By Robert Cocheu
In the previous blog, we talked about the “new” culture. We discussed inequality, consumerism, and sexual ethics and how men, as leaders, should engage these issues from a biblical context. That podcast can be found hereand we encourage everyone to listen to it. For background on that discussion, read The Future of the Church Part 2: Engaging the “New” Culture blog. For complete background you should read The Future of the Church Part 1: Where We Are Right Now.
This week we are going to talk about three topics regarding the church itself.
· Church Polity – How the church is governed and run day to day
· Liturgy – Worship in the Church
· Doctrine and Theology
Let’s start with church polity. Polity details how a church is governed. Interestingly, mainstream Protestant denominations–Lutherans, Presbyterians and Episcopalians–have lost the most members during this time. These churches have a top-down diocese organization structure. What group has grown during this time? Independent churches. These churches have little to no denominational affiliation. Interestingly enough, several of these churches have attracted some of the worst bad press. Look no further than the Seattle-based Mars Hill to see how a group of ministers whose “charisma outpaced their character” have caused issues in the church. Sexual escapades, bad theology, bullying and questionable decisions are just the tip of the iceberg.
Yet issues are not confined to these independent churches. The Catholic Church is still dealing with the fallout from sexual abuse and cover-ups dating back decades. The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest of the U.S. Baptist denominations, is still struggling to confront years of silence about predatory ministers. After continued pressured by its congregational representatives, the SBC’s Executive Committee last week reversed an earlier decision and voted to waive attorney-client privilege in the denomination’s investigation into 20 years of sex abuse. This will make fact-finding much more transparent. Prior to the latest vote, Ted Frank, the chairman of SBC’s independent abuse task force, suggested that the Executive Committee had been more interested in “protecting the brand” than “the most vulnerable among us.”
Leaders who are more concerned about protecting their “institution” than engaging in Christ’s mission must be called out. One of the central themes in Jesus’s earthly ministry was to show that institutions are useful only to fulfill the mission of the gospel. How to address the need to constrain the growth of “institution” so that the good news of the gospel can be spread is the pressing question men must ask.
Liturgy is the way we worship. Traditionally, liturgy is thought to pertain to the Catholic Church, Episcopal Church and other “high churches.” Yet even Baptists and charismatic churches have a defined order of worship that is their liturgy.
The trouble is when worship becomes entertainment. We want to be wowed by the latest singer, musician, light show or preacher. True, while today’s churchgoers, from Generation X on down, are more attuned to visual and audio media, there is a difference between incorporating media and personalities as elements in a meaningful, uplifting service and serving up a bland package of cliched imagery, canned sermons and bland music all designed to pander to short attention spans. Then worship becomes an entertainment hour—and a bad one at that.
The challenge is for men to define what worship means. Danish philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard reminded people that they thought of worship backward. Most people thought of worship as God prompting the preacher or singer who performed for the congregation. The reality, he said, is that worship is the preacher or singer, prompting the congregation who is performing for God. What needs to be a part of worship for us to accomplish this? How do we set our hearts are right for worship?
Finally, let’s talk about doctrine and theology. We will never debate the saving work of Christ or his Lordship. For a quick overview of what Man Up believes see here. However, from reformed theology to complementarianism there are conflicts that can, and do, drive churches apart. After the basics, how do we as men handle doctrinal differences—edicts that do not come directly from scripture but are filtered through the interpretation of men and women who may have been faithful, yet nonetheless, whose thoughts are not above questioning. What is the role of women in the church? How do we respond to the changing demographics of our congregations and clergy? How do we handle the discussion of gay and transgender issues? What about divorce? There are many questions and, in reality, few direct answers.
Our goal as a church remains the same, the Great Commission that came from Jesus himself: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:19-20.