Rebuild The Church: Duane W.H. Arnold PhD

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178 Responses

  1. pstrmike says:

    Great insights to the many issues where the church does nothing but gets in God’s way, and great insights toward a God given solution.

  2. Michael says:


    I think this is the new mission statement of the PhxP…

  3. Duane Arnold says:

    Thank you both… I think we’ve got to get back to “what we can do where we are” in the coming months and years.

  4. Xenia says:

    This is a great article, Duane.

    We can’t simply wait for someone else to provide us with the “perfect church”… the “perfect opportunity” for service.<<<<

    One convert family complained that our little parish didn't have a soup kitchen for the homeless people in the area. I told them if they really cared about feeding the poor and not being so concerned that every sandwich handed out should have a three-bar EO cross emblazoned on the bag, he would go over and help the Salvation Army who is already doing great work in this area.

    Just look around, there are dozens of opportunities to do good in your community. You don't have to wait until your church comes up with a special "ministry" directed at a certain group.

    While our parish may not have its own soup kitchen, the theology preached there every Sunday encourages us to help the poor. Take what you learn at church out into your community.

    As to the poll Duane cited, the two jurisdictions polled were the Greek Archdiocese (GOA) and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), the two most liberal EO jurisdictions. What passes for "liberal" in Ortholandia is not the same as the rest of Christendom, but if the more conservative jurisdictions had been polled I think the answers would have been different. We are all pretty optimistic over here in the ROCOR. 🙂

    I am very big on church attendance. Get up and go on Sunday. Participate as best as you can. Eat a meal with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Come home and take a nap. Glory to God!

  5. Duane Arnold says:

    #4 Xenia

    Many thanks. As to the poll, it is one of the reasons I shared it with you earlier. There is very little data (as in almost none) for the other jurisdictions. In looking through the figures available, the EO “feels” a bit healthier by and large. The two biggest things I noted were the cultural issues and the ability to support full-time clergy. The other BIG surprise was that 59% of the clergy in OCA were converts! I’m debating if that fact is good, bad or neutral…

  6. Scooter Jones says:

    I’ve recently been contacted by 2 good christian friends from my past, I haven’t heard from either for years, not for lack of trying on my part either.

    Both of them have recently gone through grueling divorces after 30 plus years of marriage. I had no idea.

    I’m not shocked much by anything these days. However, I would have never imagined those 2 couples divorced.

    Divorce seems to be rampant in the church these days? I was telling my wife the other day that it seems like half of the christian couples we’ve known over the past 40 years are divorced, some more than once, sort of like our current president.

    I didn’t have much to offer either of those 2 men who reached out to me, except a listening ear and a I love you and don’t condemn you.

    I guess in a way, that’s picking up a stone off the ground and placing it in the wall?

  7. Jean says:

    I appreciate your article, Duane, very much.

    I personally have a lot of confidence in God’s Word, and believe in its power to justify and sanctify sinners. It is for me the root and the stump. Which leads me to something I’ve heard that I believe should be included in any diagnosis and prescription for the Church:

    orthodoxy begets orthopraxy.

    I don’t think this POV necessarily takes anything away from what you’ve written. But perhaps it might be added and even emphasized. Not for its own sake, but for light to our feet and light to our path.

  8. Josh the Baptist says:

    Southern Baptists didn’t get a specific mention here, but I’ll chime in. We are constantly fighting with one another, and we are in serious decline:

    So, sounds like we are all in the same boat.

    I think the major problem is that we all believe the Great Commission was written for someone else.

  9. Xenia says:

    Duane, it is a very good thing that so many priests are converts. They are a shot in the arm and the cure for the problem of ethnic enclaves or even worse, ethnophyletism.

    The history of Orthodoxy in America is that of groups of people from the Old Country looking to find a safe haven. They founded parishes that were little pieces of Russia and Greece here in America. There was zero interest in outreach to the surrounding culture. Their thoughts were Greek churches for Greek people and American churches for Americans. They had no idea what American churches were like and were totally ignorant about evangelicalism, for example. (My former Greek priest was astounded that Calvary Chapel didn’t observe Theophany. “Don’t they have a blessing of the waters?”) So it’s not that they didn’t care about the salvation of Americans, it’s more that they thought the Baptists were the American equivalent of Orthodoxy.

    Those days are coming to an end, I am happy to report. Russian churches are full of Ethiopians and Arabs, etc. Many outreaches, many courtesy of the Antiochian jurisdiction. <— If they had been polled, I think their responses would be very optimistic.

    There has been a flourishing of monasticism here in America, which is very encouraging. Monasteries are the heartbeat of Orthodoxy.

    The OCA descends from those hardy Russian missionaries that trekked all the way across Siberia and across the Bering Strait to bring Christianity to the native people in Alaska in the 18th and 19th centuries. They expanded down to San Francisco but retreated back to Russia when the US bought Alaska. So the OCA had missionary roots for sure and it would be great if those roots could be revitalized. But now it looks like it's the Antiochians (Syrians) who are doing this work nowadays.

  10. Duane Arnold says:

    #7 Jean

    Many thanks. Yes, I would agree with you.

    I take it even a bit further… “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi”. As we Worship, So we Believe, So we Live…

  11. Michael says:


    I think the SBC is one of those groups decimated by politics…I keep reading that Russell Moore may lose his job.

    Prophets have a hard go of it these days.

    The incessant Calvinism vs. Arminianism war never seems to stop either…

  12. Duane Arnold says:

    #8 Josh

    Some of the thoughts expressed here have been informed by Russell Moore’s book, “Onward”. As he struggles with the SBC, it is somewhat of a microcosm of what the Church as a whole is facing. Last week, I reread Richard Niebuhr’s “Christ and Culture”. It struck me that we no longer have a theological understanding of the culture around us, owing to the fact that we have absorbed so much of that outside culture and its values into the very heart of the Church.

  13. Xenia says:

    Like Francis, I believe we have to set aside the idea of a “great life work” and, instead, deal with the stones that are lying on the ground in front of us. I’m not asking you to change the world. I’m asking you to pick up one stone, walk with it over to the broken wall and set it in place. Then, walk back, find one more stone, walk it over to the wall and set that one in place… and keep doing it, one stone at a time. This is not about hiring an architect, commissioning a feasibility study, organizing a fund raising campaign, getting three bids from construction companies and then deciding if it’s a good idea. The stones are lying at your feet. Pick one up…<<< so we can have easy access to it.

    I mean, it’s really a sorrowful article but it has that wonderful element of hope.

  14. Xenia says:

    Ugh, my last post got disordered because I was trying to be too clever with my punctuation.

    Here it is again:

    Like Francis, I believe we have to set aside the idea of a “great life work” and, instead, deal with the stones that are lying on the ground in front of us. I’m not asking you to change the world. I’m asking you to pick up one stone, walk with it over to the broken wall and set it in place. Then, walk back, find one more stone, walk it over to the wall and set that one in place… and keep doing it, one stone at a time. This is not about hiring an architect, commissioning a feasibility study, organizing a fund raising campaign, getting three bids from construction companies and then deciding if it’s a good idea. The stones are lying at your feet. Pick one up…<<<<

    This paragraph is so good it brings tears to my eyes.

    The more I read this article, the better I like it. It is sorrowful but has that wonderful element of hope: There are things *we* can do, right where we are.

    Michael, maybe you would like to post this on the side bar over there on the right so we have permanent access to it.

  15. Michael says:


    I will put this up as a permanent page.

    This article is also being published on at least two other sites, and I’ll provide those links when they come up.

  16. Duane Arnold says:

    #14 Xenia

    Thank you. It is sorrowful. I have had some relationship, direct or indirect, with all the groups I mentioned and I have friends who have been affected in life-changing ways by what has happened.
    That being said, I believe in the Church, because I believe in my brothers and sisters and in Christ’s promises. That’s the hope. If we start to pickup the stones, we may find One beside us in the work…

  17. OCDan says:

    “The incessant Calvinism vs. Arminianism war never seems to stop either…”

    Well put Michael. I am so over this debate. Do you believe in Jesus? Do you believe in the one who sent Him? Just give God all the glory. Stop endlessly debating this issue like it is armageddon, which only creates more heat than light.

    Sadly, we argue and alienate one another over free will or predestination while the call to rebuild the church remains.

    Duane, I liked the comment about parsing another Greek verb and wrangling over 16th-century documents.

