am trying to get at. While church attendance is basically the same, church membership is dropping. We have several people who attend our church who proudly boast “I come here for the worship and teaching, but I go to [church x] for fellowship and community!” (Quick vocab test: What word best defines this statement- ‘a person who receives support, advantage, or the like, from another or others without giving any useful or proper return?’ Answer: Parasite). For many, church has become convenience and pleasure-centric. It’s all about them and what they ‘get out of it.’
But how could this happen? Simple slides cause bigger slides. I’ll boil it down to the simplest denominator. Go, live totally for Jesus. Keep your mind pure by not putting things into it that are not ‘pure, lovely, excellent, praiseworthy, true, noble, or right’ (to quote Paul). Then, become simple in your lifestyle and extravagant with your giving. Do not even speak what the wicked do- let alone hang around it. Avoid people who call themselves ‘Christians’ but act opposite of all the preceding. You get the picture. After all that- what would you have? Nothing but the Church, right? Now this doesn’t take into effect that this would disqualify many churches, you still see what I mean. Let me make this as simple as I can:
The church is becoming more and more irrelevant to those in the church as those in the church become more and more in love with the world.