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Joel is Right, but Needs Further Clarification

The Cross, the Church and the Flag

My friend, Joel, posted an interesting theory about the decline of the mainline church and the anti-intellectual streak within evangelical mainline enclaves.

How much better would we be if we had taught questioning our faith instead of absolute intellectual surrender when the New Atheists and Ken Ham arrived?

Essentially, he suggests that this “intellectual surrender” has forced the church to surrender credibility in order to maintain uniformity of thought. When a person with a question is told to “just believe” or that their question represents a lack of faith, why wouldn't that questioner find somewhere else to be? This is my paraphrase, but I think this is what he's saying.

I believe his theory to be correct, but insufficient.

We in the church must, first, disabuse (this word not used accidentally) ourselves of the notion that commercial success and the American Dream are synonymous with faithful Christianity.

They're so not.

They may even be the antithesis.

However, those who foster an unquestioning faith tend to experience the greater numeric church success.

Unless these ideas are separated by as much ground as we can get between them, the numeric success experienced by anti-intellectual evangelicalism will motivate the defense of the status quo – and his theory will wither on the vine.

One comment on “Joel is Right, but Needs Further Clarification

  1. Fike
    July 12, 2013 at 3:10 PM #

    Numeric success has little to do with “church growth.”

    Many organizations have gotten quite good at building up large cadres of immature “babes in Christ.” but the real work comes in building up disciples of Christ, those who actually follow the faith and are not simply “groupies.” When the “hard teaching” begins, off they go to their own devices, just as happened to Jesus’ groupies in the Scripture. Evangelical Athiests lie just off shore in the weeds waiting to devour such ill-equipped folks.

    There is a huge difference between disciples and church-goers–or even “members.” The main issue is that the institutional church focuses on the numbers because that is so easily measured. Unfortunately it is largely meaningless.

    Meanwhile, attempting to foster “unquestioning” faith is counter-intuitive. People of real faith always have questions that need answering. Thus, the work out there that is actually being done in helping people grow in Christ is largely either unnoticed or totally ignored while people are distracted by the “shiny object” of the numbers game.

    I am certain that God has a good handle on “how many,” actual disciples are out there, so instead of trying to sort them out (I recall the weeds growing in with the crop) we would be wise to focus not only on “making disciples,” but on “teaching them all that I have commanded you…” It is amazing how often we neglect or forget about that important step.

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