Four Threats to the Church Today, Part 1
My earliest memories are shaped by church experiences. I have lived my life in the church and I have given my professional life to serving the church. I love the church. However, I am deeply concerned for the church and its witness. Let me explain.
Many threats exist in the life of the church today. Since I try to keep these posts rather short and accessible to read in a few minutes, I’ll cover two threats today and two in the next post. At some time in the future, I will give more attention to them if there is interest. For now, let me just sketch these primary threats to the church.
1. The way we are influenced by politics. In the stretch run of a presidential campaign our ears are buzzing with political conversation ranging from the economy to health care to jobs to religion. It is an exciting conversation but that sort of political conversation does not represent a real threat to the church. Politcians will always make promises and we will always have to decide how we feel about what they say.
Politics influences the church and threatens its very well-being and witness when believers judge each other based upon broadly conceived, PAC shaped, demographically tailored political positions. What each party decides to say about God reflects more its perspective on what it feels will help gain votes and does not necessarily reflect faithfulness to the gospel.
Republicans will look at believers who are Democrats and question their faith because the Democratic party is largely pro-choice and struggled to put God in their party platform. Democrats look at believers who are Republicans and question their faith because of the emphasis on business and lack of attention to the needs of the impoverished. Our faiths are built upon more broad and complex ideas than those specific issues.
Using political positions to determine faithfulness to Jesus Christ threatens the work of the church. Please remember that no political party represents Jesus. How we relate to other people should be determined by our faithfulness to Jesus not the GOP or the DNC.
2. The way we talk about sexuality. Same-sex marriage is one of the most hotly debated and divisive issues in the church today. Biblical scholars and laypersons read the same texts and come to different conclusions. Believers increasingly use how one feels–and it is often more emotional than anything else–about same sex marriage and homosexuality as a litmus test for faith. It is a convenient distraction to keep our attention off of even larger issues.
All the while the church has an internal arm wrestling match over issues related to homosexuality, different-sex marriages (just the way that looks and reads is worth conversation) continue to fail at an alarming rate. The marriage failure rate inside the church is no better than outside the church. Additionally, studies show younger adults living together for years, if they choose to get married at all. Something is broken about our understanding of marriage in this culture that is larger than the same-sex marriage issue.
Adolescents are sexually active at younger and younger ages and grow up in a culture that presents sex as a commodity for achieving what one wants. The church must speak the graceful love of God in Jesus Christ to the sexual conversations of this culture. If we do not find a way to speak to this, in a positive and relevant way, then the church will lose its prophetic voice to shape healthy relationships in our society. This issue is so much more important than just same-sex marriages.
We will pick this conversation up in the next post by thinking about the way we demonize believers of other faiths and how we seem to become less and less human with each passing decade.
For now, do you feel the church is threatened by politics and the way we talk about sexuality? Have these issues threatened your church or your personal experience?