Evangelicals' cultural influence collapsing?

Started by Wallenstein, April 13, 2012, 11:30:49 PM

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J. Thomas Shelley

The antithesis of works without faith, absolution without contrition, and community without commitment (the three main critiques of modern or post-modern "evangelicalism" in the linked article) can be found in the vibrant Gospel-centered faith of the Lutheran and Anglican churches of Africa.

All Lutherans would do well to listen--to truly listen--to our African sisters and brothers.  Heed the warnings of the Bokuba Statement rather than brushing them aside as the ruminations of the unenlightened.
Greek Orthodox Deacon - Ecumenical Patriarchate
Ordained to the Holy Diaconate Mary of Egypt Sunday A.D. 2022

Baptized, Confirmed, and Ordained United Methodist.
Served as a Lutheran Pastor October 31, 1989 - October 31, 2014.
Charter member of the first chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity.

Jeremy Loesch

There could be some positive aspects (though I am not saying that it is a positive thing when someone else falls down).

The author pointed out the Gospel-less service projects that go on these days.  It is good to dig a well, but there is no explicit mention of Jesus Christ and his salvation-winning work on the cross.  I'm not saying this doesn't go on in Lutheran service projects, but the ones I've been a part of have done a nice job of talking with the folks that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. 

Church-shopping is also something that the author mentions as detrimental.  From my reading, he labeled this as a self-serving task.  I'm fully aware that not every church is for everybody, but I think the Church has turned worshipers into consumers and pastors are now salespeople.  The Lutheran Church can offer something stable, something of value, and this is good, certainly when instability and worthlessness seem to be the currency of the day.

I think that the Lutheran church needs to continue holding on to what engages the people: solid worship, solid preaching, solid teaching.  The Lutheran church needs to consistently communicate the message that life flows from the sacramental liturgy and back to it.  Christians are made for the Eucharist and are made from the Eucharist.     

It was an interesting article.  Thanks for sharing.

Jeremy

PS- Just read Pastor Shelley's comment.  He said it simpler and better, especially "works without faith, absolution without contrition, commitment without community".  Nice summary.
A Lutheran pastor growing into all sorts of things.

Dave Likeness

The cultural collapse of America can be seen in the down
fall of the traditional family.  The church has lost much of
its influence in this area.  No fault divorce laws have made
divorce obtainable for everyone.  Co-habitation has increased
dramatically in the last two decades.  Children out of wedlock
has become an epidemic among the poor.   Single-parents
are becoming the norm of the 21st century.

Where is the church?  Do we minister to the spiritual needs of
people?  The problems mentioned in the above paragraph are
hitting the lower class of America rather hard.  There is a great
divide between the middle class and lower class.  Sometimes the
church escapes to the suburbs and leaves the inner city.  Those
pastors who work in the inner city have a real challenge to
provide Word and Sacrament ministries with less finances.

Charles Murray in his 2012 book "Coming Apart"  provides the
data that every pastor needs to read.  There is a great moral
and cultural collapse occurring in America.  Lutheranism needs to
be part of the solution as we teach and preach God's Word to
a hurting world.

Charles_Austin

Dave Likeness writes:
Co-habitation has increased dramatically in the last two decades.  Children out of wedlock has become an epidemic among the poor.   Single-parents are becoming the norm of the 21st century.
Where is the church?  Do we minister to the spiritual needs of people?  The problems mentioned in the above paragraph are hitting the lower class of America rather hard.  There is a great divide between the middle class and lower class.  Sometimes the church escapes to the suburbs and leaves the inner city.  Those
pastors who work in the inner city have a real challenge to  provide Word and Sacrament ministries with less finances.

I comment:
Outline for me your plan for ministering to "the spiritual needs of people" in the society as you see it.
What do I do when the couple coming to me to prepare for marriage are already living together? What do I do when the single mother Sunday School teacher says she never intends to get married? What do I do when half the confirmation class has parents who are divorced? What do I do when I suspect that young people have already rejected what I have been teaching about sex continue to come and serve as acolytes? What do I do about the divorced man and divorced woman who start living together and blend the children of their two families?
Tell me your plan for ministering to "the spiritual needs" of the people I have just described, for I can guarantee you that nearly all of us have these people in our parishes.

Brian Stoffregen

Quote from: Dave Likeness on April 14, 2012, 09:39:12 AM
There is a great moral and cultural collapse occurring in America.  Lutheranism needs to
be part of the solution as we teach and preach God's Word to
a hurting world.


Preaching God's Word is about morality?!?


Our lesson from the Gospel of John this week has Jesus commissioning and empowering the disciples to forgive (or not forgive) sins. Our lesson next week from the Gospel of Luke has Jesus telling the disciples that "repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations" (Luke 24:47).
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

George Erdner

Quote from: Wallenstein on April 13, 2012, 11:30:49 PM
What implications does this have for Lutheran churches:

I would say almost no implications. Lutheran churches have very minimal influence over anyone other than their members. Since the main Lutheran practice of evangelism is "Let the Holy Spirit do it", with very minimal outreach, chances are that people who aren't already Lutheran in self-identification seek Lutheran churches after they come to the realization that they need "law and Gospel" in their lives.

