10 Answers to the Question: Is the Church Still Relevant?


Chad, over on Blooming in Bullock reminded me of a little exercise that Brian McLaren tells of in one of his books.

Brian asked two questions of a group of young people and Chad recently asked the same of his congregation. With a slight modification, i would like to put these questions to you:

  • What do you think are the 5 most pressing issues that the Church is facing today?

Followed with:

  • What do you think are the 5 most pressing issues facing the world today?

In addition, I would like to ask one more;

  • What are the issues that the typical American thinks the Church is most concerned about?

What do our answers say about today’s Church? Is it relevant, is it out of touch or are there some problems getting out the right message?

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  1. #1 by b4dguy on July 24, 2008 - 11:44 pm

    well, I kinda had a hunch…presuming that I’d understand it was Sunday Morning??? Doesn’t that go against everything we’ve been talking about?

    9 am is pretty early, but I’m tempted…

  2. #2 by BuddyO on July 25, 2008 - 11:17 am

    Doesn’t that go against everything we’ve been talking about?

    Doing things differently just for the sake of doing them differently is just another doctrine. Turns out Sunday mornings were the time that we all pretty much always had free and 9:00 was early enough that we didn’t spend the whole day ‘institutionalized’. It allows us to have plenty of the day left over to experience church in the world with family, friends… even strangers.

  3. #3 by Christian Beyer on July 25, 2008 - 11:27 am

    Yeah, Sunday still makes sense to me. Saturday is a day to ‘get things done’ -doesn’t lend itself to Sunday, unless we switch the days out. Nothing wrong with tradition, either.

  4. #4 by logiopath on July 25, 2008 - 1:44 pm

    Here are some relevant questions on this topic.

    If the “gates of hell” were not to prevail on the church, why did they seem to for so many years? In other words, why was the papacy (which is questionable in itself) and clergy so corrupt–even beyond any pedophile scandal of modern times? Why was the church so cruel to its enemies?
    Why did the Inquisition and other forms of extreme discipline create a system that was the polar opposite of Jesus’ imperatives to love one’s enemies?

    If the Reformation was supposed to change the church, why did people in major Reformation regions, such as Zurich or Geneva, suffer for their conscience? Why did Luther and Calvin impose rules on their followers that were just as cruel as anything Rome dished out?

    Why were Arminians hunted down, arrested, and killed by Calvinists?

    Is the church still relevant? Define church and mayb we’ll have a discussion based on the possible answers.

  5. #5 by logiopath on July 25, 2008 - 1:54 pm

    Here’s another one–

    The group at the center of the Jesus movement is one of the most highly-organized–and hierachal groups within Christianity. This group claims it does not believe in membership role, and eschews (on the outside) many other formalities.

    I am not questioning the integrity of any clergy of this group–but I am questioning practices in which the elders and those closest to the pastor (in organization) make the decisions of the church, rather than opening up decisions to the congregation.

    In my opinion, after being around that group (including attending the Bible College) I saw many hiding behind these ideas, and the celebre brought by positions. Leadership is very protective of its territory, and in fact operates under what they call the “Moses Principle.” Not having official membership means that no voting takes place, and the pastor chooses his own elders and deacons.

    I do not know whether a complete abandonment of formality is the answer–I could have a house church that is just as formal, and possibly just as controlling as any world-wide organization. On the other hand, organization and accountability are important to any group that invites the public in to worship God. “Let all things be done decently and in order.”

  6. #6 by Christian Beyer on July 25, 2008 - 4:09 pm

    Well, I wasn’t really going for a discussion over how local church is ‘done’ but how important big Church is to the world, within or outside of religion. You made a good point today in Westminster, about how as far as the common people were concerned there wasn’t much difference in their lives before or after the Reformation. They just exchanged Catholic masters for Protestant masters.

    Today the church has no where near the power it had even 50 years ago, much less 300 years ago. Could there be a correlation between the increasing freedom of society and the diminishing importance of the organized Church in the lives of ordinary people? Look at those places where the church is still strong – it’s not just that those places are often impoverished (which some see as supporting Marx’s thoughts on religion) but that they are places that have very authoritarian governments, even in some places where the Church has been persecuted by the government.

    So in a ‘free society’ perhaps it is the small church, apart from denominations, that can be most relevant to the local community. Like they say, ‘think globally, act locally’.

  7. #7 by Steve on July 28, 2008 - 5:54 pm

    Steve – why do you think the church can’t be a ’strike out on your own, anything warm and fuzzy” kinda place? Just curious. Also, nowhere does God command us to attend a local congregation for the teaching of the Word, or for any other reason. That is a doctrine [meaning: teaching] of the institution itself to keep us attending and paying for the institution.
    b4d,
    How about “Don’t forsake meeting together” from Hebrews 10:23-25? How is Scripture a ‘doctrine of the institution’?

    You can argue about the form of collective worship, but this strikes me as a direct command from God. We are to meet together for prayer, teaching, encouragement and study of the Word. I would almost concede a Brethren-style worship without a pastor, where members of the congregation take in turn to lead those function. (Almost, but not quite.)

    There’s a wobbly line between the truth of Scripture and an interpretation of that truth as taught in a local congregation or by a denomination. If there’s a question, I keep taking it back to the Word, as the Bereans did.

    You can denigrate the idea of churches or the notion of divine judgment or even absolute truth, but then at some point you’re left with an empty tub – the baby and bath water are both gone.

  8. #8 by Steve on July 28, 2008 - 5:58 pm

    So in a ‘free society’ perhaps it is the small church, apart from denominations, that can be most relevant to the local community. Like they say, ‘think globally, act locally’.

    I agree with you, Christian, to a point. I’ve always felt most blessed and most effective in outreach, at small local churches. Somebody, though, needs to be the keeper of doctrine. Otherwise it devolves into a universalist, anything-goes social group.

  9. #9 by Christian Beyer on July 28, 2008 - 9:35 pm

    I would agree with Steve. Community is the essence of scripture, especially the Gospel. “Do this in remembrance of me” has come to mean, in so many places, a brief coming together in communion. But I think what Jesus was saying was that coming together, sharing fellowship, the sacredness of any meal, is a commemoration of him.

    But as far as the greater church being necessary as ‘keepers of doctrine”, I wonder if just the idea of doctrine is fraught with dangers. With no clear cut doctrine, communities may come together and explore the word, and how it relates to their lives and how God is present among them. I think Jesus wanted us to work things out for ourselves, otherwise why the parables, the similes? – instead of direct ‘doctrinal’ explanations. So what we have now are people coming together and being force fed others interpretation, other’s doctrines, and often (I firmly believe) they merely pay lip service to a belief in them.

    It is always better if a person ‘owns’ a point of view rather than inheriting it.

  10. #10 by akaGaGa on July 29, 2008 - 8:13 am

    I spent some major time on this subject last winter, and concluded that Jesus meant for His churches (church: two or more believers) in each location (see Rev. 2-3) to be subject only to Him, not to some denominational hierarchy who determines doctrine for one and all. Many more details here:

    http://akagaga.blogspot.com/2008/02/church.html

    (You guys keep hitting on my favorite soapbox subjects!)

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