    I am confident that Jesus’ church shall not fail. He said the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. However, that church may go through some serious pruning and changes and may look and ESPECIALLY act very differently from what we are used to being a part of.

    I know that God does some incredible work though His church. I will not deny that. BUT, that is in spite of everything the church does that is wrong. I had a dear pastor tell me once that it is amazing what God does through the church when you see how people, especially Christians, are at times.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that if we would just love God with everything we have and our neighbor like our self, that would be a real statement to the world. I realize we will not get to that point this side of eternity, but what would it look like if we all picked up that first rock.

  18. OCDan says:

    Just to add.

    We should never lose friends or brothers in Christ over doctrinal issues. Sure, do we teach, reprove, correct? Yes! Do we call out heresy? Yes. But to lose friends over free will vs. predestination is just crazy. To lose friends over eschataology, NUTS! To split over Trump or Hillary, crazy! We may disagree, but to lose friends and relationships is nuts.

    How many times do we go to Jesus for forgiveness? Yeah, that’s right, A LOT! Does He turn us away? NO! But boy oh boy, someone wrongs us or the church doesn’t do what we want or a brother doesn’t vote the same way and that’s it. Cut off all communication. Really? That is one sorry state of affairs, which I don’t get.

  19. OCDan says:


    Duane I like to read this as an analogy to picking up a stone and using it build, rather than hit someone with it.

  20. Michael says:


    I used to think the Calvinism vs. Arminianism brawls were necessary.
    I also used to believe in other childish things.

  21. CostcoCal says:

    I agree not to lose brothers and sisters through secondary doctrinal issues.

    However, there is a reason for high and low church and liturgy.


  22. Duane Arnold says:

    #19 OCDan

    Funny, these days we see a lot of rocks being thrown… but not much building going on.

  23. Duane Arnold says:

    #21 CostcoCal

    Yes, some very good reasons! Today, however, we’re willing to turn our personal preferences into mandates for others…

  24. Scooter Jones says:

    When we’re humbled through life’s struggles, hardship & pain, our ability to throw stones at others subsides quite a bit.

    At least it has for me over the years…

    One of the friend’s I referenced as having been recently divorced was a very harsh and legalistic person during my active friendship years.

    He has now been reduced to an almost groveling state of humility at this point. Which is in a sense, a good thing.

    One can hope that as he’s renewed in his hope in Christ, he will also become a wall builder in the church.

  25. CostcoCal says:


    “Today, however, we’re willing to turn our personal preferences into mandates for others….”

    Oh yes. And not just today. I have seen this for thirty years.

  26. JD says:

    I did find some encouragement here. If I pick up a stone I usually drop it on my own foot because there’s no one to throw it at, and I’m so weak I couldn’t throw or hold on to it anyway. With His strength, I will use it to build as I find opportunity, or at least use it to prop open a door that He has opened. Thank you for helping me to want to reach out to others. 😉

  27. em... again says:

    what you all describe is the result of a stunted growth (yes, i do believe in the three part man being the result of the new birth and we’ve been starving the newborn babes)
    what everyone posting here this a.m. notes is right and good and will result if we feed the sheep… course we’ll lose a lot of loose bricks in the process, those that weren’t formed of proper substance to begin with…
    the Church’s greatest sin is one not mentioned here (unless i missed it on my quick read thru – will reread later) – we’ve come through a period of forgetting that God is real and that teaching us to fear and reverence Him should be the focus of the clergy

  28. David H says:

    Duane, This is a fine piece of work. You have put onto parchment what I have been thinking for a few years.

    Several years ago I had a FB conversation with Michael (I wonder if he remembers) where we both said that a sea change was coming.

    I just keeping praying for a revived Christianity where it’s about the Gospel, and not political, social, and cultural expediency.

    Again, Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

  29. Duane Arnold says:

    #29 DavidH

    Thank you. I think all of here join in your prayers for “a revived Christianity where it’s about the Gospel, and not political, social, and cultural expediency.”

    To be honest, in the early 1970s, I could never have imagined a future that looks like our present day situation… and the pace of change is growing faster and faster, and not always for the good.

  30. Josh the Baptist says:

    Another friend posted this related post today:

  31. em... again says:

    read Josh’s link = says the churches are dying for lack of courage, commitment and sacrifice…
    i’d say yes and amen, but courage to declare what? to commit to what? and for what to sacrifice? …
    maybe it is time for death, time bury what is dead, taking care to discern where life really is and go there… what is our source of life?

  32. em... again says:

    “Today, in the United States we are in a state in which politics has ripped apart the Church. ”
    we elected a sinner President? well, that’s not new, is it?
    will evangelicals own it, if Trump goes down? this evangelical fundy is okay with that because what i’m seeing that seems to be either not true or missed is that the opposition to Trump has nothing to do with his virtues, rather it is all about who’s got the power, the power to destroy… if Trump goes down it will be the politicians, the puppets with their puppeteers behind the scene who will, once again take control of the nation feeding the citizenry bread and circuses as they manipulate… doing the very things they’re accusing Trump of doing, but doing it much more skillfully – or so it seems to me

    if ever there was a need to strengthen the Church as the call has gone out here this morning…

  33. Xenia says:

    the opposition to Trump has nothing to do with his virtues, <<<<

    Or lack of same.

    Almost everyone I know who opposes him does so because of his poor character.

    So what if other presidents also had poor characters, as we now know. Their bad characters were hidden from us when we voted for them so we had some excuse. Not so in this case.

  34. Erunner says:

    I’ve read endless opinions from both sides of the Trump chasm. Each side comes up with facts supporting up their views. It’s embarrassing as a Christian to read the venom aimed at brothers and sisters who think differently re Trump.

    There seems to be no big changes in these attitudes on the horizon?

    I have had recent experience with a local Episcopal church and it was sad. I sat with the female priest and asked her a series of questions in an open, friendly, and candid conversation. She went on to deny pretty much every essential element that makes up what one would label as orthodox Christianity.

    I imagine many would say she is not a part of the body of Christ.

    I’ve been down the CC road having had attended them for over thirty years. Sadly I had experiences that hurt me to the core as I have had to separate from two CC’s in difficult circumstances.

    Having been here for so long I came to see the issues within many CC’s. I’ve also known there to be many fine CC’s.

    Last night I viewed Harvest America on TBN. I listened to some of Greg’s message and then when he called people forward to confess Christ just as I had done so many years before. More than anything I prayed those responses would be genuine and life changing as they were for me. Time will tell and God already knows.

    On FB the other day I posted a little about the E-Fests I hosted where members of this community got together for food, fellowship, worship, and prayer. Different traditions were part of our time and I believe we were able to set secondary differences aside and enjoy fellowship in Jesus name.

    I like what you said Duane about the stones lying directly in front of us instead of the idea of great life work. I believe many of us have missed that truth.

    We’ve all been exposed in one fashion or other as some see it as their duty to fragment the body. Doing so at the expense of our brothers and sisters is wrong.

    There’s a place for those who defend the faith from Mormons who are beginning to blend in with the church. There’s a place for defending the faith against Islam without painting them all as terrorists. There’s room for our hearts to break when untold numbers of Muslim men, women and children are slaughtered by the terrorists of that faith.

    I left here some time back because I didn’t feel welcome. Some things that have been shared here I thought crossed a line. Others can disagree.

    Where am I personally? My mother had a pretty severe seizure we thought was a stroke about a month ago. As she has dementia it was heartbreaking to hear the venom and experience her physically attacking me while she was in ICU and then the main floor of the hospital. She has stunned everyone with her recovery She’s pretty much back to normal when at times I wondered what was going to happen. Personally at home we’re dealing with big changes like many of you are. Lots of question marks ahead so we will trust God the best we can for what lies ahead.

    I wish you all nothing but God’s best and for those of you in difficult places I pray God will give you His peace and strength to navigate the road ahead. Thanks for bearing with me. Allan

  35. Michael says:


    You’re always welcome here…and you’re loved here.

    We’re all going to disagree at times, but I hope we have a place for all those who disagree agreeably.

  36. Duane Arnold says:

    #34 Allan

    Just to say… I share the sadness you feel about so much that has happened in the Episcopal Church, CC, and all the rest. All we can do, at least for now, is the task that is right in front of us. Do know that you are welcome here…

  37. Xenia says:

    Erunner, if I was in any way responsible for your departure, please forgive me and come back!

  38. Michael says:

    “Erunner, if I was in any way responsible for your departure, please forgive me and come back!”

