“Bells”: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
I’ve just returned from a brief business trip overseas that took me to Paris. It is a city that I have grown to love over the past 30 years and that I have visited, often for long periods of time, almost every year during those three decades. While there, I often have the opportunity to write and reflect. This year, those reflections were more focused as an old friend at the Sorbonne asked me to meet with his post-graduate seminar group to talk about the state of the American church and its politics in light of the recent election, a subject that has been extensively reported upon by European news outlets. Thankfully, I had some materials near at hand, so a great deal of preparation was not involved. As usually happens, however, sometimes the lecturer learns more than the student in the process of teaching.
France, while culturally Roman Catholic, is a secular state. Churches and, indeed, church institutions, receive few special privileges apart from a certain measure of tax exemption. France is considered to be one of the most irreligious of all countries. According to a survey undertaken in 2010, a full 40% of the French population answered that “they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force”, with only 27% stating that they believe there is a God. The other 27% believe that there is “some sort of life force or spirit”. The remaining 6% “do not know”. On any given weekend less than 5% of the country’s Roman Catholics will attend church. Protestants (mainly Reformed evangelicals) make up less than 2% of the population, just behind the 3% who are adherents of Islam. As an example of the secular nature of French society, getting married in France is a wholly civil function which takes place at a municipal office, while a subsequent religious service (or none) is wholly the decision of the couple and the tenants of their faith community. Since 2013, the same rules apply to same-sex marriage.
It is clearly a different landscape than that of the United States, which most French reporting portrays as “obsessed with religion”.
All this was on my mind as I prepared to meet with the seminar group. Although my French is less fluent than I could desire, the small group of twenty-somethings around the table were patient and understanding. I presented the latest figures from Pew Research on the state of the Church in the US, referencing the decline of mainline denominations, the apparent support of evangelicals for the current administration and a range of other topics. Afterwards a lively discussion ensued. There were, as always, a number of questions about the availability of teaching positions in the US, as there are fewer and fewer posts available in France. I then, sadly, had to inform them of the difficulties being encountered by American universities and seminaries.
As we were preparing to end the session, I took the opportunity to pose my own question to the seminar group. I asked, “What is the greatest challenge you are facing?” Now, after the previous discussion, I was expecting the participants to talk about tuition, teaching posts, etc. After a bit of silence, however, a young man in the group spoke up and said this,
“Dr. Arnold, we are facing the death of historic Christianity in Western Europe. It is clear that this decline has spread to the United States and the Western Hemisphere at large. Like a pandemic, the decline morphs and changes as it spreads and then returns to its place of origin. The evangelicals in the United States are “ahistorical”, dependent not on a reasoned or historic faith but on marketing models largely derived from totalitarian propaganda systems which value only experience. You cannot answer their claims, because the claims have no basis in either history or reason. This kind of evangelicalism is also in Latin America and has spread, returning to Europe in a virulent form. They will only allow the “history” that bolsters not a reasoned or compelling argument, but only a marketing statement. It is the religious equivalent of “Make America Great Again”. The worst part of this, is that like all marketing and propaganda, it only lasts for a generation. At the end, we will be left with nothing that speaks of an historic, reasonable Christian faith. We are afraid, Dr. Arnold, that we might be the last generation to know this faith, talking only to each other.”
I carried that young man’s reflection with me through the remainder of my time in Paris and the flight home.
Earlier in the week, a thought had struck me, which I shared with a friend. Through the kindness of a colleague, this year I was staying in a condo carved out of a portion of the seventeenth century Musketeer barracks in the midst of three churches and a religious based hospital with a chapel and a carillon. In that condo, I constantly heard the bells ringing out from the churches and the hospital chapel. It struck me that for hundreds of years, people, ordinary people, would have known what the various bells meant – the call to Church, the Angelus, the Words of Institution, the end of church, etc. Today, however, although the bells still ring, now no one knows what they signify (except for a few antiquarians like me and a limited number of the faithful). It is sort of like us – we say words to the world around us, but society no longer knows what the words signify. We know the words (and argue about them) but the world at large has no idea.
We’ve become the bells – sounding lovely and sacred, but devoid of meaning to a society at large which has abandoned faith… as we keep speaking only to each other.
“Son of man can those bells live?”
Indeed… a very real question.
