Saturday, October 4, 2008

More on Carson's church trends

In my last post I made reference to a blog about a sermon by D.A. Carson concerning five current trends in churches. I previously covered trend 4, but would like to return to this sermon and cover the other trends. Carson's first mentioned trend is the observation of contradictory trends.

1. It is important to observe contradictory trends.

"Interestingly, Don encouraged us to recognize the good things in our current culture. He said we have a lot more good commentaries available to us than we did fifty years ago. Yet, mainline churches have fewer conversions than ever before. This is a contradictory trend, according to Carson.

I understand this to mean that we know more and have access to more information, but it is not resulting in more conversions. We apparently know more about God, but less about His mission to seek and to save those who are lost. Our mainline churches are focusing on the minutia difference between supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism, for example, but are ignoring the call to both know God and to follow his sending us to our neighbor's house. There should be a constant tension between group Bible studies and sharing of one's faith. Otherwise we end up in a holy huddle somewhere arguing about non-essentials."

This trend is wide spread, not only in the church, but also in our culture.
We have the world at our fingertips, and can find the answer to most any question in minutes, yet we as a culture are getting dumber. While this is a cultural problem, it still rests on the shoulders of the church to create an environment where we understand the world and follow it as well. When I was in college my Biblical Interpretation would often remind us that the Hebrew word for knowledge, yada, not only meant to understand, but also to do. If you knew to do something, but did not do it, you did not really yada it. We must reemphasize this idea in the church, not to be legalistic, but to show that knowledge and action must be connected for there to be true understanding.

The second problem is the push for Christians to live completely segregated lives. This is not the model shown in scripture, but something that has made a resurgence lately. Jesus lived and dwelt among the sinners, tax collectors and lepers. Many large churches try to provide a resort where the Christian has his own coffee shop, book store, gym and a plethora of other social grounds that would cause the Christian to have to be around unbelievers otherwise. I'm surprised we haven't seen them open up their own grocery stores and beauty salons. (If you know of a church that has done this please let me know.) We should relish the chance to brush shoulders with our neighbors in these arenas. What a great way for us to build relationships and minister to those around us. We are called to be in the world, but not of the world, not create our own world completely devoid of anyone that is unlike us. These Churches are not evangelical, but are more like country clubs, where only the elite (or elect) can play.

I am challenged in both areas. As a Christian college grad student, I love to study scripture, form criticism, theology church history, etc. Yet I continually struggle to apply what I've learned to my life. Also as an employee at a Christian camp, it is very easy to never leave and be a part of a Christian community bubble.

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