    That’s what I should have said …

  39. em... again says:

    #33-Xenia, are you saying that the voters choose the man that they perceive to have the lowest sin count to run the nation? That seems a naive approach to choosing for whom we’ll vote, but does explain a lot…
    way back when JFK ran, he seemed to me to be very sinful (not because he RC) and so i voted for Nixon… turned out that JFK navigated us through the Cuban missile crisis quite well for a sin ridden man… dunno… thinking…
    Jimmy Carter may have been the best President we ever had… in God’s eyes … dunno … again … thinking again… 🙂

  40. em... again says:

    Erunner, you’ve been a faith builder here perhaps more than you know… you are a true pilgrim of the Faith and have blessed me going all the way back to Erunner’s porch and the Dogs Playing Poker 🙂
    you’re on dusty’s prayer thread list and you and yours get prayed for (with love) every day

  41. Kevin H says:

    Well done on this article, Duane.

  42. Duane Arnold says:

    #39 Em…again and Xenia

    I think there is a bit of a qualitative difference with regard to Mr. Trump and other presidents. We did not suspect him of sexual/financial/marital escapades – he freely admitted them. We did not hear rumors of him mocking disabled people – we could see him do it. I’m not sure we ever had someone who stated that he could kill someone on 5th Avenue, and it would not matter to his supporters. This is not a difference of degree, but of kind. That evangelicals would support him, knowing these salient facts, has to do with their character, not his. As I said in the article… even if he succeeds, they will still have to own him and own who he is…

  43. Duane Arnold says:

    #41 Kevin H

    Many thanks…

  44. Erunner says:

    Thank you for the kind responses. Things are a bit hectic for us now and I’ll try to contribute in the future. God bless.

  45. em... again says:

    Dr. Duane, yes your #42’s observation on the election is an accurate one… i think the votes that Trump received were from folk who were tired of political hypocrisy – it wasn’t that they affirmed the man as more virtuous, just rather more honest … and there is something to be said for being honest, even when it shows your sinful heart…
    the average blue collar guy out there earning his living with muscle and attitude understands Trump, the style of talk and swagger – it doesn’t fly in the corporate boardroom, but it is the attitude that does the dirty work for that corporate board…
    FWIW, while i have no desire to approve bad behavior, i think the voters, the good people who find Trump way too corrupted with evil to ever receive their vote (not talking accolades) may not be thinking as clearly as they think they think they think 🙂

    should church leaders get behind candidates? where do they get the time to do so? i’ll have to think on that one, myself … a better work is being done here on the PhxP – IMO

  46. Jean says:


    In reviewing again your article, you appear to identify 3 different paths that various churches (excluding EO) have taken, which each in their own way have contributed to the overall decline in attendance of the Church in America:

    1) mainline churches have sought to reflect the culture, at the expense of a uniquely Christian identity;
    2) Some conservative churches have walled themselves off from the culture, abandoning the greater population to protect its own diminishing membership;
    3) Some other conservative churches have sought to shape culture through conservative politics, also compromising a uniquely Christian identity.

    Does this fairly represent what you have written?

    I like to diagnose the disease and then look at potential remedies.

  47. Michael says:


    That was good…

  48. Duane Arnold says:


    I had not intended it to be read in that way, but I think you are on to something…

  49. Michael says:

    “compromising a uniquely Christian identity.”

    I love that phrase…the heart of the problem.

  50. Duane Arnold says:

    #46 Jean

    Potential remedies?

  51. Jean says:


    When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem one thing he found was that some Jews, including priests, had taken foreign wives. This must have been a very difficult thing. This violated God’s Law and could not continue. They could not even be grandfathered in. I think the mainlines are in a situation similar to the situation Nehemiah encountered. Beyond the sexual ethics, it’s not even clear that primary doctrines such as the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the virginity of Mary, etc., are upheld among the clergy of many mainline churches. Some liberal churches have stopped referring to God as Father. It’s difficult (nearly impossible) to see denominational repentance which could lead to a rebuilding of God’s house among the mainlines.

    With regard to the conservative denominations/movements, there is also a loss of faith. If there is a city of God, if the Lord is our dwelling place, refuge, shelter, fortress, helper, etc., then where is the joy, the love, the hope among conservative Christians?

    Some in my denomination are pushing young people to get married and have more children – After all, it’s God’s command and a blessing to be fruitful and multiply! But can everything be accomplished by reference to the Law? I think not.

    We’re fearful about so many things and some are exploiting our fears to employ profoundly anti-Christian ethics, such as “ends justify the means”, “enemy of my enemy is my friend”, etc. If this is true, then by different path are not conservative Christians also being assimilated into the culture?

    But I do think that conservative Christians can recover, whereas I’m afraid the path may be too difficult for the mainlines. Remedies? It must begin at the pulpits, it begins with worship and doctrine, which will flow into life. We need faith in a loving and forgiving Father, who is our present dwelling place, our city, our help. This frees us from fear, to live and love and serve others in the city of man.

  52. Michael says:

    After last night, my solution is a gas can and a Bic lighter…

    Thank God, the response we’ve had to this piece makes me believe there is still a remnant.

  53. Duane Arnold says:

    #51 Jean

    Well said. Actually, I had thought of Nehemiah for this article, but thought Francis to be a “gentler hand”.

    I agree about the mainline denominations. I think the die is cast. There are some individual parishes (in the Episcopal Church, for instance, but other denominations as well) who believe that their endowments will save them. Already, however, the denominational hierarchy is is beginning to zero in on such endowments as regional and national budgets feel the strain. There is also a good deal of “window dressing” and “face saving” going on. There is a diocese… yes a diocese, not a parish church… were the average Sunday attendance is 450 souls. The national church subsidizes them to save face.

    For the conservatives, yes, they have imbibed the culture but in a different form. I agree it has to start in the pulpits and, perhaps, in the seminaries. Maybe we even need to look at a different model of theological education (I know, this sounds like heresy from me of all people).

    One thing is certain, without some major turnarounds, I think we have a bumpy ride coming up.

  54. Duane Arnold says:

    #52 Michael

    I think it was Chrysostom who said, “Sometimes the ears of the people are holier than the mouths of the priests…”

    The remnant needs to start picking up the stones and building, as you are doing.

  55. Michael says:


    I need to spend more time with Francis because he was operating under an assumption I have a hard time seeing right now.

    That assumption was that if he rebuilt the broken church that people would come and worship there.

    What I see is that if the church were rebuilt, people would prefer to go to a place where the entertainment was better and the pastor well known with a strong social media presence.

    On the other hand, I got the snot kicked out of me last night, so my perceptions are skewed…

  56. Duane Arnold says:

    #55 Michael

    There are no assurances. I think that is the whole point. From the 80s to now, we’ve been promised fail proof Church Growth models and programs… one after another. A church is an ecclesia – a gathering of people of faith in which each person has a part. We’ve lost that. We invite people, but to what are we inviting them? Xenia, bless her, can invite them to a unique form of worship. We invite them to “wonderful music and a great speaker”. We have to recover not just Word and Sacrament as being central, but the hope, of commitment and belonging to a community of faith. Just my opinion…

  57. Michael says:

    “We have to recover not just Word and Sacrament as being central, but the hope, of commitment and belonging to a community of faith. Just my opinion…”

    I think you share that opinion with Christ.
    Now, if we can just convince His people…

  58. Duane Arnold says:


    As long as the church positions itself as “entertainment and inspiration” … I’d rather go to a U2 concert – they do it better!

    Seriously, we have to move away from the prevailing model. Even if it is six people in a house church praying together and sharing in the Lord’s Supper, it bears the signs of the Church.

  59. pstrmike says:

    …in the name of love…

    Our church is rather small, but there is a sense of friendship, fellowship, and knowing of each other that is hard to establish in larger churches.

    Even in mega churches with strong home fellowship ministries, they still have the “entertainment and inspiration” option available on the weekends. I think that is still what the majority of people want, but I also see it changing some, where people are realizing the mega-models with their high-end productions are really a mile wide but only an inch deep. There is more to our spirituality than what happens on a stage.

  60. Michael says:

    Amen, Duane.

    Francis didn’t have a lot of help when he started moving rocks…and many thought him crazy.

  61. Michael says:


    Well said…

  62. Jean says:

    This may blow your mind. Trickle down church-enomics:

  63. Duane Arnold says:

    #62 Jean

    “Sick” does not adequately describe this… on the other hand, it is the natural consequence of this sort of thinking.