Michael Slusser

It's an interesting little article. I particularly agreed with what is said in point 3 about "free market" behavior in religion. Everything is so permeated with free-market secularism that it's now, as the ads say, "all about choice." A certain style of church structure has grown up to engage that "market," in so far as it can be engaged, and many Christians behave as if Christianity is a market--or part of a wider market that includes other faiths.

Peace,
Michael
Fr. Michael Slusser
Retired Roman Catholic priest and theologian

George Erdner

Quote from: Michael Slusser on April 14, 2012, 11:01:28 AM
It's an interesting little article. I particularly agreed with what is said in point 3 about "free market" behavior in religion. Everything is so permeated with free-market secularism that it's now, as the ads say, "all about choice." A certain style of church structure has grown up to engage that "market," in so far as it can be engaged, and many Christians behave as if Christianity is a market--or part of a wider market that includes other faiths.

Peace,
Michael

Whether we like it or not, or believe it or not, to someone seeking some sort of connection to a "higher power", it is "all about choice". To those outside the church, the choice is seen as between competing versions of "the truth" which the seeker must determine has the most accurate understanding of the nature of God and the relationship between God and man. To those of us in the church, the choice is between "us", those who actually have it correct, and "them", those who have it wrong to one degree or another.

The sad thing is that those who have it right about the nature of the relationship between God and man are too timid to confront those who have it wrong in terms of presenting the truth to the undecided. Those who have it wrong, on the other hand, do not lack such timidness.

Matt Staneck

Quote from: Dave Likeness on April 14, 2012, 09:39:12 AM

Where is the church?  Do we minister to the spiritual needs of
people?  The problems mentioned in the above paragraph are
hitting the lower class of America rather hard.  There is a great
divide between the middle class and lower class.  Sometimes the
church escapes to the suburbs and leaves the inner city.  Those
pastors who work in the inner city have a real challenge to
provide Word and Sacrament ministries with less finances.

Thoughtful post, Pr. Likeness!  I have the blessing of spending significant time during my vicarage at Pr. Priest's church (my supervisor/circuit counselor) which is St. John the Evangelist in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  St. John's is not a middle class parish (though there is a growing middle class element to be certain).  The church is located right across the street from the Williamsburg Housing Projects.  What I have been learning from my supervisor is the need to be engaged in peoples lives as they are coming to you.  In that engagement, trust earning and building a trusting environment, is where the pastor can and does speak a tougher word to folks who are engaging in the cultural malpractices this thread is discussing.

The thing about the inner-city that we all do is we look to save the city from itself so we ride in on white horses as the great savior of the city.  I would say that most of the time folks who ride in have nothing but the best of intentions in their riding.  But, for example, there is a danger in "mission trips" where the group coming in gets much more out of the experience than the group they came to serve.  So while that is wonderful that a group sacrifices self, time, and money to serve there is a disconnect established that the city is something the suburbs come into to "fix" or "save" (in very limited time).

People beyond the church do this too.  The way we view housing and education is a way to fix or save the inner-city instead of serving the inner-city.  The inner-city needs a long suffering love (which at times is indeed called upon to speak a tough word).  So from the standpoint of the church we need pastors who serve in the city to not be using these parishes as places where they get their servant jollies and/or as a stepping stone to something else.  You earn the cred of the neighborhood by being long-suffering with them.  Not by riding in and out.

The secular culture, as I alluded to w housing and education, does the same thing with the city.  And groups come in as the Great White Savior to help and fix the inner-city, to save it from itself.  And in turn it winds up doing incredible damage, even if intentions were well-founded.  However, because we live in a sinful and broken world, the intentions are not always well-founded.  I see Planned Parenthood as a Great White Savior group that came riding in to "fix" and "save" the city according to a damaging philosophy of "fixing" and "saving", instead of being long-suffering with the city.  Long-suffering love supports life.  "Fixing" and "saving" contributes to the opposite of life.

M. Staneck
Matt Staneck, Pastor
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Queens, NY

grabau

I suppose my Minneapolis neighborhood is middle class.  On Sunday morning not a creature is stirring.One  man up the block walked to a nearby church but he has died and so that leaves me.  I'd describe the area as solidly "unchurched".  grabau

Gary Schnitkey

The message of this NR article refers to, and a great deal of secular research documents as well, is that there are two classes developing with marriage playing a key role in who is either class. (Before the recession, 75% of the individuals in poverty were never-web mothers and their children. Don't know if that percentage has changes).  I suspect this is not only an "evangelical" concern, or an evangelical failure.

I found Pr. Austin's questions interesting.  Here is this layman's answer to them:

What do I do when the couple coming to me to prepare for marriage are already living together?