This is a curious statement:
“At the end, we will be left with nothing that speaks of an historic, reasonable Christian faith.”
I wonder what this individual meant by “reasonable.”
I think he was in the context of Richard Hooker and his “three legged stool” of Scripture, Reason and Tradition. Or, if you want to leave the 16th century, the “reasonable Christianity” of apologists such as C.S. Lewis.
We have a faith that can be reasonably presented… too often we hide behind our “distinctives”, which act as a “secret code” for the initiated, rather than the plain language that is understood by the society in which we live.
I like bells — even if the Catholic Church uses them
Duane – good article.
“At the end, we will be left with nothing that speaks of an historic, reasonable Christian faith. We are afraid, Dr. Arnold, that we might be the last generation to know this faith, talking only to each other.”
I am always skeptical of ‘christian hand-wringing” – so does this statement confirm that the gates of hell will indeed prevail against the church?
I lived in France for 3 yrs and have always been a fanboy of French history (1960-1963). What was considered a vibrant French (Western Europe) faith has always been fake and political – check out the times of all the Louies etc. All political and all cruel. The religion of the French in the very early 60s when I was there was gone due to WW2 – I was there before Francis Schaeffer was trying to bring it back to life in the Swiss Alps.
The churches used to be filled on the American western frontier … on Sundays – but no one lived it out. What has disappeared is the movie set fronts of the past – but the Holy Spirit is still working with the few – and it has always been the few.
That’s my view.
I think this addresses the heart of what I’ve been saying for a long time.
What are we known for?
What does the culture think when they hear the word Christian?
I submit that we are mostly identified with our political stands on moral issues…a sub category of a political party or a political entity unto ourselves.
I don’t believe that we are identified as people who love Jesus and desire that the world know about His love and saving grace.
That, in a nutshell, is our problem, in my opinion.
Yes, the issue in my mind is to stop the tendency to speak among ourselves with “in speak” language and expect society to hear us. Instead of talking about the merits of baptism and what it does or does not do, how about this for an idea – share the Faith with someone, stand beside them in catechesis and baptism and stay with them as they involve themselves in a local church…
“share the Faith with someone, stand beside them in catechesis and baptism and stay with them as they involve themselves in a local church…”
Here I am sorry to say that the evangelicals are far ahead of most if not all of the “historic” expressions. Their doctrine is off, but they are proactive and effective at the activities you describe in comparison.
Hmmm, I run into very few people (if any at all) who reject Christianity because they don’t like our political stand. Most I have trouble with just think we are nuts and cannot figure out how we believe that stuff.
That is how I know I delivered the message properly.
If someone says – “hey, that makes sense” – I know I delivered the message wrong.
Every single person who objects to Christianity because of their perceived political stance of the church – you know, those who would say “I would be a Christian but I don’t like the Religious Right” have just found a new way to lie about why they are not a Christian.
Yes… but for every 3 coming in the front door, evangelicals are losing 4 going out the back door.
It came to my mind this morning – while in Detroit, I mentored a young man. I stood as his godfather when he was baptized. I sponsored him at his confirmation. Some years later, I stood with him at his ordination as an Anglican priest. He now is the pastor of two ACNA parishes in Texas with growing congregations. That is how it is supposed to work. I needed that memory to push me as it is too easy to just talk or write about such things. It is the actual work of evangelism and catechesis that will make a difference… Something I (we) need to get back to…
one can’t lay all the decline on the contemporary Christians… we’ve been under attack for some time by intellectualism…
nobody wants to appear dumb, especially young people
when our daughter was seeing a lovely fella whose home was in Switzerland, the longing for the Faith was so tangible – his brother had joined the JWs and he realized that wasn’t quite right, but … Europe needs to be evangelized by tough minded, dogmatic Martin Luther types, i think – dunno
not too many years ago i was in Everett Washington (our boat was moored there and eventually we moved there) every noon hour the Presbyterian Church broadcast over the downtown – sweet hymns played discretely by their organist… (out of the same tower that those reassuring bells struck the hour and the half hour during daylight hours)… an agnostic complained that the hymns were damaging her fragile psyche and the town passed a law against such crass behavior on the part of their Christian citizens… and of course the church caved… right or wrong compliance? dunno
I love church bells and I am lucky enough to get to hear them every day at 6pm when the catholic church up the street rings theirs. So comforting.