  64. Josh the Baptist says:

    I have shamefully been in closed door meetings (many years ago) where those types of strategies were discussed.

    I’m shocked to see the ugliness out in the open.

  65. Josh the Baptist says:

    I guess my starting to pick up the rocks came when I left those kind of groups.

  66. Duane Arnold says:


    I agree with you about the ugliness of this approach.

  67. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    How is this different than churches who have drawings for prizes if you show up for Easter service or the ones that give away guns on certain Sundays – or even pack a pew Sundays. It is all a wrong headed concept of what church is .. and more important who it is for.

  68. Josh the Baptist says:


  69. Xenia says:

    That assumption was that if he rebuilt the broken church that people would come and worship there.<<<

    Here's the thing: if one starts picking up small stones as part of a program with an agenda, it will probably go awry. It has to flow naturally from a heart full of love for God and His church without any plans to build something big. One has to be perfectly satisfied with smallness.

  70. Jean says:


    “How is this different…”

    The major difference I see is that one is a high level marketing strategy, whereas the others are tactical marketing initiatives.

    That is not a justification for either one, just an observation.

  71. Duane Arnold says:

    #69 Xenia

    You may not know it, but “One has to be perfectly satisfied with smallness” is almost a exact quote from Francis.

  72. Duane Arnold says:

    #70 Jean

    And what does it tell us that some of these churches have full time marketing and development (fund-raising) people on staff?

  73. Josh the Baptist says:

    ” It has to flow naturally from a heart full of love for God and His church without any plans to build something big. One has to be perfectly satisfied with smallness.”


    And my sinful heart fights this every day.

  74. Josh the Baptist says:

    @72 – It tells us not to go those churches. 🙂

  75. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Marketing and fundraising are just extensions of the evangelical mindset that arose with Charles Finney.
    Finney’s primary doctrine, which means above all else, was not so much about a bound will or a free will, but that the will not only could be, but must be manipulated.

    This continues to this day.

  76. Duane Arnold says:

    #74 Josh

    Maybe that should be in the “Go To Church Guide”…

    If you see a developing or marketing person listed as being on staff, head for the nearest exit.

  77. Jean says:


    It tells us many things.

    As Xenia and I bring up regularly, Christianity is physical, and I would add incarnational. God reaching down to us with His gifts, being present wherever two or three are gathered in Christ’s name. Heaven and earth meeting in preaching of the Word and in the administration of the Sacraments.

    But, when churches abandon the Sacraments, they can become practically Deist or Epicurean. When that happens, then they must try to win souls through human wisdom. There is a lack of faith and trust in God’s means of grace. Paul might say they are building with materials of wood, hay and straw.

  78. Duane Arnold says:

    #77 Jean


  79. Josh the Baptist says:

    The problem with # 77 is that keeping the sacraments has also not guarded these things.

  80. Josh the Baptist says:

    guarded “against” these things.

  81. Josh the Baptist says:

    And to clarify, as to not seem argumentative, many of the churches listed are “sacramental” type churches.

    They have kept the sacraments, but have still gone down this path.

  82. Duane Arnold says:

    #81 Josh

    Sadly, I think you are right. I think, though, we have to go one step back behind the forms of the Sacraments. In many of these churches, for instance, baptism is often regarded as a “rite of passage”… the form remains, but the substance is gone. I think the same can be said of the Lord’s Supper. The form is there, but the meaning, in many of the churches, is confused or conflated with “pastoral concerns”. I think what has been lost is the sense of of the Church being a distinct community… one with boundaries, commonality of faith (note, I did not say doctrine apart from the creeds) and a sense of being responsible for each other. How we bring any of this back on the “macro’ scale, I don’t know. I think we might have the possibility of bringing it back on the “micro” scale. Hence, my article.

    When I was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church, thirty some years ago, I could never have imagined what would happen. Yes, we had a few crazies, but they seemed to be held in check. How wrong we were. We thought the size, power and, yes, money, would protect the church from anything truly dreadful happening. We we’re wrong… deadly wrong. So, now we begin again… with one stone.

  83. Randy Davis says:

    Michael asked me to comment on this. I agree with the article, a lovely idea and I agree with most of the comments. However, I am afraid I am more pessimistic than most of you. My response may not be very pleasing. When Francis of Assisi responded to his call, it was in the very heart of medieval Christendom. Sure it was corrupt and would need a great reformation in 300 years. But what he said and did was not alien to those who responded to him. And if I remember, Francis could be a fiery preacher if he wanted to.

    We live in a post Christian time. We live in a post Enlightenment, post scientific, post rational, post logical time. All of the responses to Dr. Arnold are enlightenment arguments. They are rational, and logical and appeal to common sense. From my interaction with the world, even here is secluded south Louisiana, none of this fits with our culture. I do live in a college town and maybe that makes a difference.

    The rocks that we need to pick up and move no longer exist. We would be trying to rebuild some of the structure that have lead to this point of decline. My “denomination,’ SBC, has spent the last 40 years depreciating a reasonable faith by it’s anti intellectualism. Our leaders are more hucksters than preachers of the Gospel. We have so emotionalized every single thing until we burn out people and when those people look for substance for their faith, they don’t find it. It is those that are 50 and up that are rapidly leaving the church, in part, because as they grew up in the faith, the church did not grow up and offered them nothing.

    The secular world has bypassed religious thought altogether. We live in pagan times. Evolutionary science has reduced us to genetic impulses to reproduce at will. Our genes drive us. My genes made me do it! There is no right or wrong, no sense of morals. But what is worse is that such scientific pronouncements are not science at all. We have science hucksters, speaking with the authority of a PhD, telling the world that there is no god, just blind evolutionary processes. Then they contradict themselves by saying we have to save the____, you fill in the blank. I was talking to a young man who was a member of the church I use to pastor. His friend, another member, became an atheist because he was told that science disproves the existence of God.

    Our culture has developed defenses that deny the roots of Christianity. They have been set free from the oppression of a God who demands certain behaviors and threatens them with hell. They have been set free from churches that judge them and seeks to stop them from practicing their favorite sin. And all of this is reinforced by various social media.

    How do you rebuild something that is being washed away before our very eyes. Religion, Christianity, is barely tolerated by our culture today. Just read the comment sections of various news articles. You will notice how dumb the responses are, how vile they are, and how anti Christian they are.

    They only building blocks we have is a honest return to biblical Christianity, I will dare to use Lewis’ term, mere Christianity, to the very core of Christianity. I was reading Matthew 5 today: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
    15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
    16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 5:14-16 ESV) It struck me that this is a vitally important command from Christ

    This is the kind of building blocks we have. The world needs to see an honest, humble Christian life. I was planning on writing an article for my blog based on this. It will be a bit Sunday Schoolish. But we need to return, not to the mid twentieth century or the 16th century. We need to return to the first century for our understanding, start over again. I fear that what remains right now is still to corrupt to recover.

    I can best speak of my own church life, my denomination but I am sure we can see it in every denomination. The SBC is made up of about 40,000 churches. Only 1000 of those churches run 1000 or more in worship. The rest are overwhelmingly small churches that run less than 100. Nighty percent of those small churches are dying because of power struggles, laziness, lostness, and a lost sense of an all consuming God who sends them out. God comes to them, they think. God is pleased with them, they think. And they see no need to change. They have no idea that they only speak to themselves. The people, who are in their sphere of influence, would never step into their churches because they don’t see real Christians. All they see is the distortions that our culture provides.

    It feels like to me (my subjective impression based on experience, i guess by my own analysis, I should be more rational here ) is that we have come to an end of an age. Something old is passing. I am not necessarily being eschatological, but it could be ( I’m almil, what do I know ). I think we are entering into a new pagan age where people would be more inclined to worship the trees or the stars than Christ. But mostly they worship themselves and their liturgy is sex. And their existence is meaninglessness and they have become comfortable with that meaninglessness.

    No ancient liturgy or modern sound and light show is going to save us or redeem the church or open doors of influence in the world. (If I had the choice, I would choose the ancient liturgy anytime over the light and sound show) I think our only hope is for individuals to return to an all consuming faith that allows our lights to shine. In other words, people who are willing to live risky lives. I think we need to shine for a while before we tell people they need Christ. They need to see authentic Christians living authentic lives before they will hear the Gospel. And that means too that the church must become an authentic expression of the Body of Christ, not denominational hype and programs and raging media about our success and how good we are.

    I’m not sure if I have gotten to the the core of what I am thinking. This has bothered me for a long time. But I don’t think rebuilding the same old structures will work.

