Over the past two years I have been on a journey of investigation to identify the lead issues surrounding the failures of the denominations and the continued decline of Christianity in America. The issues are not new and were not discovered by me, but men and women of great intelligence and concern for the the very 'church' they love over the past century.
It's now time to focus on the positives, the needed change. Over the coming months I will visit the solutions to these multiple dysfunctions.
The solution is not another denomination, or a non-denomination, but a radical penetration from within the institutions that will result in the dilution of the brand, and the growth of the faith. Yes it starts with each of us, from within the institutions we belong, to rip away at the created obstacles, encourage change, while at the same time implementing the changes and living the changes. I am talking about a denominational coup d'etat. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (2 Tim 3:16) We must take people back to the Biblical concept of church and eliminate the barriers that were created by nothing less than modern day pharisees.
The solutions are not new either. In fact, they are Biblical and were set at the foundation of the earth. Many great scholars like Bonhoeffer, Trueblood, Schaeffer, Brana, Viola and Pearsy have already advised, warned and presented these solutions.
I am encouraged by the extreme interest and participation I have encountered from fellow followers of Christ across the U.S. who are not content with the status quo and in each of their 'building churches' and are asking the same questions and ready to present solutions and take action.
The coup starts with just one encouraging another to learn, understand, and act as Christ called his church to act.
Patrick Lencioni defines the '5 Dysfunctions of a Team' in one of his books and then offers solutions to these Dysfunctions. I'd like to call this series the '5 Dysfunctions of Denominations' and offer solutions to these dysfunctions.
In order to offer solutions, we must first revisit each dysfunction:
Dysfunction 1: Poor Definitions
The denominations have offered an intentionally poor concept and definition of "church" in order to preserve the institution and not what Christ calls his, 'bride'.
Solution: We must redefine church based on scripture and purpose and hold to the authority of Christ and not that of an institution.
Dysfunction 2: A Shallow Gospel
Evangelism has focused mostly on an emotional encounter with Christ and not an intellectual encounter. Last year at our church 35 kids who had previously accepted Christ and been baptized felt they needed to do it again. This is because they were given a shallow Gospel. This is why few youth return to the church after high school. Youth ministers today try to pull 'heart strings' instead of 'head strings' leaving them with a heart Gospel and forgetting a Mind Gospel. In addition, we attempt to go straight to Christ and forget that people in today's world must know the whole story from: Creation, Fall, Redemption and Glorification.
Solution: We must return to the serious study and challenges of the scripture and provide followers the ability to present a Christian world view in the midst of Naturalism, Determinism, Darwinism, Post-Modernism and more. We must not deny our Godly image which includes emotion, but our faith must not be built upon emotion, but revelation and how it permiates all aspects of life, science, history, amd beyond.
Dysfunction: Paid Clergy
The concept of paid clergy has created tens of thousands of Pope's in our denominations and we have given them what they seek, control. The paid clergy has robbed the follower of Jesus of their Royal Priesthood and stole their good works from them.
Solution: We must eliminate the separation of clergy vs laymen in order for each member of the body to step up to his pastoral duties and understand that there is no separation from the holy and the secular. There is no separate holy calling to clergy. 'Secular work is full time service.' We must relagate the seminarian back to his professorial and coaching duties.
Dysfunction 4: A Gospel of Hate
Denominations have lead the world from Christ due to their condemnation. 'Denomination Condemnation' has formulated modern day witch hunts that have created a hate for others, rather than love. Jesus was clear, "I came to save, not condemn". Denominations apparently decided they had the authority to manage the other part for Christ. From the AIDS crisis in the 80's to protesting abortion clinics and porn shows the denominations have failed to present followers with a the same message of Christ.
Solution: A true teaching and example that loving the sinner, and not the sin, does not start with condemnation of the sinner, but an offering of hope and vision of the world through the eyes of Christ.
Dysfunction 4: Abuse of Funds
The tithe has been taught improperly and stolen from the very people it was intended to serve. A few select Bible versus that do not stand on their own have been abused to burden the very people the tithe was intended to serve. True religion in James 1:27 has been replaced with taking money to build large staffs of un-biblical paid clergy, decedent buildings under the attempt to replace Solomon's temple, and endless programs giving paid clergy something to do.
Solution: Return tithing to God's calling on a man. Ensure it's delivery to the people in the body, the poor, the missionary, the campus leader, the sent and the teacher.
Dysfunction 5: Sound Bite Teaching
Discipling is a lost art. We have exchanged the process of discipleship for programs and preaching. These have proved ineffective. We have put the Gospel into sound bites, catch phrases, and eloquent speech, and failed to remain committed to the one on one relationships of passing on the scriptures and walking through life together. Old folks retreat to their Sunday School classes and leave the blind to lead the blind. We leave young Sunday School classes in the hands of good hearted but poorly trained seminary students and to the uneducated but well intentioned.
Solution: A return to Christ's example of how to lead and teach. A one on one preparation of others that starts with a man and woman discipling their children, then discilping others throughout their entire life.
There is much to say on each of these dysfunctions and we must take things a step further than Viola and Barna and offer solutions as Trueblood, Bonhoeffer, Schaeffer and Pearsy have. The solutons go far beyond the quick summations above.
I will attempt to focus on these solutions while reserving the right to make mistakes and coveting your well thought out responses. I will spend a few weeks on Dysfunction 1 and the solutions in July.