Wednesday, August 13, 2003

A survey of people who were "unchurched" and returned to church shows something that may go against the grain of much current thinking on how to attract church members. What do you think were the two biggest factors in their return to church? Was it snappy, contemporary music? Was it modern facilities? No. The biggest factor was the pastor's preaching as the factor. The second biggest factor was the doctrines of the church. Worship style was way down the list.

Much of contemporary church thinking comes in a package called “user friendly” churches. That is, making the church seem non-threatening. That often means making the church seem as non-church as possible. That is why you see new church buildings looking like shopping malls. It is also why you see bands instead of choirs, casual clothes, drama, and other stuff to make the church look “with it”.

This approach ignores the sad fact that people that are not with it cannot look like they are. Ask any teenager. How do they react when mom or dad tries to dress like a teenager? They don’t like it.

This study may also point out what is wrong with the mainline denominations, which have become more and more liberal. Since we have been talking about the Episcopalians, we can mention that they lost a million members in the 1990s, their decade of evangelization. How could that happen? Maybe it is because Christians do not like their doctrines and their preaching.

Speaking of the Episcopalians, some of their priests and bishops are taking a strong stand against the denomination leadership after the bishop’s vote. For example, the Reverend Steven Randall of Maryland denounced the vote for the gay bishop fro the pulpit and vowed that he would no longer obey his bishop. He said “I really believe the evil one is out there blinding a lot of church leaders and some have just totally sold out, and there’s just a lot of pressure by society around us and in newspapers to conform.” He sounds like the new Martin Luther, and may have the same amount of job security. He has also told his congregation they will quit sending money to the denomination. That will probably get him in more trouble than anything. I admire his courage.

The Reverend David Roseberry of Plano, my neighbor to the East, said “There are things in the Bible that are not up for a vote.” Amen. I am sure there will be others, and I applaud their courage and their obedience to the Bible.
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