  84. bob1 says:


    Wow. What a Debbie Downer! I do agree that we need our lights to shine more brightly than ever.

    Did anyone read the article by the Wesleyan seminary professor on the LInkathon thread? “Four marks of the next Methodism”

    I like his vision much more than that of Dreher. Hell, evangelicalism has for the most part already been living the “Benedict Option” for the last 30-40 years, IMHO.

    We’re far from being the only country shifting away from traditional values. But there are different ways to deal.

  85. Jean says:


    Thank you for weighing in with a very thoughtful perspective. Regarding your thoughts around this sentence:

    “And their existence is meaninglessness and they have become comfortable with that meaninglessness.”

    There also appears to be a fair amount of fear and anger about personal financial and healthcare issues, violence and drug addiction, which has manifested itself in, for example, our politics and broken families. Do you think that there might be a sizable population of unchurched, nones or infrequent church goers who recognizes their personal situations are not okay or healthy, and who would be open to an invitation from authentic communities of faith?

  86. Josh the Baptist says:

    I think Randy’s post strikes a chord of truth.

    I wish he had answers for what we see, rather than just pessimism. I wish I had answers.

    Even more terrifying, I am afraid that i am the answer.

  87. Randy Davis says:

    Jean, I’m sure there are many who would be responsive but look at the typical church and ask yourself, would I find comfort, wisdom, God, etc there? I think many have faced this. Many of the nones believe in God, even trust in Christ but find that church has no relevance to their faith. It would not take much for me to become a steeple dropout and I have served the church for over 40 years. Think about the false doctrines taught in Church. Modern churches make promises that God is the answer to all your problems, believe enough and pray hard enough and all your troubles disappear. How long can this kind of stuff be offered before people see through the BS and reject it? Sometimes these false doctrines are naive beliefs because they don’t know Scripture. We often run between libertine beliefs and legalism, we never find a meaningful middle. The one thing about Michael that has impressed me is his compassion for others. You don’t find that in church much. You find words but not many deeds.

  88. Jean says:



  89. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “Modern churches make promises that God is the answer to all your problems, believe enough and pray hard enough and all your troubles disappear. How long can this kind of stuff be offered before people see through the BS and reject it? ”

    This is so true – in fact we see it today in modern Lutheranism some have switched from the liturgy to CoWo and try to be the ‘religious clearinghouse’.

    When I first went to the Lutheran Church, my pastor said to me “MLD, it is not my job to make you happy or to help you feel fulfilled. My job is to prepare you to die.” That comment 11 years ago was probably the biggest load off my mind – a load produced by 25 years of evangelical teaching about who and what I was supposed to be.

    The liturgy of word and sacrament keeps my pastor on his mission.

  90. Josh the Baptist says:

    “CoWo” ?

  91. Josh the Baptist says:

    Think I got it: Contemporary Worship?

  92. Josh the Baptist says:

    Is there no place for contextualizing worship forms so that they become indigenous expressions?

  93. Duane Arnold says:


    Many thanks for your comment. I’m coming to the idea of a small intentional Christian community, gathered around Word and Sacrament, engaging in works of mercy and compassion.
    When I speak of “Rebuilding the Church”, it is not rebuilding the structures that have failed. I think most are beyond repair…

  94. Michael says:

    Randy, thank you.

    Just for a bit of background, Randy is one of the first people I “met” online when I got my first computer back in the 90’s.
    He’s put up with me for a long time. 🙂

    I really thank all of you for this thread…this article was really important to me as Duane once again put what I was feeling into words.

    “I’m coming to the idea of a small intentional Christian community, gathered around Word and Sacrament, engaging in works of mercy and compassion.”

    That’s it, right there.

  95. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “Is there no place for contextualizing worship forms so that they become indigenous expressions?”

    It is probably a lot easier for you than it is from a liturgical structure. In the case of a Lutheran, the entire Sunday morning service is the worship service, where in more low church / evangelical style ‘worship’ is more the song part. This is evidenced that you are the worship leader and someone else is the preacher.

    Ours is the Divine Worship Service and the pastor is the worship leader. What happens when a Lutheran church goes CoWo, it’s not just the songs that change to a new snappy beat, they are in rebellion to the entire historical liturgy — even if they still follow it.

    Now that I have established the ‘worship’ service for us, then I can bring up that the Sunday morning service is the time that we come to receive from God – it is the time that God has set aside to serve us in word and sacrament.
    What many don’t realize is that we worship God, praise God have adoration to God all of the rest of the time of the week. We praise, worship and adore God through our vocation – through service to our neighbor.

    Anyway – that’s probable more than you asked in your question 😉

  96. Josh the Baptist says:

    Funny thing is, we believe all of that. For us (most Baptists) worship is centered around the Word. Sermon, music, prayers, and giving are parts of that. As I’ve said here before, my actual title is Minister of Music, its just that most people call that a Worship Leader now. I al;ways stress to my people that worship is a way of life, and that Sunday morning should just be the overflow of what happens during the week.

    So we agree on all that. I don’t think you understood my question.

  97. Josh the Baptist says:

    For instance, the worship service that you attend (MLD) is an indigenous expression of worship for American Lutherans, particularly rooted in the American Culture of the late 1800’s. The language, structure, decor…etc, all reflect this.

    Do Lutheran missionaries implant these American expressions of worship in foreign mission fields, or does the language, dress, music, and decor more reflect the surrounding culture?

  98. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh – since you have no ‘liturgy’ you have nothing to reject in bringing your songs to a place to be called ‘indigenous expressions’.

    But to be truthful, so many services I have been to in the past begins with the worship leader stating “now let’s worship’ and what follows are 4 songs and then it turns serious as the emphasis switches, and the pastor then says, “now let us get into the word.”

    As clarification, we used CoWo as a pejorative with Lutherans only.

  99. Josh the Baptist says:

    I’m not talking about songs.

  100. Randy Davis says:

    Josh I think the answer is simple but culturally radical. We start all over. In Baptist life, most of the failing churches are deacon run churches and that does not work. We are victims of the success syndrome defined by size, numbers, and fame. We have pastors who are unqualified to serve, much in the same way in the late medieval church. And we have power struggles in local churches and in the denomination. Why anyone want to compete for power in a local church is beyond me.

    Now I’m not sure what exactly a counter church would look like but like an alcoholic, the church trying to move toward Christ needs to reject the connections and relationships that keep dragging it back.

    Institutions lose their way and stop carrying out their purpose. Instead they turn inward and seek to protect themselves. I think when this happens, the church needs renewal. Renewal should mean throwing off beliefs and practices that do not comport with Scripture and does nor minister to needful souls.

    I don’t mean to be do pessimistic but the church has head cries for renewal for decades and it has ignored it. It is not about style or music or architecture. I think many liturgies can be conduits for worship and ministering to the souls of people. But the liturgy is not the object of our faith whether it is CCM or an ancient rite. If our structures block us from God, we need to ask why.

    The answer begins when we recognize that, like lost sheep, we have wandered far from God. It has to become a time of reflection, honest analysis and much prayer seeking the mind of Christ. Then we move to action. So I not advocating change for change sake.

    I believe our modern church is built of the false foundation of modern culture instead on Christ. That can’t be reformed, it has to be replaced.

  101. Josh the Baptist says:

    Some newer songs are good, some are awful, not the point.

    Your liturgy is distinctly American, late 1800’s. Is that translated for other cultures, or is it placed directly in the foreign culture, as is?

  102. Josh the Baptist says:

    Great post, Randy @ 100. Lots to think about.

  103. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I guess you have never heard a bunch of Nigerian Lutherans singing A Mighty Fortress. 🙂

    So you are an American Baptist leading worship in America – so what do you want to change about American Baptist worship in America? Do you want church to sound more like the radio? – the concert venues? Why can’t ‘church’ have it’s own genre – you know, like “hey, when you go to church, it will be recognizable as church stuff and differentiated from what goes on outside the church building.

    I don’t know about Baptists, but when Lutherans do this, it is because they want to look and sound like the world or look and sound like evangelicals. Perhaps they should do like Greg Laurie, be honest and become Baptists.

  104. Josh the Baptist says:

    “I guess you have never heard a bunch of Nigerian Lutherans singing A Mighty Fortress”

    No, I haven’t. Which is why I asked.

