[Once again, class is getting in the way of my blogging. I have some ideas that I'm going to try and write about tomorrow or this weekend, but after I posted this for my "class blog", I realized some of you might enjoy reading it too. So, it's part of my "RePost series". This one is about Modernism and Postmodernism in the church- and I throw in some Tabernacle and Frat House jokes for good measure. Happy reading (and getting educated)! ]
"By objective measures, churches- in America, at any rate- are not doing a particularly good job on any of these fronts. Many people who claim Christianity are unfamiliar with Bible stories, like the stories of David and Saul, or basic theology, like the Incarnation. Few know the Ten commandments. Attendance and giving are lower than they ought to be, prayer and Bible study are less frequent than they ought to be, and the moral differences between Christians and non-Christians are unremarkable."
-Heath White, Postmodernism 101
For some reason, we like to cast the blame on churches when we hear quotes like this. We like to say that it's the church's fault that our children are growing up and leaving the faith. We blame the church for our own lack of personal discipleship (Bible reading and quiet time) because we say that "we were never taught how to ______". Church has become more of a place of social interaction than a place of spiritual transformation. While some blame may be due to the church, in a majority of cases, I feel like our "church problems" are more due to the individual christian. I mean, my pastor can stand up at the pulpit (well, he could if we had one) and preach about how I needed to read my Bible more. But, if I just sit there and listen and say "Well. That was a nice sermon", I'm not going to be affected. I'm not going to change. My spiritual life is not going to get better. Nothing is going to change until I make the choice, as an independent individual, to open up my Bible and read it. We need to remember that "discipleship is not an option for the spiritual elite but God's command for everyone." Go back and read that again. We're all called to engage in the practice of discipleship. It's not just for pastors, small group leaders, and "overachievers". It's for all of us. We have this autonomous mindset that we can run our own lives- that we don't need God.
I wrote a post here a long time ago that focused around what I call "frat house churches". It's a small phrase that I like to think I came up with, but someone else probably already copyrighted it. I wrote it during a period of time where I was getting exceedingly frustrated with the direction my home church was going. It seemed like we were over-simplifying everything and were just "eating baby food" while we had arguments about sound systems, worship styles, power points, and which chairs would best fit the new worship center's color scheme. (Can I just make a brief sidebar- I hate the phrase "worship center". It makes me feel like I'm going to WalMart to pick up this week's special- Jesus. I like Sanctuary. Or Tabernacle. I really like Tabernacle (I feel like it's more biblical, KJV style)- but I'm Methodist and we don't have those. End of sidebar.) In that post, I came to the conclusion that "Our churches have evolved from places of worship to an Almighty God to a place to worship ourselves." I feel like so often, we make church more about "me" than God. I'm not sure I have a solution to this. I mean, as society progresses, it seems like we're going to get farther and farther from the "God thing". Seeing as this is a modern concept and we are headed towards postmodernism, I'm not sure I like the direction this is headed. Towards the end of his book, White makes the claim that "Many Christians are 'cafeteria traditionalists,' adhering to the parts of their inherited faith that they life and discarding uncomfortable teachings like the doctrine of hell or the prohibition of premarital sex." We pick and choose what we want to believe, if we want to believe- which definitely seems more like worshiping ourselves than worshiping God. We're afraid of offending anyone- so we don't do anything. We don't emphasize salvation, because we don't want to believe in a literal Hell. We don't ask that people give their tithes or attend church regularly. We teach broad concepts- like gratitude, self-control, even creativity- rather than teaching spiritual disciplines. We feed the "audience" baby food- and yes, their an audience- they aren't participating. We don't demand anything, so we don't get anything. When we feel "unfulfilled", we blame "the Church" rather than taking responsibility. It's never "my fault", yet everything is "all about me".
I feel like this post was really scattered. I don't know how to organize everything in a neat manner and tie everything up in a pretty little bow. I don't have an answer (and I feel like I should), but I know that something has to change. There has to be more of an emphasis on discipleship. There needs to be an emphasis on a person's personal relationship with God- but it has to be done in the context of a community of faith. We can't just teach people, we have to reach their hearts also. Our actions show the world who we are. If we don't look different, are we really any different? Postmodernism regards authority as a form of slavery. But, as Christians, we are slaves to the gospel. Romans 1 starts with Paul introducing himself as "Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News" (NLT). So, we have to reject this part of postmodernism- we must regard God as an authority figure. If we reject this, I don't know how we could claim to be Christians. We cannot be our own authority. We can't do this "religion" thing alone. It's not just about us- it's about HIM. Our churches must return to our roots and become places of worship to an Almighty God, and not a place to worship ourselves.