Castaways: Dr.Duane Arnold

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52 Responses

  1. Michael says:

    Comments on now…sorry for missing that.

  2. Em says:

    Can we say that since Satan realized he couldn’t lick us, he joined us?

  3. Steve says:

    While I see endless problems and faults with the institutional church – sometimes to the point of despair, I’m still committed to my local body. Without this organization of people I don’t see how I’d maintain my focus with Sunday worship, small group Bible study, praise, community service, etc. with any regularity – for me it would just be too easy to start watching football (and by that I mean soccer, though I realize for most here it’s probably just “football” :-)) and live my “Christian” life on my own terms. Maybe that’s just me, though from what I’ve seen from some friends, I don’t think so.

    And I will always come back to the fact that Jesus himself was in the “habit” or “custom” of going to synagogue every Sabbath – and if anybody had a right to check out of “institutional church” it would have been Him since He would have known they were going to kill Him. So, maybe once I know my church leaders are going to kill me we can discuss leaving the institutional church, but even then it’s not so clear…

  4. Duane Arnold says:


    I think you are doing just the right thing. We need the Church. I’m not advocating being a “lone ranger Christian”. The issues with the institution, however, are mounting day by day. We need find the “good” while we are able…

  5. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I may just be into church conspiracy theories but it seems odd to me that we continually get these “the church is going to hell in a hand basket” or the “church is sinking” articles almost continually on Mondays — right after we all have gone to church the previous day. Each week I go to my local church and have powerful encounters with the Lord Jesus Christ, we my fellow church mates and with the outside world through visitors – only to be confronted the next day with a proclamation that the church “can’t do it right.” What is this all about and what is it’s driving force?

    Yesterday we gathered, we confessed our sins together, we confessed our common beliefs to one another, we prayed the prayer that Jesus gave us, we sang hymns of thanksgiving and praise and heard his word publicly proclaimed. As a rare treat we saw the devil driven out of 2 individuals as we had 2 baptisms.

    In my church we are small this time of year, but we hang in faithfully so we are there to provide a place of worship and 2nd home as the winter visitors (snowbirds) come to us.

    So my question to others who think the good ship “institutional church” is sinking – what did you see in your local gathering yesterday that leads you to believe it is contributing to this church demise. Did anyone look at their church yesterday and say “you’re killing me smalls!”

  6. Duane Arnold says:


    I think we’re dealing with a larger “institutional church” than yours… perhaps of the type you referenced recently in Open Blogging…

  7. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane – but I, (extended to we / each of us), can deal only with my church. It is interesting that you bring up what I pointed out in Open Blogging last week as that was 100% against bad doctrine and how that results in bad practice – which is something that never gets mentioned in the articles I am speaking of today.

    Personally, I think it is the institutional church that is hanging in there and it is the non church that distracts and fades.

    But to stick to my point, I think it is odd, that it is on Mondays that we see the “let me let the air out of your balloon” discussions. I am serious when I put out the question “So what are you seeing in your local church that is contributing to this falling away and making you feel like a castaway?” I guess I will wait to see how many here go to their church weekly (and that is a big deal) and still consider themselves as castaways.)

  8. Duane Arnold says:


    Do you consider “institutional churches” such as TEC, ELCA, PCUSA, the Southern Baptist Convention, CCA, CCGN, the Roman Catholic Church, etc., to be “Church”?

  9. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane, please consider what I said in my initial post – “I may just be into church conspiracy theories” – so I don’t want to get into who is in and who is out right here.

    My point is why the attack on the church each Monday right after we all seemed to have had glorious encounters on Sunday?

  10. Duane Arnold says:


    1. What you assert is not the case – ” why the attack on the church each Monday”
    2. I spoke in the article about a broad range of institutional churches… not, believe it or not, your church.
    3. if you want to discuss “institutional churches” that are failing, they need to be identified.

  11. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “3. if you want to discuss “institutional churches” that are failing, they need to be identified.”
    You are the one who said the institutional church was failing – sinking and shrinking.

    I see doctrinal apostasy as the problem – not alignment with a certain political party. But hey, I will just sing along with the Mamas & Papas – Monday Monday – can’t trust that day. 🙂

  12. bob1 says:

    I don’t see how you can credibly argue with Duane’s points. Look at the statistics that he cited. The decline is just as true for conservative denoms. like LCMS and SBC.

    Just because your church is meaningful for you doesn’t mean it’s true for others.

    And if you don’t care about any other church than your own, why bother posting on an
    Internet blog except to annoy others, perhaps? Why not just keep your head stuck in
    your church’s sand and call it a day?

