Not Business as Usual



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The Problem is What and How Church Members Say What They Believe

Cynthia is right: we, as church members, all have an obligation (though not often followed) to share what it is we believe. The problem, as I see it, is that, no matter what theological wing of the church guides our thoughts, or the personality of the one sharing one's belief, we have a complex and complicated theology.
Have you ever noticed, or thought, that the theological sharings from those in the more fundamentalist wing of the Christian church (universal) is simplistic, and merely quotes a number of Biblical verses, out of context, as if they mean (in English) what they meant to those who wrote in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, or Latin? The theology is simple: quote the Bible.
We have a theology that embraces both history and nuance. We ask people to think, not only about the words of the Bible and what has happened in history since the Bible was canonized. We also ask them to think about whether what they are saying is reasonable, and has been made manifest in THEIR OWN experience.
That takes more training that one can get in multiple years' worth of sermons, or even what one learns in an adult Sunday School class (if one's church even has one.) Most of us who can do this with some degree of ease have seminary degrees AND church certification of some sort.
All of that takes more than being told to recite "the sinner's prayer" and then let the Holy Spirit tell one what to say. (Interesting it is, to me at least, that depending upon one's own private revelation of what the Holy Spirit tells one to say has been deemed heretical in most Christian churches.)
I know of only one UM church where people had to attend education classes, regularly, for two years before they could join the church. (That only worked because the practice started when the church was new, so there was no change in what had been the case before.) Few people want to attend such classes that long to be part of a church.
Somewhere in between that church's modality, and most of our churches, is the need to develop a practical understanding of our theology that people can learn and remember---before sending them out to share their faith.
Would that our seminary professors could help us develop such a theological primer---and then have Christian Educators de-code it into English!

Tom Griffith more than 7 years ago

maybe the real reason for decline

Since you asked, I believe the real reason churches are declining, even awesome ones like your own, is that the majority of people in our society do not believe in the basic story of our faith. They do not believe in a God man who came to earth in the womb of a virgin, performed supernatural miracles, died on a cross to appease the wrath of an angry Father in heaven and prevent the bulk of humanity from eternal torment in a fiery hell. They do not believe that this God man rose bodily from his tomb and now exists as a prototype of an immortal spiritual-physical human being who can appear and disappear, pass through walls and still eat food. They also don't believe that this is the only true religion on earth and that all people must believe this to have happiness in this life and reach heaven in the next. I don't mean to say that a majority of people in this society reject Jesus' teachings, what they know of them, or that they don't admire him, or even that they are not moved by the emotion and drama of the Jesus fable at the center of our religion. After all, people are profoundly moved by Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, etc but they don't believe those stories are factual. Since the church presents our story as factual we put people in the awkward position of accepting or pretending to accept it as factual, or quietly leaving to seek meaning elsewhere. I think the majority of people in our society get their needs for camaraderie, social support, meaning, charity, transcendence, etc, met from art, sports, recreation, family, friends, travel, the internet, you name it. To put it bluntly, when church as a whole declines steadily for decades, with no end in sight, it becomes apparent that folks aren't buying what we are selling. We can still attract the religious, whatever that means, if we try our very best, with better buildings, programs, parking and sound systems, but the religious are a smaller and smaller percentage of society with each passing year

jeff more than 7 years ago

Thank you

This is a powerful insight into the ministry of the smaller church and of the necessity of staying alive in the community around it. If the people do not do the work of being light, the church will lose the fight.

Christy Thomas more than 7 years ago


Your comments are deeply appreciated, Christy. Thank you.

cynthiaadmin (United Methodist Insight) more than 7 years ago