  105. Josh the Baptist says:

    “So you are an American Baptist leading worship in America – so what do you want to change about American Baptist worship in America? Do you want church to sound more like the radio? – the concert venues? Why can’t ‘church’ have it’s own genre – you know, like “hey, when you go to church, it will be recognizable as church stuff and differentiated from what goes on outside the church building.”

    Completely agree.

  106. Randy Davis says:

    I am of the same mindset a Duane and Michael, smaller worshipping community built around work and sacrament. But much work has to be done to keep it authentic or it just becomes another trend.

    Michael, I think it was more of you having to put up with me! I was a bit overbearing, an understatement I’d there ever was one. I can still be that way which I why I try to remain quiet as much as possible. Like most people I highly value my opinions!

  107. Josh the Baptist says:

    I wish you weren’t so quiet, Randy. You always have good things to say.

  108. Randy Davis says:

    A Mighty Fortress is Our God is my favorite hymn. I grew up in a a Methodist home until I was 11. We moved and joined a Baptist church. In those days, at least in city churches and county seat churches, worship would have been very similar. Prayer, hymns, confession of sin, sermon, Lord’s Supper in its various ways. There was the international Sunday School lesson and the text would be used across denominational lines. I miss all of this.

    I interacted with Lutheranism a lot through the years. Even did my dissertation on a Lutheran. But I’ve have been influenced by Anglicans like Stott and Packer, Morris. Many reformed thinkers and even a few Methodist have influenced me. I am apparently an odd Baptist. Or so I haven told.

  109. Contention says:

    Very insightful article. It is sad. Just my opinion but I think it looks like the falling away in latter times Scripture notes as well as many refusing to put up with sound doctrine seeking all kinds of ear itching.
    As for the comment made about divorce… I know very few Christians who have not had at least one divorce. I know several Christians who have been divorced 3-6 times. A good friend of mine has been married 5 times and yet she wanted to be on the Biblical counseling team at her church advising others how to live. Another guy I know just bought a house because he said the Lord told him to buy a house and then the Lord would bring him a wife. So he said he listening to the Lord and buying that house. Problem is he has already had 3 wives. I guess he wasn’t “listening” to the Lord when the Lord told him to love his wife(s) like Christ loved the Church, and to pick up his cross and follow Him.
    His mom has been married and divorced 6 times… these folks consider themselves devout Christians and all they talk about us Jesus this and Jesus that…
    Then I know several other couples that divorced after 25-30 years of marriage. It’s just sad after they have been knit together as one for so many years and then there is a putting away and tearing apart.

  110. em... again says:

    it is interesting that marriage entered into the thread here… “husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church”… heard that somewhere…
    that said, i think the problems in the churches trace their roots back to the seminaries… the drive to be relevant, to bend the Word to speak to “today’s world” began back there somewhere… at least in the evangelical fundy branch of the Family… that’s what i think 🙂

  111. Josh the Baptist says:

    I think I’m starting to disagree with a main component of most solutions proposed here. (we all agree on the problem).

    The “return” to something…almost a retreat from our culture. Understandable in light of the Disney churches we see today.

    I believe the Word must be preached in a language the hearer will understand. I believe the same is true for the other elements of worship, too.

  112. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “in light of the Disney churches we see today.”

    Isn’t that how we got those ‘Disney’ churches in the first place? Put on a Hawaiian shirt and get a band that looks and sounds like the Lovin’ Spoonful to sing songs with Christian lyrics and preach the fix?

  113. em... again says:

    i think – dunno – in light of those who are escaping to the ancient orthodox congregations that what is needed is the Word, plainly, but truthfully spoken, the Holy Spirit takes care of the relevance

  114. Josh the Baptist says:

    “relevance” is a faux-hawk and skinny jeans. I get that. But contextualization is 100% necessary.

  115. Duane Arnold says:

    Just a thought, but “relevance” and “style” have to do with models we seek to impose on others. On the other hand, if we lay aside predetermined models and consider the people we mean to serve, our ministry cannot help but be contextual.

    We don’t need to be building gothic churches in sub-saharan Africa, nor do we need to impose contemporary worship on a church of retirees. It’s really about caring more about those we serve than our own preconceptions…

  116. Josh the Baptist says:

    Duane, YES!!!

  117. pstrmike says:

    I think we’re in the same club Randy. That’s what happens when you read outside of your tradition.

    Interesting question re: Disney churches. Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa wasn’t the only game in town back then. There was Garden Grove Community Church,a few years later there was Melodyland (located off of Harbor right across from Disneyland), and the Fire Escape on Beach Blvd, just down the street from Knott’s. There was also a big work at the First Baptist Church of Beverly Hills (yes, Beverly Hills) where the pastor there was doing outreach on Sunset, and The Church on the Way. From those earlier works came many others that operated on a smaller or less noticeable scale.

    These particular movements were a response to a changing culture, where the conventions of the established churches either didn’t respond or were a bit slow in doing so.

    Today the pendulum has swung too far, and it is my hope that we achieve a much needed corrective balance.

  118. Josh the Baptist says:

    How we got Disney churches is the lust for numerical growth.

  119. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I think we need to do ‘church’ the Jesus way – speak the truth in raw form and if it chases away the seekers you have done your job. If they stay, you have done your job.

  120. Kevin H says:

    I think Paul’s narrative of becoming all things to all men in order to save some fits here. Yes, many in the church have taken it too far in trying to attract or market to the culture. But at the same time, Paul didn’t just do the all the same things over and over no matter who he was interacting with.

  121. Josh the Baptist says:

    MLD – I agree. Deliver the Word. Results are up to God.

    Kevin – Yes. Contextualization should always have its limits. We would learn the language if going to a foreign country as missionary. That is good contextualization. We shouldn’t get naked and go to the nudist colony to witness. Bad contextualization.

  122. pstrmike says:

    ok, agreed. I also think Stipe did that years ago at CCCM.

  123. Duane Arnold says:

    #117 Mike

    Didn’t First Presbyterian of Hollywood do an outreach as well? I seem to remember they had an active coffeehouse ministry.

    #120 Kevin

    Yes, it’s strange isn’t it. Some have gone way too far in the desire to “market the message”, while at the same time other church bodies have tried to ignore the culture altogether

    The other thing that has struck me in this thread is that there is a good deal of anger about what has happened across the board. Instead of anger, I wonder if we should not have a bit of mourning over what has been lost. I certainly mourn for my church and denomination. I know of good men and women who retired and literally died of broken hearts at what they saw happening. I would imagine that others here could tell the same story. It seems to me that a bit of mourning might be in order, if for no other reason, to say, “that time is over and will not return”. Then we can move on to the work before us. I remember that as Francis lay dying, he said, “I have done what was mine to do, may Christ now teach you what you are to do.” I think it is time to find that task and begin the work.

  124. em... again says:

    how to speak the message of sin, righteousness and redemption to today’s generation is an interesting question…
    my children (in their 50s) remark that the mindset that is building in the whole world today is almost without any discernment of any kind – human or divine – this seems to be a time of reaction only…
    However, God will provide His man to deliver the message i think… hasn’t He always done so? … even if He has to knock him off his donkey to get his attention – or was Paul on horseback?) either way…. glad he wasn’t on a camel; long way to the ground from one of those

  125. em... again says:

    from revelation
    14:6 “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,
    7 Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” KJV… yes, i like that version 🙂

    maybe, the angels, themselves will take over… an angel in the sky proclaiming the gospel would get people’s attention, i think

    just remembered – i watched Jan Crouch claim that those verses referred to them LOL … well … maybe …. but … probably not

  126. pstrmike says:

    Duane, they may have, but I wasn’t aware of the church’s connection.

  127. Duane Arnold says:

    Addendum for people following this thread – yesterday the US Conference of Catholic Bishops were informed that 50% of Roman Catholics under the age of 30, self-identify as having “no religious affiliation” (“Nones”).

  128. Kevin H says:


    Not sure I follow. How can someone be Roman Catholic and also have no religious affiliation? Are these people who once identified as Catholic but now identify as a None?

  129. Duane Arnold says:

    #128 Kevin –

    Yes, born, baptized and confirmed as Roman Catholics, now self-identifying as “no religious affiliation”…

  130. Kevin H says:

    Thanks, Duane.

  131. Josh the Baptist says:

    Serious question for the Liturgical among us…why did the Catholic Sacraments and Liturgy fail?

  132. Duane Arnold says:


    Tough question. My sense is that the liturgy and Sacraments were/are “done”, but not “taught”. It’s all about catechesis – children, teens and adults. Too often I think we expect people to “catch” what the church is about, not realizing that they need to be given the tools to participate with understanding. The fact, however, that this is happening in a denomination with such a strong “culture” as the RCs should give all of pause to think…

  133. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “why did the Catholic Sacraments and Liturgy fail?”

