Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Where is our hope

I read a couple of very interesting posts this morning, one from Albert Mohler, The Challenges We Face: A New Generation of Gospel Ministers Looks to the Future, and a response from Eric CarpenterWhere I Differ From Albert Mohler. It is a fascinating contrast because like me, Eric agrees with Dr. Mohler on a lot of core issues but where the difference comes in is in how the church should function in an uncertain future.

For Al Mohler, the human hope of the church is in the next generation of clergy:

When asked about my hope for the future of the church, I point immediately to the corps of young ministers now entering and preparing for ministry. In one of the great counter-intuitive developments of our times is the rise of a generation of young ministers who are committed to the faith “once for all delivered to the saints,” and who are eager to run the race to Christ’s glory.
This makes sense from the virtual pen of a man who trains professional clergy for a living. It is also a pretty common view in the church at large. Our hope for restoration and revival comes from the pulpit, in other words where the pulpit is Biblically solid the church will be healthy, where it is not, the church will likewise not be healthy. Whether you call it this or not, the vision is pastor-centric, judging the future spiritual health of the church on the spiritual health of the man in the pulpit.

For Eric, the future of the church lies somewhere quite different…

My hope for the future of the church is far different from Mohler's. I point instead to the growing number of Christians who care little for the things of the world and instead desire to be the church as God describes it in scripture.
My view is more aligned with Eric, no surprise there. The church as it is most commonly expressed now, a church that is overly reliant on institutions and professionals, has no future in a post-Christendom America. We see this already in Europe where the established institutional churches have little to say to the world and are little more than cultural relics, grand but empty edifices for American tourists to snap photos of and post on Facebook. The percentage of self-identified Christians in Europe has shrunk to levels unimaginable 100 or even 50 years ago, although I would say that this is not reflective of fewer Christians as a percentage of the population but rather a more accurate accounting of people who actually are Christians beyond a merely cultural sense of belonging to a “church”.

Those days are fast approaching here in America and the traditional church is not merely ill equipped to deal with it, it is completely unprepared to carry out the mission of Christ in the days to come. We have two choices. We can keep sending young men to seminary to prepare for a ministry field that is becoming obsolete, becoming indebted and indoctrinated into a particular church model that is in its last days. Or we can encourage young men zealous for the Kingdom to stay where they are, get a job and start a family and begin ministering to the lost and hurting all around them. You don’t need a seminary degree to wash feet. You don’t need a title to visit a widow. An orphan is not going to ask to see your ordination certificate before accepting your love.

When faced with these two choices, I think the proper route is clear.

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