Weekly Meanderings 22 October 2016

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Dear Whitey, we’re still playin’!

My friend at Brentwood Baptist, Mike Glenn, proposes his theory about nones and dones:

After a long discussion about the “Nones,” researchers have discovered another category of people leaving the church—the “Dones.” While the Nones are those who claim no religious faith at all, the Dones are those who still claim faith in Christ, but are no longer engaged in the life of local church. They’re DONE. The Dones tell researchers they’re just done with church. They say there’s too much bureaucracy, too much judgment and/or hypocrisy. A lot of the time, these individuals were deeply involved in their church, but after their kids graduated high school or after one of the couple retired, they started doing other things on the weekends.

But going to church is not one of them.

I have a theory. Yes, I know. Everyone has a theory. Church is out of touch. Church is too this or too that, but I think all of these other theories are wrong. Here’s my theory.

I think a lot of people stop coming to church because we never ask them to do anything great. We never call them to a vision that will demand everything from them. We never tell them to sell everything they have and go follow Jesus. We never tell them to head to the far reaches of the world and carry their casket with them because we don’t expect them to come back. We never tell them to leave everything and everyone they love to go start a church in some third world inner city slum.

We simply ask them to come to church and sit quietly. We ask them to give their money, sing reverently, but sit quietly.

Most of us want more, not less, from our faith, and if church can’t help us get there, we’ll get that “more we need” from somewhere else.

No one wants to come to church and sit.

Stephen McAlpine on cannibal sheep?

Spiritual abuse is rife.  Anecdotally, and from conversations with Christian psychologists and counsellors, it’s a settled feature of many independent churches.  And as church planting takes root, and as denominations are increasingly shunned by those in the ministry profession, it’s only going to increase.

Sexual abuse gets all the headlines.  Rightly so.  But spiritual abuse creates as much emotional, spiritual and psychological havoc.  It’s perniciousness is in how hard it is to determine.  You can’t commit just a little bit of sexual abuse.  You’ve either abused someone or you haven’t. But spiritual abuse?  Tell me when the line has been crossed.  It’s not easy.

Here’s something else about spiritual abuse that is like sexual abuse.  The truth eventually comes out.  It eventually comes out.  But, unfortunately, all too often like sexual abuse, it comes out from below, not from above.  It takes the bleating of the sheep gathering enough crescendo from below to make those further up the food chain, the shepherds, to do something.  And often that something is too late, and all too often in response to a need to be seen to be doing something lest there is blowback on themselves.

There’s no such thing as cannibal sheep, but too many sheep are getting eaten for breakfast, and the incidence is rising.

And that’s just not good enough. Especially when one day the Chief Shepherd will appear and ask why he can smell lamb barbecue.

[HT: JS]

Here is a good post about moving from anger to joy.

You may not know about this, but it is interesting for the history of evangelicalism (esp in the UK). 60 years ago Martin Lloyd-Jones and John Stott went head to head on whether or not evangelicals ought to remain in the Church of England (Stott) or form an evangelical association (Lloyd Jones). Three new blog posts, the first by Justin Taylor in an interview with Andrew Atherstone, asked about the debate and got this sketch that will enable you to see what happened:

So what did Lloyd-Jones say exactly, and why was it so controversial?

At its heart, Lloyd-Jones’s address was a call for visible unity among evangelicals to match their spiritual unity. He lamented that they were divided among themselves and “scattered about in the various major denominations . . . weak and ineffective.” But he believed the ecumenical turmoil of the 1960s presented “a most remarkable opportunity” to rethink evangelical ecclesiology along New Testament lines.

In particular, he argued that evangelicals were guilty of “the sin of schism” for remaining visibly separated from each other, while being visibly united in their denominations to people who denied the gospel essentials. “I am a believer in ecumenicity,” he provocatively declared, “evangelical ecumenicity!” Evangelicals should not be satisfied with unity merely through parachurch networks and societies, Lloyd-Jones insisted, but should come together in “a fellowship, or an association, of evangelical churches.”

This was controversial for several reasons, not least because it contradicted the National Assembly of Evangelicals’ own report on evangelical unity at the launch event! The obvious implication was that evangelicals should secede immediately from doctrinally mixed denominations.

There was also confusion about what exactly Lloyd-Jones meant by “a fellowship, or an association, of evangelical churches,” and what that would look like in practice—probably he intended a network of local independent evangelical congregations. A transcript of the audio recording of his address was eventually published after his death, in Knowing the Times (Banner of Truth, 1989), and is well-worth studying closely.

Alastair Roberts appreciation of the Stott side:

Both the ecumenical movement and Lloyd-Jones’ positions arose from dangerously flawed ecclesiologies. My purpose is not to get into a discussion of their respective flaws within this post, however. Rather, I wanted to highlight one specific area where I believe that the legacy of Stott’s stand is still being felt today and, through it, to identify the value of revisiting the debate between him and Lloyd-Jones.

Looking back to Stott’s struggle with Lloyd-Jones, on balance, I am immensely grateful that Lloyd-Jones didn’t win the day. Had Lloyd-Jones won, the achievement of visible evangelical unity would in all likelihood have been a Pyrrhic victory, one that would have left us a radical marginal and insignificant group. As Matthew Cresswell wrote in the Guardian a few years back: ‘without Stott there would be fewer evangelicals in the Church of England today, and those in it would be brash, old-fashioned and a little like the church’s version of the US Tea Party.’ The state of evangelicals in the country more generally would probably have been more marginal still. Perhaps you could argue that Stott and others like him saved evangelicals in the UK from becoming fundamentalists.

The significance of evangelicals in the UK today is in no small measure due to our presence in Anglican institutions and the influence that we can exert through them. If we hadn’t fought for the institutions and legacy bequeathed to us by former generations of evangelicals in the established church, we would be a much less weighty force today.

John Stevens weighs in too:

It is somewhat ironic that none of the various trends  that contributed to Lloyd-Jones’ address to the National Assembly of Evangelicals came to fruition in the way that was expected. The ecumenical project failed, and the drive for structural unity gave way to a “relational ecumenism” that sought to establish a fellowship between churches, rather than a united church, today taking the form of Churches Together. Whilst evangelical Anglicans gained acceptance within the Church of England they failed to capture the church in the way that they had anticipated. Gaining some evangelical bishops does not produce a thoroughgoing  evangelical church.  Non-Conformists did not experience the revival they hoped for as a consequence of their separatism and search for a purer church and failed to contextualise the gospel following the massiuve changes to British society in the 1960s. Lloyd-Jones’ vision for a united evangelical church, if that was what he intended, also failed to materialise. Newly independent congregations found a place in the FIEC, but the British Evangelical Council failed to gain momentum as a “fellowship of evangelical churches” as it excluded those who were part of “mixed-denominations.” The existential threat posed by the ecumenical movement to evangelicalism soon gave way to other issues that divided evangelicals against themselves, including the charismatic movement and the emergence of a more liberal “open evangelicalism” that questioned key doctrinal convictions such as the inerrancy of Scripture, the reality of Hell and penal substitutionary atonement.

HT: JT

Two good pieces on the Bonhoeffer Moment, one by Chris Gehrz and the other by Charles Marsh.

Why we need library stacks to remain in this technology age. [HT: JS]

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.