Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Cerulean Sanctum: I want to be a clone

Dan E. of Cerulean Sanctum wrote this back on 11-12-04, but it's new to me and I thought others might enjoy it, too. It certainly echos concerns I had just a couple of years ago, both in church and as I listened to Christian radio.

Dan writes:

"Is it just me or has nearly every church in this country been cloned? In the last few months, my wife and I have visited about a half-dozen different churches. Just a decade ago, the differences between those churches in their musical choices, sermon styles, liturgy choices (including no liturgy at all), and the like would have been profoundly different. Even their emphases on particular doctrinal aspects of Christianity would have been prominently on display during a worship service, and uniquely geared to the denominational beliefs of the church. Today, though, it doesn't matter if you go to a Free Methodist, Friends, Vineyard, Baptist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, or any other denomination because what they show you on Sundays and through the week is identical. Say what you will about the worth of denominational factionalism, but if our churches are all aspiring to a lowest common denominator sameness, is that an improvement?

Now you can make a claim for ecumenism here, but I think it goes far beyond that. Evangelicalism is enmeshed in the church growth movement to such a degree that denominations are jettisoning their cores in order to embrace the flavor of the week. I continue to be astonished at the rate with which The Willow Creek Association is consuming churches, asking them to ascribe to Willow Creek's ministry models without question. But is anyone asking the pivotal question: What if Willow Creek's ministry model and philosophies are wrong? read on...

These were my same questions about two years ago. I was in an ELCA mega-church which was rapidly (and still is) throwing out Luther's reminders of what the Bible teachers for complete opposite doctrine. My point isn't to argue doctrine, but to ask the same questions. Why are we changing and what are we changing to? It was very unsettling to watch infant baptism being downplayed, formal confirmation and spiritual education programs chucked for "Wednesday Night Live", confirmation rites replaced with Affirmation of Baptism services, Lutheran curriculum thrown out for Baptist curriculum, pastors arguing over doctrine, hymns for praise choruses, liturgy for testimonies, etc... Of course, on top of that there was the whole anti-American, pro-choice, pro blessing of same-s#x marriages... I was very quickly an evangelical Lutheran without a church home. But not for too long :)


Dan Edelen said...

Thank you so very much for referencing my piece on church cloning. We lose something very precious when we all take on the same flavor.

Blessings on your ministry through this blog! If I can ever be of help to you, just drop me a line.

ghp said...

Nice post, Theresa -- thanks for bringing it to my attention!

It's quite the interesting topic. I think the difference between Ecumenism/Evangelical-homogeneity and the invisible Church is that the former is commonality based on man's terms, while the latter is unity as outlined by God.

Commonality ends up being generic & based on the lowest common denominator. Nothing stands out, but that's ok because it's all-inclusive & feels good.

Unity based on God's Word, however, is tougher in the Church Militant because hewing to God's Word as the basis for outward unity means making clear, and often painful, distinctions. It means proclaiming things that fly in the face of the lowest common denominator. It will (sad, but true) separate families.

The narrow path is never going to be as easy as the wide path, but it sure leads to a better place, no?


Tim said...

I have been formulating lately a post on how churches have been copying systems instead of innovating and adapting to their own situation. This is just more evidence to add to that.