  13. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    bob1 – how was church for you yesterday? Good?

    I didn’t object to what was said – I objected to the every Monday, “the church stinks” attitude.

    Did your church fail you yesterday?

  14. bob1 says:

    Church decline is real. But one thing that helps me is to realize that we’re called to be faithful
    to God. Externals like attendance aren’t everything, agreed.

    I mean, maybe this is a bit extreme, but there wasn’t much numerically to Bonhoeffer’s church/ad hoc seminary when he was in prison. But can we say he wasn’t faithful to Christ? That’s what counts.

  15. Jean says:

    In an odd sort of way, even though it appears that MLD and Duane are disagreeing, they both to my reading agree in the end on the preferred response of the Christian: To persevere in, and contribute to, a local community of faith. Since that is the only place where most of us can make a positive difference, I agree with them.

  16. Duane Arnold says:


    Many thanks… you get it. Others do not… until it happens to them.

  17. Duane Arnold says:


    Yes, as the news piles on (especially today) we need to look more and more to local expressions of the faith once delivered. I’m simply not interested in wider tribal wars. When one suffers, we all suffer. I believe that about the Church as much as individual believers within the Church.

  18. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    It’s pretty much the definition of the theology of glory to think God is pleased with large church numbers and many churches on every street corner.
    It’s even a worse form of the theology of glory to think God is displeased by shrinking numbers and church closings – identified as the church is sinking.
    But a worse form of the theology of glory is to think we have it figured out and if we did this instead of that all things will be better and we can raise the ship.

  19. Jean says:


    “Yes, as the news piles on (especially today) we need to look more and more to local expressions of the faith once delivered.”

    That is neither liberal nor progressive. It is not seeker sensitive. It requires a preacher to slam the door on my seeking and declare the forgiveness of my sins apart from the law. Do you know any?

  20. Duane Arnold says:


    “But a worse form of the theology of glory is to think we have it figured out…” I agree completely. It is why I embrace the mystery of faith…

  21. Duane Arnold says:


    A few… maybe even a remnant…

  22. Michael says:

    I talk to a lot of folks in a lot of different denominations…and all of them are struggling with the issues Duane has elucidated above.
    Duane knows more people than I do…
    It’s beyond me why this would be controversial…it’s a call to prayer and action.

  23. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Michael – you are the leader here – what is the prayer? what is the action?
    Forget the prayer if that is too difficult – what are the top 5 actions that will stop church shrinkage?

  24. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane – so are folks leaving the Orthodox Church because of this “political action”?
    That Constantinople stuff has always been confusing to me.

  25. Michael says:


    Those things require serious conversations and contemplation by all of us.
    My guess is that the LCMS won’t participate in them…

  26. Jean says:

    Michael, you might be surprised.


  27. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Michael, why would you say that – here I am, talk to me.

    If the Christian church is not “doing it right” then why are all religious organizations shrinking? Judaism probably quicker than Christianity.

  28. Duane Arnold says:


    “Political action”… No, as it is not what I said.
    What I did say was, “Yet another example of politics in the life of the church…”
    Try reading instead of reacting…

  29. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane, I figured it was a follow up to your comment in the article as to what was “sinking the church” – when you said – “Identification of one’s faith with a particular political agenda – whether right or left – will result in the alienation of a large segment of those people we are called to reach with the gospel. ”

    You then pointed out an example of this with the Orthodox church.

  30. Duane Arnold says:


    As I said… “Yet another example of politics in the life of the church…” not “political action” (your words). Additionally I did not say, “so are folks leaving the Orthodox Church ” nor did I even infer it…

  31. Michael says:

    Here is the fact.
    All denominations are shrinking and splitting.
    You can either participate in finding out why and seeking for solutions…or just say that all those people leaving or staying out are “God haters”.
    I’m only paying attention to those seeking to understand and act.

  32. Duane Arnold says:


    Agreed. My chief concern is that as many leave institutional churches, the idea will be that they have to “look for something new” and will leave behind much of the Christian heritage. I’ve already seen examples of this… in fact, more examples than I would care to see. It’s a tragedy.

  33. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Michael – I only say atheists are God haters – not those who don’t attend church.
    My 3 kids are all Christians along with their spouses – they just are not compelled to go to church – they are happy and content with their life and they have all the things the church has promised they would have “if only you had Jesus in your life.”

    But again, I have a tremendous Jewish population in my family that don’t go either – where in a previous time their parents did.

