A Disturbing Trend
I am amazed at how quickly things change. Before I even figure out how to use my new phone, it is outdated. Things are changing in the church as well. In her book The Great Emergence, Phyllis Tickle proposes that the church reinvents itself every 500 years. In other words, great changes occur in the church that set the stage for the next period of life and growth. Tickle says we are currently in a change period and that contributes to the church not knowing for sure how to adapt to and influence our culture. Church change may take years before a new pattern is set.
One of the disturbing trends in church life today is the bold declaration of some celebrity Christian speakers and authors who have announced their determination to set their own spiritual agenda without the influence of the church. Church life and church relationships and worship within the church have been set aside for a personal approach to God.
Of course it is not just celebrity Christians who are shifting away from the church. Common Christians are following a similar pattern. Each year, fewer and fewer Americans are finding church a part of their routine. Our culture is making every effort to catch up with the religious trends already prevalent in Europe. Here in the South, nearly everyone claims to be a Christian and to be connected to a church. Oddly enough, only about 20% actually attend. So can one truly to be a Christian and ignore the church? I don’t think so.
And neither does Denny Burk. Burk is a professor at Boyce College. In response to this new trend, Burk has written a blog entitled “Leaving the church means leaving Christ.” In it he states “The spirit of Jesus breathed out these words about those who leave the church: ‘They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.’ (1 John 2:19) The spirit of Jesus says that leaving the local church reveals one’s true spiritual condition. The one who leaves is at best one who is Christian in name only. His leaving reveals that he was never really a bona fide follower of Jesus. To be sure, being a disciple of Jesus in a church involves much more that attending a weekly meeting. But biblically speaking, it cannot involve less than that.” Pretty powerful.
So can one truly be a Christian and ignore the church, the Bride of Christ? It’s certainly something to think about.