Our parish has bells. They ring when the Liturgy begins and ring during the recitation of the Creed.
A serious question – are they “Orthodox bells”? I noticed in Russia the bells have a completely different tone than what I was used to…
Anyone live near a church with a bell tower, but the church actually plays a CD of bells rather than ring the real ones?
Nailed it, Michael. And the ever spiraling perception becomes even more obfuscated by raging contradictions between the presumed beliefs, and the actual political actions.
The real-time examples of this are almost not even funny anymore. Jay Sekulo is now the president’ s lawyer. The head of the American Center For Law and Justice, champion of Saeed Abedin’s escape from “persecution and imprisonment”, actual radical right wing evangelical activist, is a paid liar for the acting administration.
I will pass on bringing up more examples, but I drag one out to underscore the reality that Christianity is quickly becoming synonymous with bald faced lies, angry rhetoric, forced discrimination, thinly veiled racism, blatant bigotry, incunducive to humanity in any pragmatic sense, incapable of rational discourse… and I will admit that the bible does not teach this alliance with such isolationism, and self preservation. What it stated emphatically is that Christians are strangers and aliens, in the world, but not of the world, set apart for different purposes, and as you are always eager to point out, inevitably suffering for its moral grounds. What it attempted to teach, I dare say, is politically incompatible with modern American Evangelical Christianity. This is made evident by actions. For “god’s” sake, the president of the United States of America just said he would kick service men and women out of the military for their gender identity, and that is not even a tenth of the astonishing theocratic agenda he has been quietly pushing while the world panics about Russia and North Korea and (haha) Donald Junior…
I am embarrassed for you, because you are a friend, and you are correct on this point. Profoundly correct.
Duane, yes, real Orthodox bells, quite different than western bells.
Here’s an example:
Of course, ours are not as glorious.
Yes, I remember on our album Mystic Chapel we wanted to use an Orthodox tolling bell, but we would have had to shift the pitch to match western tuning!
This statement makes no sense. “but I drag one out to underscore the reality that Christianity is quickly becoming synonymous with bald faced lies, angry rhetoric, forced discrimination, thinly veiled racism, blatant bigotry, incunducive to humanity in any pragmatic sense, incapable of rational discourse…”
This may be what some Christians do in their political life, but this has nothing – let me repeat nothing to do with the Christian faith. None of what you spoke of relates to who Jesus is and what he has done – nor does it touch on any promises made to a dying world.
I can guarantee you if you passed around a picture of Jay Sekulow in every church next Sunday, less than 1% could identify him or state what he does.
Ask around – see if anyone in church on Sunday can name more than one person on the president’s faith council. I will bet that less than 1% of the church population even knows that there is a faith council let alone who is on it and what they do.
The Christianity & Politics conspiracy is way larger than anything we ever witnessed on the X Files.
This is where the facts are on my side. You are in. I am out. I know the out people. I listen to them every day, their radio shows, their podcasts, their blue collar workers, their haters, their lovers, all non-believers. The perception is real, regardless of how much you stomp your feet and plug your ears. It’s growing fast.
Again, I will limit myself to what I have already said, Jay has been on every talk show, every TV interview, every chance in front of a camera he can get to defend the Trump, and we (the hell bound heathens) know precisely who he is, and how he has lied, and what Pence is up to, so this is a debate you can’t win. People like me? We hold this perception because it is displayed quite literally daily on world news.
Whatever bubble you live in is entirely your problem, and Evangelicals may or may not care what the ALCJ has done, but we do.
This is where Michael has a clear grasp of reality, and you sir, clearly do not.
I wrote the article… I know Pence (I live in Indiana)… and I agree with you.
And frankly, “the dying world” could care less what Jesus promised. It actually astounds me you would even bring that up.
ACTIONS are what we see. Your god is irrelevant.
I don’t bother to argue about it anymore…I hear about it every time I go to the skatepark or the school.
The local radio is three hours a morning pushing Trumps agenda as God’s intervention to save America.
Those evangelicals who are in the Trump camp would agree with us and rejoice that it is so…
Like I said, I don’t bother arguing…I’m putting my head down and looking for ways to change it.
Typical Leftists on this thread LOL
But, anything I say is “Trolling!!!!!!” and I’m to shut up and go away or something.
