Saturday, October 31, 2009


I have been an American Baptist since seminary in the mid 70's. I am committed to the Baptist understanding of the church in what I would call, its best expressions. At the same time, I have little hope for the denomination... for any of the denominations.

Here's a fun video made about the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America but with a few changes in text it certainly could apply to the ABC or to any other current denomination.

We spend soooo much time fighting over issues, writing reports, and forming committees, all the while forgetting to do real ministry or even to take prophetic stands. I worry that none of the mainline churches will make it through the next century.

I don't have any more hope for the fundamentalists, evangelicals, or megachurch movements. They spend too much time and energy on what they perceive to be hot sins and fighting against positive changes in culture, often dress the gospel in the dress of self-help, and in any cases have bought int the most pernicious parts of the current culture - faith as a consumer product, that I don't expect they will make it through the century either.

A few years ago I had hope for the emerging church. I saw a bunch of fearless, committed, young men and women struggling with post modern questions while at the same time being committed to hands on mission in their contexts. They were neither conservatives nor liberals, but had by-passed those energy wasting battles. And they were starting little churches, mostly in urban neighborhoods, and getting on with the work of the church. Unfortunately, the movement seems to have taken a serious turn to the right. Most of the true post-moderns have given up on any institutional expressions of faith. Like many young adults, they seem to have been a bit impatient and overly optimistic about their little movement. It didn't change the world and they got frustrated and gave up or the realities of institutional life were too much. In the meantime, the face of the emerging church has been co-opted by the mega-church movement who treat it as one more franchise through which they can sell a old fashioned conservative gospel. Add some tables, get a bit artsy fartsy, play some techno in the background and maybe even have some litanies from the 12th century church and images of celtic crosses and you can catch a few college students and get them saved and teach them about the evils of homosexuality, women's rights, abortion, etc. It ain't the same movement, friends.

I want to have hope. I am still committed to the institution of the "church," indeed, I don't think it is possible to be a follower of Jesus outside of a community of faith worshiping, serving, and struggling together. I want to have hope... more later.


Russell said...

Well said, Roy.
Also, the clip is brilliant, and demonstrates perfectly the kind of intellectual masturbation that some pastors pass off as spiritual explanations. Thanks for the laugh, and for speaking for so many disenfranchised Christians. Peace.
P.S. I'll be sure to buy my "Book of Faith" Prius asap, reducing my "Book of Faith" carbon footprint as I head toward the edge of the "Book of Faith" cliff at a comfortable 65mph with the rest of the "Book of Faith" lemmings.

That Baptist Ain't Right said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
That Baptist Ain't Right said...

I don't want to agree, but I do see the problems with the denominational idea. You hinted around it one problem is that some denominations --- particularly the SBC --- are being used as a political action committee under the guise of faith. Success breeds more institutional workings & power, & that lends itself to even more problems. If denominations are to survive, it will have to be under the banner of something other than doctrinal unity. Just my $0.02, of course.