  34. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I guess my point is that my kids did not leave the church because the church wronged them or chased the away by having the wrong political leanings.
    They got lazy and lured into worldly Sunday’s and world activities.

  35. Duane Arnold says:

    Since the most recent blow up, I have RC friends that are seriously questioning their continued attendance. In the Anglican Ordinariate community that was forming here in Indy, their bishop disbanded them after the misconduct of their priest (it was a small “plant”). In a once large Methodist Church here in town, they have moved their services to a chapel as the sanctuary is now too large for the diminishing congregation. There are at least two Episcopal dioceses with less than 500 people – they can no longer afford to have their own bishop. Four other dioceses are sharing bishops for the same reason. I could go on at length….

    The point is, this is happening and it is happening all around us. I am pleased for those who have healthy church communities to which they belong, but something significant is happening of which we should be aware, concerned and in prayer.

  36. Jean says:

    Are we in agreement that (1) accommodating the culture’s morality, (2) compromising the clear teachings of Scripture, and (3) trying to attract attendees through making church like any other secular gathering, are all failed efforts to preserve the church and should be abandoned once and for all?

  37. Michael says:


    Yes, though we would disagree on what “the clear teachings of scripture” are…

  38. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane, you can still be a very healthy Christian congregation / denomination even in the light of declining numbers.
    You might be financially strapped as numbers decrease but still faithfully being the Church.
    Is that not your experience?

  39. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Pretty sad if we begin the solution problem by stating we will disagree over The Clear teachings. I guess there is no hope when we get to the hard rock mining passages.

  40. Xenia says:

    I agree with MLD in that it is curious that this topic does seem to come up every Monday. That’s probably because it’s the “Things I Think” day for Michael and he does think on this topic a lot.

    As much as people lament declining church numbers, no one here has yet come up with a solution. It’s pretty much universally agreed here that the seeker/ rock band/ coolness model doesn’t work so what do you all suggest? If you say the church needs to be more charitable to the poor, there are plenty of churches that do that. If you say the church needs to preach the Gospel, there are plenty of churches that do that. If you say the church should welcome all comers, etc. etc. etc. Pretty much any kind of church culture you can think of has been thought of and if you live in a large enough community, you can find a church that suits you if you really want to. The only “downside” is God and if you don’t want God, you will not like church.

    But again, as MLD says, many people today don’t want to. Kids get jobs that require them to work on Sundays, or their sports team has games on Sunday, and if their parents permit this, these kids will go for the job and the game and probably abandon Sunday morning church entirely and begin the process of falling away from the Faith.

  41. Duane Arnold says:


    I would agree that you can still be healthy with declining numbers, but it does leave the obvious questions of “why?” and “can we do anything about it?”.

    At present (and I know that I’ll probably be pilloried for saying this) I’ve encountered an unusual number of clergy that are really ill-trained and poorly trained. This is especially true in terms of pastoral care – hospital visitation, nursing home visitation, weddings, funerals, etc. These were times when a pastoral presence can make a difference and a pastoral bond can be made with couples, families, etc. I also am concerned about the theological training of many. When I visit seminary bookstores these days, the shelves are filled with “How to” books. I take theology seriously, I see many clergy who do not. The dearth of ordinands has also meant many denominations allowing people who are clearly unsuitable for pastoral ministry into seminary in the first place. Additionally, as some churches have become more “performance oriented” the people in the pew have increasingly become an audience looking at drop down screens rather than a congregation meeting for the purpose of worship. There is a large part of me in my thinking that believes we have done this to ourselves…

  42. Em says:

    “We have done this to ourselves…”. Of course we have!

    Sinclair Lewis wrote “Elmer Gantry” targeting evangelicals, but the true Church has been grieving silently for decades… maybe for millenium?
    It should be clear to us all (has been mentioned here) that wherever there is opportunity to achieve money or status the opportunists will come – perhaps they can’t help themselves – why do we dither? Are we unsure of God? Turning the other cheek does require taking a stand…. God loves the world, yes… He is long suffering, yes, but He doesn’t compromise, does He?
    Thinking… just thinking….

  43. Jean says:

    There are many good observations here. It’s difficult to pin the problem of what appears as mass apostasy over a relatively short period.

    Have people abandoned the principle of objective sin?
    Have they abandoned the person of God as judge?
    Do they think they are basically good?
    Do they think that there is no God or he is not involved in his creation whatsoever?
    Do they think they are truly autonomous beings?
    Have they abandoned the Scriptures as the source of God’s revelation in favor of other “spiritual” endeavors?

    I have can’t pinpoint the source of the rot with any confidence.

