I swear, someone must have declared 2013 to be the year where people would use their blogs to solve the “problems” of the church.1
I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve read this year which purport to explain what is wrong with the church or why certain people are leaving it. Many of these blog posts have come from within the fellowship of Churches of Christ (a relatively small group of people), but that fact has not prevented the analyses from being all over the place.
Depending on whose blog you’re reading, the main problem with Churches of Christ is that we are too left-brained—we are out of touch with our emotions and therefore unable to relate to our culture. Or, if you read someone else, the problem with the church is that we aren’t catering to the millennial generation (people who are roughly my age, give or take a few years). We aren’t valuing their perspectives and ideas, so they are leaving. Or, if you stumble upon a third blog, you’ll hear that people are leaving (especially preachers and ministers) because our practices in the area of church music, the role of women in the church, and leadership, are unacceptable and thus, driving them away.
After a while, reading these sorts of posts tends to frustrate me. Not because the church is problem-free (it isn’t), but because over and over again, the tone in the posts is that the author has discovered the problem in the church and is now proposing the solution. Of course, if they really had discovered the problem, you would expect there to be a little more overlap in the different posts rather than so much disparity.
Also, these posts tend to frustrate me because they are usually not based on real research, but rather on one person’s observations. I don’t mean to discount the relevance or importance of a person’s experience, but I do think we should be careful about making broad generalizations about an entire fellowship of churches based on one person’s (inherently limited) point of view.
Having vented these frustrations, I want to end this on a positive note by highlighting a couple of genuinely good things that I think posts like these indicate:
(1) People care about the church. If people didn’t care, they wouldn’t spend time and energy identifying problems and thinking up suggestions on how to fix things. Even if I disagree with some of the suggested problems or proposed solutions, I can still appreciate the authors’ intentions and the concern for the church which lies beneath them.
The alternative to this is people not caring, which is never a good thing. Apathy never solves anything, whether about politics, a football team, a business, or in the church. Generally speaking, even with people I disagree with, I can find some common ground with people who are passionate about the church. On the other hand, there’s no point in even trying to work with people who don’t care.
(2) The Restoration spirit is alive and well, at least in one sense. People who work and worship in Churches of Christ will know this already, but for others who might be reading, Churches of Christ, while desiring to follow the teachings of the New Testament and emulate the church of that time, also have direct historical and theological roots in the American Restoration Movement of the 1800s. This movement was an attempt to unify people of different denominations by cutting away the manmade traditions and creeds which had accumulated over time in an attempt to “restore” the church of the New Testament.
That movement was only made possible by the fact that people were willing to take a hard look at church practices of the day, identify problems, and go about trying to fix them. Clearly, we still have men and women today who care enough about the church to do the same (I added the qualifier “at least in one sense” at the end, because while many of these folks are quick to point out problems in the church, they are not turning to the model of the New Testament church as the solution…but that’s a post for another day).
Restoration is an ongoing process. We should always be willing to examine what we do and make sure we’re not confusing traditional practices with biblical ones. And for those things which are just traditions, we should be willing to consider changing them if such a change would help us to better reach out to the lost or care for those who are already saved.
1By putting “problems” in quotation marks, I am not suggesting that there aren’t problems in the church. There certainly are, and this spat of bloggers have hit upon some of them. Rather, I am suggesting that not all of the issues proposed as “problems” by these bloggers are, in fact, genuine problems.