    God’s means are resistible. A Calvinist would faint upon hearing those words, but this is true. 😉

  134. Josh the Baptist says:

    So then, I reject the notion that the answer to the problems prescribed here is a return to sacraments and Liturgy.

    That does not mean that one must turn away from sacraments and liturgy, only that that in itself has not proved to be the answer.

  135. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    My thought about the NONE is that they have always been around and in the same numbers / percentage as always. Like homosexuals they not only can come out of the closet, but it is actually the cool thing to do.

    The large eastern episcopal churches of the 50s & 60s were populated by undercover nones – but it was what you had to do to have family and business respectability.

  136. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, the fact that baptism saves as the scriptures state and that the Lord’s supper forgives sin as the scripture says has nothing to do with what people choose to do with it. In the end you reject that notion of salvation and forgiveness of sin through those means.

    But let me ask this – does God’s word save? I will answer for you – YES IT DOES. Is God’s means of salvation through his word resistible – I will answer for you again – YES.

    Now I will ask you – do you reject the notion that the answer to the problems prescribed here is a return to God’s word? I will let you answer that one.

  137. Jean says:

    Everything always starts and ends here: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

    My wife is Catholic and I’ve been to multiple Catholic churches and dozens of services over the years. Duane is correct that the Sacraments are not well taught and, I will add, the preaching is usually atrocious. In addition, the Catholics still have a lot of error mixed in with the Gospel.

    MLD is also correct that God’s means are resistible.

  138. Josh the Baptist says:

    So, MLD I take it that your answer is keep doing the same thing the same way? There is no problem, despite all that Duane has written? I don’t want to debate the nature of sacraments, only how these things relate to Duane’s article.

  139. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh – I say do what Jesus and the Apostles did. It’s at the end of Acts 2.
    My church does all 4 or 5 of those things every week – if it was good enough for the 1st century church it’s good enough for me. If it is not good enough for the millennial, well they can kiss my butt – because I would not advocate changing those items in Acts 2 to accommodate them.

    How about your church – are you getting rid of the scriptural order to attract the millennials?

  140. Duane Arnold says:

    #134 Josh

    No, a return to a liturgical form of worship is not a cure all. I don’t think there is one single cure. It is a number of inter-locking pieces – worship, catechesis, service, outreach. Some may name additional pieces. No one piece solves all the problems. A church that is only about outreach, but could care less about teaching, service or worship, will be in much the same place.

  141. Duane Arnold says:

    #137 Jean

    You are so right…. In Catholic churches the preaching is usually abysmal. What is even worse, in my opinion, is the manner in which the liturgy is performed. It always seems to me to be almost haphazard (I hope that isn’t too harsh). I’d love to hear your take on it…

  142. Em says:

    I would have to say from the view out here in the pews, the Church’s shortcomings have very little to do with form, with accurate dispensing of sacraments and liturgy and a whole lot to do with the individuals manning those up front positions… But dunno, tho, do i?

  143. Randy Davis says:

    I need time to think and since I joined you all in this discussion, I have done a little thinking. I think the current decline is necessary. A lot of junk has entered into church life and taken over like an invasive weed in a garden. Discussions like this one is the beginning of weeding the garden and getting back to a healthy garden.

    It is not a time of rebellion but a call to return to God’s program, not ours. I don’t have answers other than for us to look to Scripture and draw our foundational principles from there. Human institutions tend to become corrupt and church, in it’s various forms, is a human institution as well as a divine one. We think we can improve on God’s plan. Then we fail and have to repent, change from the wrong direction to the right one.

    I look forward to clarity of thought that Duane is calling for. I look forward to possible solutions, and I do not mean human solutions as such but to biblically guided principles. I need to hear what you all have to say. I thank Michael for starting the discussion and I will keep watch here for further thoughts.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that I am not totally pessimistic about the church but deeply concerned.

  144. Duane Arnold says:

    #141 Em

    Yes. In my darker moments, I would consider burning a number of Bible Colleges and Seminaries!

    Seriously, I think much more needs to be done in terms of spiritual formation for people in leadership positions. Part of that formation is humility, i.e. knowing what you don’t know. When a person is at that point, really learning and growth can take place which will benefit all under their pastoral care.

  145. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I just wonder if we have not created a straw man of what the purpose of the church is to be and then knock it down and say, ‘today’s church is failing or today’s church is a failure.”

    I have been in and out of the local LCMS church where I am moving in 10 days. Small, confessional regular LCMS with a young pastor now 1 year out of seminary. Because of the nature of the Lake Havasu population, the church loses half of it’s population when the upper midwest thaws out and regains it in Nov / Dec.

    So right now, the church is sailing along, preaching the word and administering the sacraments to the full time LHC members, (of which I plan to become) – they have all the usual activities, bible classes, women’s group etc. But here is my point – they remain faithful so when the snowbirds return, they are ready to assist and serve the part timers – many who have been coming for up to 15 years.

    This is one of only 60 ‘houses of worship’ as they say in the city – of which I am sure 55 are Christian or a Christian cult of sorts – they even have an EO up there – but perhaps only 5% of the population knows that Lamb of God exists.

    Success? Failure? Just faithful? and perhaps that is the case of all the churches up there. So if I seem a little less likely to join the hand wringing crowd, this is why.

  146. Xenia says:

    Duane, after my conversion to Orthodoxy I was looking forward to an opportunity to visit our local Catholic parish church because I thought I would be glad to find things I now held in common with them, unlike my previous 55 years when I thought they were the Harlot who rode the Beast. My neighbor passed away so we went to his funeral.

    What a huge disappointment. For the Communion hymn they put on a CD of Frank Sinatra singing “I did it my Way.” Communion itself was served by young women wearing bright pink shirts. BNo direction as to who could receive. After Communion, the priest said he had to comment on the Communion “hymn.” I thought “here’s his big chance to save things” but nope, he said that he wanted the same song played at his own funeral some day.

    My husband, a former Catholic, whispered to me “Man, the Catholics have really gone off the rails!”

    The homily was all jokey with attempted humor about the descendant’s love of beer. (He died of acute alcoholism so I didn’t think it was very funny.)

    I attended another funeral at another Catholic parish more recently that was much more traditional. It was an Hispanic parish and I think they are more reverent.

    I attended a relative’s wedding last year at a California Mission church. When they stuck to the liturgy, it was beautiful. Whenever the priest (a monseigneur) had a chance to talk on his own, it was the typical silliness you hear at most modern weddings, all jokes and irreverence. I was seated next to this monseigneur at the reception meal (my daughter in law thought we would have a lively conversation 🙂 ) and he struck me as a pious, godly man who seems to have gotten caught up, to an extent, in the modern Catholic’s church desire to be relevant and mediocre.

  147. Xenia says:

    I realize that most Catholic parishes do not play Sinatra songs during their liturgies but the fact that is is allowed at all is troublesome.

  148. Duane Arnold says:

    #146 Xenia

    I can only say that your experience is very similar to what most find on a visit. There are, of course, exceptions. But the exceptions only tend to prove the rule. One on one, I have found many of their clergy to be exactly as you describe. Behind the pulpit, another matter…

  149. Michael says:

    I’ll say again what I’ve been saying for years.

    Read the Old Testament prophets and note what makes God angry enough to leave the building.

    Then compare your list with what is happening in our churches today.

    The best starting place is idolatry…

  150. Duane Arnold says:


    I can only repeat what I wrote about my own denomination, “given money, endowments, property, pensions and positions, these churches simply could not fail, no matter the cultural issues that might arise from time to time. Worse than that, good men and women allowed it to happen until they too realized that they had passed the tipping point and that what had been lost, could no longer be recovered.”

    We (I include myself in that) allowed the idolatry of the status quo to blind us until it was too late…

  151. Randy Davis says:

    I think it is easy to blame pastors. But since one’s spiritual life is both individualistic and corporate, I think there is far more to it than let’s blame the minister. Personally I think we need more clergy education, not less. In many churches there is a move to go with untrained pastors. Here the reliance is on personality. The fact is churches get the ministers they want. Seminaries produce the ministers that churches want. Seminaries train the men and women that the churches sends them.

    While corporate worship is important, that is not what makes you a daily follower of Christ. What you do daily is what ultimately determines what kind of Christian you are.