  44. Duane Arnold says:


    Being a child of the 60s, I hate to say this, but in addition to the revival that took place starting in So Cal, society at large changed – sexual mores, civic discourse, mistrust of institutions (including the church), the nature of education, the worship of technology, etc. Like you, I cannot pinpoint it… but I think it started back then, both here and, perhaps, in Europe as well…

  45. Em says:

    Dr. Duane’s 2:44 observation is accurate in that the sixties. were the decade when our population capitulated en masse to what had been slowly eroding our national conscience for most of the 20th century – we were inclined to give God lip service during WW2, but that began to fall away when the bombs quit falling…. Popular opinion seems to be ruled by people we think are smarter than us…. or cooler….
    Did the clergy lose their influence when they lost their dignity? Dunno

  46. Reuben says:

    Duane, I have a hard time understanding one thing. You posit a number of possible reasons why, and I get all the reasons. When I was falling apart, my last ditch effort was Anglicanism, which I still believe to be one of the purist forms of “Christian worship” there is. The decline is always posited as some of what you briefly listed. What I can’t understand, and I could not understand it as a Christian either, is why god is never the reason for the decline? I believed then that people would become saturated with knowledge and have no need for a god, like the Tower of Babel. The understanding in my mind was that instead of god sending them all different directions, now he would simply allow the growth of knowledge to begin to destroy humanity on it’s own, and then pull “us” all out for the big ending. Obviously, I have different opinions on the matter now, but it seems to me that the 800 pound gorilla is actually god, and nobody seems willing to address that.

  47. Duane Arnold says:


    That is a sane and rational position. The caveat is that I am Theocentric. I see God as the center of the issue, not as an amused bystander. Somewhere along the way we have lost sight of God as the center of it all – in worship, service, care and concern. We have come up with “models” of behavior, but we have ignored, in some way, “the model” of Christian life and worship… God himself and his revelation in Christ. Until we return to that center as the norm, we have little to offer to the world, especially those in pain and need… Einstein said that God does not play dice with the universe… I also don’t believe he is playing a game with the church.

  48. pstrmike says:

    I’m still thinking this one through, but will commit the unpardonable sin in the blogosphere and think out loud.

    I am counseling with a couple where one of them is still not sure about God, what the Bible teaches about Him and how we engage with Him. In this person’s case, it seems that they have a problem with the transcendent, as such, being beyond the realm of total comprehension and at least in their case, control. It is the incompatibility between two worldviews, but also between the known and the unknown. There is still the problem of not believing what they cannot see.

    I can only speak for myself, but every problem I have ever had with either religion or spirituality was eventually traced back to man placing themselves in the place of intermediary to such an extreme that all I saw or heard was their interpretation – some where good, some were not. I’ve had good teacher, and I’ve had bad teachers. In what Duane said about Theo-centricism, the incorporation of diversity of different Christian perspectives within a single worship service, in addition to some of what Reuben has written here recently (I’ve spent some time thinking about a few of his comments) has again caused me to question what the ecclesia is to be about. It does seem like we as the church are about many things other than God, and yet all those things we do are done in the name of God, whether or not He has anything to do with it.

  49. Em says:

    Hmmm… God is the 800 lb gorilla? … For some that may be their sad illusion…
    But we search for God, we don’t define Him, there is no god in a box, except the ones we try to construct to fit in our boxes

    Einstein said God doesn’t play with dice, He said a mouthful… I suspect when Satan told God that he’d gotten Eve to believe that God didn’t want her to be wise, he thought the game was over… And i suspect that God’s reply was that this is no game and that they were just starting…. Dunno, tho, do i? ?

  50. Duane Arnold says:


    “It does seem like we as the church are about many things other than God, and yet all those things we do are done in the name of God, whether or not He has anything to do with it.”

    Yes, and often it smacks of manipulation. It has always struck me that in Anglicanism our worship is to be normed by The Book of Common Prayer. “Common” – not meaning “ordinary” in this context, but the prayers and worship we all have and may participate in whether we are clergy or lay. It’s not supposed to be “top down”, but “bottom up”. Over the last 40 years as we have been more and more concerned about being relevant in worship, we have concurrently moved more and more towards “the leader leads, the people follow”. Even as the leadership is increasingly “casual”, it has become more separated from those in the pew…

  51. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I think conservative Lutherans lose membership to evangelical churches more than just falling away because of the basic message preached.
    Conservative Lutheran churches preach what Christ has done for you while the evangelicals preach what Christ has done in you. The old Adam in each of us prefers the latter – it’s more hands on — then they fall away.

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