After reading the article I was amazed at how similar the discussion was to a book I just started reading called The Integrity of the Church, A Study of New Testament Concepts Interpreted Through Christian History into our Era of Rapid Social Change (yes, that’s a mouthful), by E. Glenn Hinson. Although the title is a mouthful it is a fascinating read, so far.
At first glance, this book, published in 1978, would seem from the title to be one to rail about the evils of rock-n-roll or something like that. But as I went through the first chapter I was quite interested to find that the church at that time was dealing with large groups of people leaving the faith, much like the article written by Relevant in June 2008. I love reading books from a specific time period. It really gives you insight into what was going on at the time, especially with the church body. A section in the first chapter titled Growing Individualism had this to say:
Consciousness III is affecting the churches in several ways. First, as in the era of the Renaissance, it is adding to the moral confusion of the times, for it undermines established norms and systems for making moral judgments. Each person does what is right in his or her own eyes, his or her own thing.
[second] … the individual decides about his or her own beliefs. He/she does not submit them to peers within the church. If the group tries to to dictate, the individual simply drops out…
[third] …raises questions about how we go about forming congregations and communities, and indeed even whether we sould try to form them.
Of how far we have come from the mid-70’s…. right? This change that Hinson is talking about has long since occurred and we are a society of individuals now. He partially blames technology in the first chapter but probably couldn’t have imagined its impact as we know it today. I think we are now coming around to where we can connect, as individuals, through technology, but the church needs to be a part of that. The conclusion at the end of this chapter was very interesting and talks about the need for the church to be flexible.
…the church should not change merely for the sake of changing, but neither should it lock itself into outmoded patterns of the past. At one and the same time it should stive to conserve its identity while engaging in its missions in and to the world with adaptability or flexibility.
This can be done if we will keep our point of reference who we are and what we are to do as the church… Christianity seems particularly well suited to mett the challenge of rapid social change… but God is directing what is only a mixed and incomplete version of his purpose toward some ultimate goal.
Things always do seem to come back around, but I find many churches today unwilling to change much like in the mid 1970’s. The twentysomething’s want to connect, with people they understand. People like they know in college, not a service, of a set routine developed in the 50’s that they don’t understand. It was very interesting to me how relevant a book written in the 1970’s was to an article written a few days ago. We always try to think our issues in our day are “new”. The issues are the same, how do we connect with the people of today for Christ. The date that has changed, not God or his message.
If you have time, go and read the article by Relevant Magazine linked at the top and come back here and share some of your thoughts. A continuation of this post will be made in the coming weeks or months.