    Duane mentioned spiritual formation. If you want to put a congregation to sleep, just preach on spiritual formation. Church members generally have an hour per week to give to God and resent any suggestion that there is some sort of maintenance of the soul for daily life.

    In some sense we all need to be reconverted to Christ. We hide behind words but have no action. We blame others to avoid dealing with our own faults. We throw up theological “truths” to avoid attending to our own soul. Can you imagine what it’s like to be a pastor and preach, for some of us three times a week, to the spiritually inert who exit no better or worse than when the entered for worship? After a while pastors lose their youthful ideals and stop trying. Pastors forget that it is the Holy Spirit at work in us. Church members forget that it is the Holy Spirit who used the feeble efforts of the men and women who stand before the to proclaim the Word of God or who empowers us to daily living. It begins each day when we turn ourselves to Christ.

    I know there are bad pastoral leaders out there but that is not the great problem with the church. They great problem is the quiet apostasy that is taking place among the people who only have a few minutes for God. It truly is a practical atheism that gives lip service to God with no action in daily life.

    If you want to see the biblical evidence for this, look at the 7-8th century prophets. Read Isaiah chapter one. See people who go through the motions of worship without heart, without a daily living faith.

    What corporate failure and decline can do is return a remnant of a holy people to a living faith.

    We need to remember this verse when we try it size up pastors or church members or pass blame on others as simpletons. I know it has brought me great comfort when my best was no good enough:

    “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭1:26-31‬ ‭ESV‬‬

    There is no personal greatness in the Christian life. In words stolen from that great theological group, Pink Floyd, we are just bricks in the wall. The wall is the house God is building. Our names are not inscribed on the bricks but it is the name of Christ.

  152. Michael says:

    Randy…# 151 is pure gold and why you need to write early and often.


  153. Michael says:


    What’s interesting is that both the left and right wings of the church have managed to find different idols to worship and destroy themselves with.

  154. Duane Arnold says:

    #151 Randy

    For some years I was on staff at a church in which we (multi-staff) were responsible for 22 services a week. I found out early how difficult it was to determine if you were making a difference in anyone’s life. I also learned how little seminary and other post-grad work prepared me for the maintenance of my own life in Christ. Hence my remark on the importance of spiritual formation in the life of the pastor.

    I will say, I have always resisted a “remnant theology”, but it is beginning to look as though it may not be a matter of choice, but necessity…

  155. Duane Arnold says:

    #153 Michael

    … and at times, I wonder which idols are actually more dangerous to Christian faith. Still working that one out…

  156. Xenia says:

    I hope Randy Davis sticks around and posts often.

  157. Michael says:


    I think one infects the pulpits and the other the pews…both accomplish the same thing.

    We really do need to think a lot more about spiritual formation as an ongoing process for both pastors and pews.

  158. Josh the Baptist says:

    151 was fantastic.

  159. Michael says:


    Remember how nervous we were about this article? 🙂

    You created one of the best threads ever…

  160. Duane Arnold says:

    Thank you, Michael, but it’s down to the PP community…

  161. Xenia says:

    The best thing about this article and the responses is that we are looking to ourselves as part of the problem and not to pastors. Pastors only serve at our pleasure, after all. No pastor can prevent us from living a vibrant private Christian life of prayers, fasting, Scripture reading and alms-giving. If we don’t do these things, it’s not our pastor’s fault, it’s our own fault. We get as much God as we want.

  162. Michael says:


    Amen…we have a great many wonderful people here and this is the kind of ‘ecumenical” discourse I’ve hoped for .

  163. Josh the Baptist says:

    I missed MLD’s #139 – Here is the end of ACTS 2:

    “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

    I confess, I’ve never been in a church that looked anything like that.

  164. Michael says:

    The idea of spiritual formation is probably best kept for another article at another time, but I would like to note something that was very obvious to me in this thread.

    That is that part of spiritual formation for pastors is having mentors.

    Not just for young ones, either.

    When I first got online Randy and other pastors were very helpful to me, especially in regards to how much I lacked in both knowledge and humility.

    Rough lessons, but badly needed.

    I’m almost 59 now…and Duane and pstrmike have opened up still newer worlds for me to explore.

    By the time I croak, I’ll be pretty good at this, I hope. 🙂

    Grateful today for godly, educated, mentors with a heart for God and His people…

  165. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, the first part of that is what I was referring to. The see comes through the sacraments and I agree that you have not experienced that.

    Try it, you’ll like it!…. As the old commercial used to say. 😉

  166. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Michael, wow!
    Your thought is that Jesus will leave his church. I am dumbfounded. It’s a good thing I am in the waiting room at the doctor, in case I pass out.

  167. Josh the Baptist says:

    Nah, I’ve been to sacramentalist churches before. Not what God used to reach me.

    Why don’t you guys sell your possessions and distribute the wealth though?

    That’s what I’ve never seen.

  168. Randy Davis says:

    Michael, that is the sad part, by the time we croak, we are finally ready to minister to each other. I have used the term, “when I grow up,” and follows up with whatever ideal or person I want to be like. I guess I am still growing up.

  169. Duane Arnold says:

    #167/#163 Josh

    I can’t speak for everyone here, but among some of us older ones we have seen it, from time to time, or at least we have seen it in part as “through a glass darkly”. Some of us around in the early 70s saw it… it was not perfect, it was deeply flawed in many ways, but, my goodness, it was real. For me I’ve seen it just a couple of other times in my life and ministry. It’s as though lightning strikes. The right people, the right circumstance and something happens. There’s no explaining it. I think for some of us, it is what keep us going. We know it can happen again… hear us God.

  170. Em says:

    #151 – good words in this pew sitter’s view… of course there is more “it” than blaming the pastor…
    My favorite Bible teacher was a “sit down, shut up and listen” teacher – a good teacher, above average example, but a man who taught that it was the responsibility of the congregation to do many of the duties that are considered pastoral in the churches I am familiar with – I wonder how much of our expectation is colored by the celibate R.C. Priest?
    One thing that is crystalizing in my mind is the simple theory I read here: pastors may be, out the desire to be relevant, to get the gospel(?) to as many ears as possible, trying to be like Jesus, sitting among the people in a folksy manner… above their pay grade IMV
    This reminds me of my school days. There were teachers who were fun. Everyone wanted to be in their classes. One math teacher in particular… young, good looking, usually teaching perched on the corner of his desk, kidding the boys about their girl friends. The other teacher, Gladys, a white haired scrawny old gal with , voice like a witch (apologies, we were young). Guess which one was an easy A? Guess which students had to take remedial math when they hit college?
    Maybe there’ll be remedial Christianity for many of us Believers of the last hundred years?

  171. Randy Davis says:

    Em, A friend of mine in Scotland sent me a book a few years ago that, in a humorous way, envisioned purgatory as the place for remedial training for Christians. I thought it was funny.

    I don’t remember the name of the book. I still have it but my library is still in the attic from the flood last year. I can’t get in the attic because of my knees. I am waiting for some youthful helpers with pliable knees to come had help me.

  172. Randy Davis says:

    Michael, would anyone mind if I repackage my post # 151 and post it on my blog? I have been trying to write for weeks but nothing comes from it.

  173. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    The funny part is we are all spiritually flawed – probably fatally so. This is why Jesus left us, yes us Christians his help and promises in his word and sacraments, to get us through.
    He did not save us and then tell us to build his church, or fix his church. Jesus is there to comfort us because we are spiritual failures.

    A screwed up church is proof.

  174. Michael says:


    You absolutely can and should….I was just thinking about doing the same with it. 🙂

  175. Duane Arnold says:

    #172 Randy,

    We’ve not met, but I would encourage you not only to “repackage” your post, but to expand it, because it is very good. Just my opinion…

  176. Randy Davis says:

    Thanks. writing is a lot harder than it looks!

  177. Em says:

    Discouraged Pastors and soul searching, all you can do is your honest best before God – it seems pretty clear that you’re doing that – we pew sitters should/must join you in prayer for the Church, but I turn to the O.T. and think I see that God, Himself will deal with the nation’s as He sees their hearts – I’m not so sure that Moses’ offer or even the prayers of Jeremiah can turn the tide today … donno, tho … dunno
    God keep

    Perhaps, there is a Jonah out there about to get the surprise of his life..?

  178. Em says:

    Pastor Randy, nobody warns us about the knees – my mind is fairly serviceable and trifocals do their job, but the knees dictate going up, down … and sometimes sideways ?

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