Now, let’s ask what that Sunday worship service was like for our two church attenders. How does it compare with the historic church?
What trends are on the rise? What’s declining?
1. Novel and unorthodox teachings that displace the centrality of the gospel: “prosperity” and “best life now” teachings, false super-naturalism and mysticism, self-esteem and how-to teachings.
2. Culture-driven models for worship, the most popular being the rock concert approach in which the congregation observes musical and artistic performers and speakers, complete with stage, light show, and smoke.
Does a great concert lead to great worship?
3. Age-segregated worship services for every stage of life which contributes to the juvenilization of American Christianity.
4. Culture-driven models for pastoral ministry, including the rise of the “leader” pastor (visionary, strategist), and the “celebrity” pastor (personal charisma, media image, marketable).
5. Independent churches that isolate themselves from other churches and are therefore unaccountable to a larger group of churches. This accelerates the disunity of the Church and contributes to the declining influence of the church in America.
6. Non-doctrinal, generic preaching of God’s love disconnected from the cross, and faith disconnected from Christ.
7. Embracing the redefining-marriage movement driven by the LGBT community. The most recent example of this was the Presbyterian Church in the USA (PCUSA) vote to redefine marriage to include same-gender couples last week.
NOT SO MUCH
8. Observing Sunday as the Lord’s Day of worship and rest from regular work activities. Sunday has morphed into “family day,” “kid’s sports day,” “golf day,” and “yard work day.”
9. Presenting the gospel as the central message of hope for both Christians and non-Christians. In fact, our two church members may not be sure what the gospel is, i.e. the announcement that God will graciously forgive sinners and grant them eternal life through trust in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
10. Congregational sharing in the Lord’s Table (also known as the Eucharist, Communion, The Lord’s Supper) as the central event of Christian worship, whether as a sacrament, sign, or memorial.
New Year’s Eve or Easter Sunday? Replacing bread and wine with balloons.
11. Comprehensive instruction and study of the Bible or biblical doctrine as the foundation of Christian discipleship and spiritual growth. This is often replaced today by “more practical” (air quotes intended) studies of how one Bible teaching may apply to a life situation.
12. Teaching the “hard” stuff: Bible doctrines related to sin, hell, final judgement, and God’s sovereignty over tragedy and evil.
WHERE ARE WE HEADED?
These twelve trends are specific examples of a broader secularizing trend in the American Church, and bad news for our future. Secularism is a worldview at odds with the traditional Christian belief that the Bible is authoritative, definitive, sufficient, intelligent, and relevant. Outside of a true, spiritual awakening and revival, I expect these trends to reduce our two church attenders to one, or less than one, in the next 10-15 years.
I’m praying for the revival.
How ’bout you?