Jay Guin, in his blog, One in Jesus, opened the topic of the observed decline of Christian observance. My take on this:
I agree that the answer is in the church… it’s just not in the churches. I cannot say I see any solution which lets organizations which are less than the church continue to claim to be what they are not and continue to try to carve out a larger segment of the religion market, all with divine unction. It is not the church which is in decline, my friends, it is “Christianity”, the hydra-headed religion we have built with a variety of admixtures of the ethics of Jesus and approaches to scripture.
Our challenge is neither to save this passing form, nor to tear it down because of its fatal flaws. Our challenge is, for lack of a more elegant term, to shed our skin. We are called to be disciples of Jesus, the younger siblings of the King of Glory, the sons of God. We have become something far less, the faithful keepers of shrines– historical, cultural, theological, doctrinal shrines. We have attached ourselves to buildings and bibles and beliefs, to symbols rather than substance, to places and purposes rather than to a Person, to that which is revealed more than to the One Who Reveals. For about 600 years, God has continued to bless this form, knowing, as we have not known, that it is just that– a form.
But the limitations of that form become more and more apparent, all the more for the desperate attempts by its current custodians to caulk all the cracks, to alternately armor it and remodel it in an effort to save it. While we have been absorbed with perceived threats which are actually just intramural squabbles among the shrines, the sons of God have been quietly leaving those shrines. Some, certainly, in selfish seeking, but more because what has been advertised on the label has not been that which we have found in the box. “Sir, we would see Jesus,” will not forever be answered with, “Come and sit here under my feet. Pay for our shrine and we will let you serve her.”
My brothers, the new theses of Christ’s disciples will not be nailed to the Wittenburg door, but will spread both behind and far beyond such doors. This is both incredibly encouraging and troubling. Undoubtedly, wolves will come in among the turmoil. These seeking saints have courage, but this does not make them invulnerable. So much the more need for true shepherds of the Great Shepherd, not just managers of a local sheepfold. So much more the need for mature believers whose faith transcends doctrine and tradition; so much greater the call for grown-up believers who will cease gathering into their own barns and who can see the Kingdom of God as reality.