I would note that living together is a sin and not a good preparation for marriage.  God has put large importance on marriage and marriage demands commitment and work.  Marriage has many blessings, but it is hard work as well.

What do I do when the single mother Sunday School teacher says she never intends to get married?

I would need more information before I could respond.

What do I do when half the confirmation class has parents who are divorced?

Age appropriateness is important, and I don't know if a confirmation class is the place, but the basic message is:  Divorce hurts. It hurts the parents, it hurts the children, and it hurts society.  When you have the opportunity, enter marriage seriously, pray, and work hard at it.  (This is a message that many college students understand.)

What do I do when I suspect that young people have already rejected what I have been teaching about sex continue to come and serve as acolytes?

If you did not have sinners involved in worship, you would have no one there.  You probably should approach the parent or guardian about your suspicions if they have acted on them.

What do I do about the divorced man and divorced woman who start living together and blend the children of their two families?

Again, marriage requires commitment and living together is not a God pleasing (or often successful) alternative.  Blending families is very difficult and has its own challenges.  Perhaps referring them to parishioners who have been through it would be a good thing, particularly those who have been successful at blending.

Brian Stoffregen

Quote from: Gary Schnitkey on April 14, 2012, 05:09:04 PM
I would note that living together is a sin


What is your basis for saying that?



Quoteand not a good preparation for marriage.


I've had very smart callege-aged people (one has now earned a Ph.D.) argue that living together is necessary as preparation for marriage. His argument was simply, "How can you know if you want to live together for the rest of your life if you discover you can't stand each other after a few months of living together?"


I believe that the last statistics I've read on this indicated that couples who have lived together with only the partner they plan to marry do just as well as those who have not lived together before marriage. Those who have lived together with multiple partners do much worse.


QuoteGod has put large importance on marriage and marriage demands commitment and work.  Marriage has many blessings, but it is hard work as well.


Yes, marriage is a commitment; but does it need a piece of paper and a ceremony for that commitment to be present? The number of divorces indicates that even a legal marriage does not assure that the commitment will last.


A third couple I know has just bought a house together before getting legally married. In some ways agreeing on a house and a mortgage may be just as much or more of a commitment to each other than getting a state marriage license.


Perhaps all of these arguments show that the culture has won.
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

Charles_Austin

Mr. Schnitkey's responses are good, and rather like my own. I tell the already-cohabiting couple that the church does not approve; and that they probably already know that. We move on from there.
In all talk of marriage and divorce we say how much divorce hurts everyone within range. And we stress the "commitment" aspect of a relationship.
I'm not sure we can say, whatever the statistics, that the "culture" has "won." Won what? We teach what we teach. We see people who conform mostly to what we teach and we see people who do not.
Many firmly united to Christ by faith, through baptism and the eucharist, through prayer and the Christian community, live exactly as we would have them live and many do not. I'm more interested in increasing the level of agreement to what we teach than in excoriating or rooting out those who appear not to agree.
A divorced friend was a parish nurse. When she began living with a man, the church said she could no longer be on the staff unless she married him. I advised her to find another job. But she married, and after eight generally unhappy years, the marriage failed. Misery all around and damage to her faith that will take a long time to heal, if it ever does.


James Gustafson

#14
Quote from: Charles_Austin on April 14, 2012, 10:52:45 PM
Mr. Schnitkey's responses are good, and rather like my own. I tell the already-cohabiting couple that the church does not approve; and that they probably already know that. We move on from there.
In all talk of marriage and divorce we say how much divorce hurts everyone within range. And we stress the "commitment" aspect of a relationship.
I'm not sure we can say, whatever the statistics, that the "culture" has "won." Won what? We teach what we teach. We see people who conform mostly to what we teach and we see people who do not.
Many firmly united to Christ by faith, through baptism and the eucharist, through prayer and the Christian community, live exactly as we would have them live and many do not. I'm more interested in increasing the level of agreement to what we teach than in excoriating or rooting out those who appear not to agree.
A divorced friend was a parish nurse. When she began living with a man, the church said she could no longer be on the staff unless she married him. I advised her to find another job. But she married, and after eight generally unhappy years, the marriage failed. Misery all around and damage to her faith that will take a long time to heal, if it ever does.

Your scenario is a good example.  However, it's a good example of what?  A divorced friend moves in with another man whom she then marries against your better judgement and then she ends up in divorce again, and we are meant to see this as caused by the church policy?  It's the churches fault that she divorced and then moved in with another man and then realized that this was against the rules of what her church taught so they couldn't have her representing them?  If this was new information to her, then I agree, the pastor failed her, the church failed her, she should have known those rules years before her first marriage ever began (provided she was a church member then).  Otherwise, she knew the rules, I fail to see how its the fault of the church rules that she got divorced twice.  BTW: why were her choices only to get married or get a new job?  How about stop living with the guy while they date and decide if they want to get married?

Culture has won because we think the biblical divorce and remarriage scenario is too critical and harsh and judgmental and we have to relax the traditional standards for modern society.  Its a simple observation.   

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