Godlessness in Europe is not b/c of Evangelicals in ‘Merica. It’s b/c of Liberalism and Leftist Politics which is akin to a Religion, taking root and flourishing. There’s a reason Western Europe is in Free-fall and it’s not b/c of the “Evil Evangelicals!!!!!” It’s Leftists reaping what they continue to sow.
I’ll take the Evangelical hypocrites over the Leftist hypocrites any day.
The “leftists” here (outside of Reuben) are part of the liberal tradition of American politics, but very much in the conservative camp of Christianity.
We prefer sober discussion over tag lines that are meant to do nothing but polarize and incite anger.
It won’t be tolerated here.
And with that, Alex, I have no choice but to rest my case.
My concern is for the church and not any political affiliation.
There are political issues that the church can and should address, but without being utterly subverted by a larger agenda which has nothing to do with biblical concerns.
Michael – LOL – the skaters and stoners are all up in arm about the relationship of Trump and his faith council?
I guess I could look it up, but I wonder what the ratings are for the “talk” radio vs some rock station in town.
IU speak to people all day on the phone, I have trads people in and out of my house everyday – I went tot eh boat repair shop today to check up on my boat – not a single person mentioned Trump or anything political.
My general contractor left Christianity a couple of years ago – but not because of politics. His mother in law went to Israel and when she came back she was convinced that Christianity was not only not true wit was a lie and led the whole family out of Christianity and into Judaism (and it is so funny listening to him because they don’t know step one of Judaism.Go figure.
MLD LOL great points
*Wear, dang homonyms LOL
It just hit 107 here…bring me a drink.
Seriously, I’m quite surprised at how much these kids and young adults watch the news and try to process what they see.
This administration is as closely identified with Christianity as any in my lifetime.
Trey has gotten clever though…when they ask him if we’re Christians, he tells them we’re Anglicans… 🙂
The local Christian station here is a powerhouse…listened to by a lot of non Christians.
You personal view of Reuben’s life will not be expressed here.
The Atheism/Agnosticism in Western Europe is a by-product of Reaping and Sowing principle and sowing many years to Liberalism/Leftist Ideology.
Liberalism/Leftist Ideology is a religion like any other aka a Philosophical Belief System that attempts to explain Existence and the Universe around us and has its own Moral Code and its own Prophets and Gurus and Dogmas etc.
A bit of Liberalism is probably good, like a bit of yeast for bread can be good….too much and you no longer have bread, you have hot air/gas.
My kids don’t even watch the news and they are 39 to 43.
here in Havasu there are only about 5 radio stations that come in clearly. I know one has Sean Hannity – it is probably FOX radio and they may be ranting right now – but I don’t listen and I know I am not missing much.
I am surprised some of you do listen and know what they are saying. Heck, I just found out that Sam Shepherd died last week. We lived through 8 yrs of Bush (and the left was crying that we all were going to die) – then we lived through 8 years of Obama as the right cried that we were all going to die – and here we are with Trump and I think we will survive.
Michael, you could have blocked something the Holy Spirit wanted Reuben to hear, but you’re responsible for what you do.
My guess is that the Holy Spirit can communicate with Reuben and I directly if He so chooses.
You do not know what you do not know… When you wish to engage in rational discussion, let me know. Currently, you are trolling and no more.
We were just at the skatepark for a few minutes (104 and smoke from the fires) and the kids were all talking about North Korea and nuclear war.
They know what’s going on…especially here with a high population of Latinos worried about the deportation raids.
In your opinion, (having lived and taught in the U.K)….what happened to the church abroad?
That is a good question.
usually when the Holy Spirit wants to get thru to someone, He comes at them obliquely – catches us off guard and somehow scores a square hit, Himself – very seldom does another human intentionally deliver the message… sometimes, but seldom 🙂
the only thing i have to say about Trump is that his administration has inherited quite a mess and they need our prayers – not for their sakes, but for ours… and…
who knows what God can say to you when you think that you’re just going along to get along, so i won’t discount those Bible studies and Christian feints being made now…
how many of us found the Faith just going along to get along? some of us did, so pray for a good outcome in Eternity as well as the here and now
just sayin … again … to quote my favorite poster here … again
Michael – N Korea & war is OK to discuss – but that has nothing to do with Trump and the church or Jay Sekulow – that is a world issue.
