Churches have split, morphed, and disagreed over hi-lo church, community building or lack there of, relevance or lack there of, rock bands vs organs vs chants, liberal vs conservative, moral therapeutic theism, legalism vs grace, or even the prosperity gospel.. and yet, nothing changes as concerns the ongoing church exodus. If Gregorian chants etc were the answer to countering the church exodus, it would be an obvious winner by now, and its not…pretty much none of the above have made a dent. No matter the choice of issue to fuss over, it appears everyone is loosing once you take birthrate evangelism, demographic shifts, and churn off the table.
So… what gives with this?
One of the commenters on Jonathan Merritt’s blog stated the following:
...People can google a seminary’s worth of information about any religion and theological thought at any moment. Deep questions of faith are what everyone has along their faith journey and, sadly, they aren’t being addressed regularly from our pulpits. Churches must being willing to be transparent about the most difficult issues of faith and help people celebrate the mystery of God and faith.
Deep questions, yep… but if this is an issue leading to church exodus, which I sort of tend to think might be more right than wrong, why is this as issue today, more so than of years past.
The ease of access to information is certainly an issue. Looking back ~120 years, where in the Wisconsin Bible ban was enacted due to the dangerous nature of the KJV
So its google, or the pulpit, or both, and what about transparency?
Google and pulpits are certainly easy targets. Information is a major threat as I wrote about as concerns the Wisconsin Bible Ban a ways back. Alas unlike the WI Bible ban, its more than just Bible versions running into difficulty, its the uniformity of thought that pervades the church. Ie, within a trinitarian theology, how many folks accept it a face value, vs how many truly struggle with it… how many errant examples of the trinity are commonly thrown out by any number of well meaning Christians.
and pastors, even if willing run into scaling difficulties. Ie, indepth 1:1 pastoral counsel works wonders, but only for the 1, or maybe a few… much more than that, and there aren’t enough hours in the pastors schedule.
Alas, google can be pretty superficial, Ie I can google the Nicene creed and its variances through time. I can read about the heresies that each of the ecumencial councils were trying to address. I can read of miaphysitism and monophysitism and can parrot back all sorts of stuff about Coptic Christianity. However, such data is superficial… one doesn’t really know much about the 2 natures of Christ until one goes and pokes a Copt, and then gets poked back a few dozen times over a period of time. In other words, depth comes about not because of mere reading about something, but of struggle with it over time.
So… we are then on to the pulpit, and sure, some pastors are quite well equipped for this, but we then run into the problem that pastors can’t scale, even if they really wanted to. If we do want to scale beyond the pastor, things get crazy difficult. In other words, the depth issue is really beyond what most any local church is capable of addressing at scale. Alas, the body of Christ is much much larger than the local church and it scales with ease.
As far as the timing issue… In the past, one could seek out information at a university or seminary library, but only if one had the resources and focused determination to do so. I think a lot of folks suffered in silence, and community / familial values drove church attendance, irrespective of whether any depth could be found there. Today, with the CCEL and related information in the palm of ones hand… folks know they are not in it alone, they see that others have struggled, they see that bits and pieces of answers do exist but they are far out there in the distance….