I lived in Europe when the Berlin Wall was built, when Gary Powers was shot down and when the Algerian rebellion was spilling over into southern France – those are world issues to be concerned with — no one care about the faith council. (or better yet, those who do, on either side are small minded, petty and bored with life.
They allowed themselves to be absorbed by the perks and blandishments of the establishment and in the process lost who they were as the Church…
It is the danger we face here, today.
You’re parsing this as expected.
These kids (and many adults I speak with) do identify Trump and his policies as representing the church as well.
My job is to convince them otherwise…and that’s just by being present and serving.
Perhaps one of our issues is defining the marks of the church in culture…what should we be known for?
I still say sacrificial love and service should be what they note most about us as a group…and we need to find ways to show both.
“My job is to convince them otherwise…”
I am glad to hear this because most of the time you sound like the loudest drum banger that Trump and the christian church are joined at the hip — which I agree is a lie..
I do have a serious question. Does anyone here believe that there are people who will not be saved because of the way we do church or politics?
Duane, historically, that is a very concise and accurate answer.
I do think that is a common perception…I’ve heard it way too often.
When I get to respond I try to move them from politics to people and show them that i care…even when we see things differently.
“Does anyone here believe that there are people who will not be saved because of the way we do church or politics?”
That’s a very good question.
If I boil it down, I believe God’s grace is far larger than our folly.
However, we can make the journey home very difficult…and we have for very many.
We will be held accountable, for sure.
What you said…
Why do so many discussions here seem like it always turns political?
It seems to me even when Duane writes something about church history etc, there is an underlying political angst and angle that ends up surfacing in the discussion?
Before you know it, the right vs left political discussion is on. As far as I can tell, Duane despises Trump but loved and embraced Obama, both of whom are part of the same political beast.
Me thinks that not much has changed through the ages regarding these things.
Whether we like it or not (and I don’t) the atmosphere here and on every social media site is full of politics.
That’s not going to change.
What we may be able to change is how we discuss these things and how we integrate this part of culture with our Christian walk.
I would suggest that we aren’t doing it well right now…and we can do better.
This place is remarkably civil compared to Facebook and Twitter…and I think we can and will do even better.
When the kingdom of God becomes more relevant in the lives of Christians than the kingdom of me, myself and I, then we will gravitate to conversation about our King and His kingdom.
I’m confused, are some becoming mean again? That would be a sad thing. Lets all play nice.
Glad i dont do facebood and twitter if they are ruff playgrounds. Not for me.
Well put Mochael…we need to fix that and be nicer to others. It is a sad will said.
MLD, i hope i am never the cause of someone not being saved…that would be a terrible thing.
I met Obama on two occasions. After the first, I said he had the possibility to be either a Robert Kennedy or an Adlai Stephenson. At the end, I felt he was Adlai and, while I admired much of what he tried to do, I felt his was a failed presidency in many ways.
I am apolitical. My desire for civil government is justice, pure and simple. My whole academic life has been an examination of how the Early Church interacted with political power. I think when the Church involves itself in partisan and/or power politics, we betray who we are and lessen the message we are to carry as the Church. I hope that I am Augustinian in my approach. For the Church to be the Church, I believe we have to abandon the idea of civil power or compulsion through the agencies of the state.
All this is to say, please do not tell me who I embrace or what I believe without first showing me the courtesy of asking me…
Facebook isn’t much fun anymore unless you enjoy barroom brawls.
I used to, but I don’t anymore.
This is either sanctification or age…
Michael, i think sanctification
FWIW… I think Scaramuci (sp?) is an example of a mistaken idea of what it means to be “strong” and from what I hear there are too many Facebook folk who buy into that definition…
What part of “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal” has escaped the Believers’ grasp ? ? ?
I’ve seen an undeniable shift on this blog through time. First it was CC, then there were the Evangelicals, then there were the Evangelicals who were political, and then those Evangelicals who are sold on Donald Trump.
Whenever I might take issue is when Evangelicals are all placed in the same boat. I’m not sure who qualifies as Evangelical any more. Is Paula White or Rodney Howard Brown? I guess it depends on how you define Evangelical.
In the above article Duane referred to “the Evangelicals” while making a point. I would go out of my way to change that to “some Evangelicals.”
It appears we’ve passed the point in this nation to carry on civil conversations when it comes to politics. My hope is that Christians can avoid this whenever possible.
To be precise… “evangelicals” was in the quote from the post-grad. I agree with you; If I were correcting this as an assignment, I would have recommended changing it to “many” or “most” evangelicals. That being said, the quote reflects his perception – outside of the US, outside of our “tribe” – and, I must say, it is the perception in much of Europe, at least from newspapers, magazines, TV and conversations.
Duane @ 67. I wasn’t correcting your words as an assignment they simply caught my eye very quickly. I’ve seen the same here in the past and other places.
I’m positive there is a lot never reported of Evangelicals who are doing sacrificial and good things for God in humility that people everywhere never hear or read about.
It’s hard for me to see so much contention among brothers and sisters. I’m sure we can do better while holding to different convictions. At times we seem to come off like the believers in 1 Corinthians.
Duane, and I do apologize for attributing to you the thoughts of the person who shared them.
No apology needed, ever. I agree with you about the lack of balance in reporting “the good things”… I suspect it could include many beyond evangelicals.
Duane, thanks for your graciousness. It seems to me that the word “Christian” is pretty much a cuss word for scores of people in our nation. I’m sure you’ve seen it. At the end of the day the two of us are brothers in Christ. That’s a great thing.
The media colors our perceptions, both here, and in Europe. When we were in Sweden 10 years ago, we spent time with good friends of a buddy of mine. They were ex Swedish special forces and met him while serving in Kosovo. My buddy is regular army. They said that before they met and became friends with my buddy, that they assumed Americans were ignorant, selfish and boorish. My buddy, apparently, was a good ambassador. They said that their media influenced their view of us, and went onto say that a lot of swedes thought like that, the Swedish left wing version of “your rednecks, and they are also untraveled.”
My coworker is a first generation swede who goes back about every decade to visit family. He talks with his relatives. Sees the difference in their media.
We went back to Europe the following summer, this time driving through several countries in the former Eastern Bloc. They actually loved us when they found out we were Americans, especially in Hungary, though I did see an op-ed in the local paper about America not coming to rescue them in the ’56 Uprising. We went to the wall in Bucharest where soviet bullet holes were filed in with metal balls in remembrance of a street massacre. Seems that memory is long.
We ended up on places far off the beaten path, where tourists don’t go. We had no problems. When crossing back into Germany at the Czech border, the guards asked for our passports (my buddy is half Mexican, looks Turkish, and my other buddy’s wife is Mexican, with me half native and American, the husband being the only white guy, coincidentally of German ancestry). When we started to hand them our passports, they exclaimed, “oh, you are Americans! Go right through!” They didn’t look at our passports. They loved us in Croatia. On the previous summer trip, we only skirted trouble when the Turkish hotel clerk in Brussels implored is quite convincingly not to go out at night because not being Turkish, “my country men may stab you…. except for him, ” he said pointing to our army buddy, ” he might be ok.” Day time was OK, it was a main tourist area. Night, no.
A year later, back in California, I met two Swiss gentlemen biking across the USA. My friend had 5 acres in the woods. He offered to host them. They told us something similar to what the swedes told us. They were nervous about going across “fly-over” country, which their media painted as dark and backwards. They were, however, pleasantly surprised and found nothing but kind and hospitable people. They never had to get a motel, but were hosted the whole way.
Though I thought the first time I went that everybody would hate us, based upon what our media said, I was pleasantly surprised. I became even more cynical of our media after that.
Facebook isn’t much fun anymore unless you enjoy barroom brawls.
I used to, but I don’t anymore.
This is either sanctification or age…”
Now that was funny, sad but funny. Which is why I only have 10 friends on my fb list, and they’re all family members. Mostly cute photos and videos of my grandchildren.
My daughter blamed me for getting my 3 year old grandson wanting to watch a music video from the Osborne Bros called, “It Ain’t My Fault”. LOL
Have any of you ever seen it?
“All this is to say, please do not tell me who I embrace or what I believe without first showing me the courtesy of asking me…”
I did neither. However, to claim you’re apolitical is disingenuous, in my opinion, of course 😉
Late to the party. Good article, Duane. The church is so busy trying to talked over itself that it has forgotten to talk to those outside the faith.
pstrmike, that ^^^
Well said pstrmike
“it has forgotten to talk to those outside the faith”
And maybe listen to those outside the faith too.
That, indeed, is the point of it all… and, yes, Joel is right about us doing some more listening to those “outside”.
Yes, in terms of my extreme antipathy toward the current incumbent, you are probably correct…
I am currently reading Tim Kellers book on Preaching, and he has some good points about engaging the culture at large.
Some of these quotes are better at explaining this point than others, but I recommend this book for seeing how Keller looks at making our faith relevant to our culture: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/20-quotes-from-tim-kellers-new-book-on-preaching
“It is a mistake to think that faithful believers in our time are not profoundly shaped by the narratives of modernity. We certainly are, and so when you unveil these narratives and interact with them in the ordinary course of preaching the Word, you help them see where they themselves may be more influenced by their society than by the Scripture, and you give them important ways of communicating their faith to others (118).”
as i look back over the years, i think i’d have to conclude that it is the Believers themselves who draw people toward the Faith – we have to learn and live like we believe what we learn (if you don’t love our Lord deeply as you learn of Him and the God, then your spirit needs an overhaul at the very least)
the problem just might be that today the evil (i say “evil” because it is our minds that are assaulted) is so relentless and invasive in these times – what it takes to function, pay bills and meet our governments’ demands – that it is hard to focus on Christ …?… dunno
#82 John 20:29
It seems to me that it is indeed “one to one” discipling. For so many years it was, “Come to church with me and hear…” I sometimes wonder if those days are over.
Dr. Duane, i’m not so sure that it is the discipling that we’ve lost as much as it is grace… or maybe just common good manners? there is as much genuine warmth in most churches as there is in a movie theater… and how many of our pastors are thinking of their Sunday performance?
i don’t know… something is askew… a church should be a gathering, not a venue for a happening… errr something like that… dunno
I am in the middle of something and can’t write much at the moment, but wanted to stop long enough to say I think much of what you say is correct.
Hopefully, I can expand on that later, but for now I wanted you to know you were seen/heard and that your perspective is just as important and valid as anyone else’s on here.
Hang in there!
#84 John 20:29
Yes, what ever happened to the idea that you could invite someone to church and you had relative confidence that they would be warmly greeted, hear something of value, people would introduce themselves, etc. I’m sure that it still happens in some places, but not as many as one could wish.
Dr. Duane, i think perhaps it is more a sign of the times we’re living in now than just a church phenomena…
long ago when i could, and wanted to, hike, one would climb to what looked like the top of the trail and then realize that it was only a small plateau and there’d be another and another…
and now i have climbed as far up as i’m going to and i’m sitting here watching everyone else on the trail, so if i sound a little preachy it’s because i have the luxury of sitting here watching you all 🙂
(BTW – glad i read JM’s comment just posted on last Friday’s TGIF – maturing Christians encourage us all)
This ‘talking to the culture’ is just so backwards from my thinking. I see the issue being that today’s church is trying to not only talk to the culture but being in competition with the culture. Churches today are not competing against the mindset of the culture but are trying to package Christianity as just another option within the culture. No one speaks to the souls of these people.
The Elks Club is still big in my town – (pick the social venue in your town). We don’t want to be different – we want to market ourselves as the Elks Club with the big T on the rook … but its cool because Jesus comes to our Elks Club.
But if we are trying to make people comfortable – then we should adapt more as the Elks serve beer and wine and you can smoke cigars.
I invite people to church with me when the situation arises – not many takers. Perhaps I sabotage it when I tell them “you probably won’t like what you hear.” 🙂
I can usually tell who is ready to step up and who isn’t. If I tell someone “Jesus loves you” I watch their response. Some will say, “I love Jesus too – and I love Buddha and I love Gandhi.” they probably aren’t ready.
If someone tells me “Tell Jesus to screw himself” well that guy is not ready. But if someone says “what does that mean?” now I have a prospect.
Well… we are in competition with the culture… However – as my grandmother would have cautioned – we shouldn’t get down on their level to compete… well… maybe we are on the same level…
I’m thinking that we may confuse humanity and sinful flesh… Doesn’t God want to save humanity from the condemnation of their sin(full) flesh?
We aren’t superior, but our “organization” is superior – uh, make that the Head of or organization is superior
just thinking …