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5/17/2006

CHRISTENDOM IS DEAD. NOW WHAT?

I've picked many fights, started a slew of discussions, asked even more questions and made my share of enemies and friends in the first year of SHLOG.COM's existence. So much of this, I've just realized tonight, is my way of wrestling publicly with an uncomfortable reality: Christendom is dead.

Christendom: The arrangement of Western society from the time of Roman Emperor Constantine's pronouncement of Christianity as his adopted religion to at least the late 1800s in Europe and the 1960s in America. Two of the most notable characteristic of Christendom were that 1)the church was perceived as central to society and culture and 2)the church operated primarily in an "attractional" mode, meaning that the church expected non-Christians to come to the church.

But Christendom is dead. This is not the order of things in the West, for the most part, any more. In large cities especially, and in rural southern cities less so, society is no longer leaning in to hear what the church has to say to her or about her. Society has lost interest.

I've read too many books and been in too many conversations with non-Christians and seen far too much of the American church in the last several years on the road to believe Christendom is alive and well. So I come here every day to find answers I hope you have to the one question that colors everything in life for me these days: Now what? That's what this blog has turned out to be for me - now celebrating one year of existence - a place to ask in many different ways this same question.

Two examples:

Politics: I blog about my not voting, my disinterest in either party, Christian abdication of mercy showing and peace making to government programs and military, and my belief in Christian non-violence. I do this because I'm working out what the relationship between Church and state is in a post-Christendom West and what the consequences are to being free finally to pledge allegiance to the Kingdom of God instead of the nation-state. What can we be now that Church and state are divorced and political arguments based on faith fall flat? Christendom is dead. Now what?

Event Driven/Attractional/Spectacle Ministry: In the old Christendom world order in which national history, art history, and church history were one and the same, where else would one go but to the church? We were the financiers and power brokers behind war, art, education and politics. The source of morality and just about everything esle. The church attracted musicians, poets, Caesars and generals to her bed, not only because of her beauty but because of her influence. What are we becoming now that there are more handsome suitors with greater influence elsewhere? What do we do now that the church and anything labeled "Christian" are not attractive to non-Christians? Christendom is dead. Now what?

It's good that Christendom is dead...I think. The support of Christendom by the church forced her to abandon so many of her distinctives and much of her mission. Christendom swelled her ego, fed her vanity. In time she grew fat, lazy, self-absorbed and dumb. She believed she would always be the center of attention and today she gets little. What now?

I think we have many options but three come up most often here at SHLOG.COM and in conversations with my friends in ministry:

1) TAKE BACK OUR COUNTRY: We work hard to be the best and the brightest people in society, enter the arts and politics, dominate with our excellence until we Christians are the primary influencers of "culture" again. We vote, run for office, demand our rights, stomp our feet when we don't get them, legislate non-Christians into Christian behavioral patterns, say often that our nation was founded on Christianity and fight to get back our seat of power beside Caesar. Build the biggest best Christian education system ever. Turn out scientists, lawyers, doctors, teachers, and business men so that the authority and respect and wealth that was once the church's will be hers again.

2) NAH NAH NAH, I'M NOT LISTENING: Stick our fingers in our ears when anyone tells us Christendom is dead and go on believing that non-Christians in physical, emotional, and spiritual need will visit LifeWay stores, listen to Christian radio, watch Christian DVDs, and come to our churches on Sunday morning in search of Jesus.

3) REMEMBER WHERE WE CAME FROM: Quit our addiction to power, influence and wealth cold turkey. Learn to live without the adoration of Caesar, Hollywood, and Johnny Q. Public. Somehow remember what the church believed and how it operated before the Emperor put his arm around her and made her his influential, powerful and wealthy bride. Contextualize this memory to the 21st century and live it out whether powerful and influential or ignored and marginalized.

I'm frozen these days by the number of career/ministry options before me now that I'm no longer contractually obligated to make "Christian" music for Christians and am able, for the first time in my life, to do virtually anything I want to do in its next chapter. I don't think questions about my future ministry/work can be wisely answered without at least wrestling a little with how the death of Christendom affects me and you, if at all. It could make the difference for me between making music or not, preaching or not, ministering to a Christian subculture, or from one, or ignoring it all together, or doing something completely new. Roofing?

Why wrestle here? These kinds of discussions happen often of course at conventions and around conference tables when pastor types get together. And you get left out. Few people who don't go to these meetings or read books by pastors or attend a seminary have ever heard of "Christendom" or of its demise. Now the secret is out. What your captain probably hasn't told you, I just let slip: We sank a few miles back. What do you want to do about it? I know what pastors think; it's you who have something new to add to this conversation.

Now what?

36 Comments:

Blogger Kathryn said...

now what? good question. I don't feel like I'm part of 'the church' because I'm not physically part of one. . long story. . i've talked about it here in the recent past.

I've had to go back to basics with God. . I was on the hamster wheel (in church) for a long time running and running and never stopping. . getting dizzy and just sick - Now I feel like i can breathe and rest and think and listen to God and I have grown. . and I want to keep growing. I actually feel detoxified. . i do. I feel healthier in myself. I feel closer to Him. .

what an apt picture you post here. . . there are ppl at my former church who contact me now and again and ask when i'm coming back and i keep telling them: "It was sinking and I didn't want to drown, so I jumped ship." It wasn't for lack of 'effort' or 'trying' or praying or sticking it out. . it just got to the absolute breaking point and that was that. I thought that it was all over for me spiritually, but I feel like God has picked me up.

maybe its not so bad to start over? I'm reading a book by The Salvation Army's Captain Danielle Strickland "Chaotic Order" you can check out the recommendations on www.armybarmy.com they have an e-store. XLNT book. Its a great antidote for the 'death of Christendom'!!!!!

5/18/2006  
Anonymous Ryan G. said...

How about #4) Forget all of the assumptions.

Forget that we live in a post-modern-Christian era and assume everyone you meet has no clue about God and Jesus.

Forget that there's a church at every corner and assume its our responsibility to spread the good news. (Anyone up for a Lighthouse vs. Powerhouse discussion?)

But it seems like the same solution as #1 in the long run - do everything you can to bring Christendom back.

Is that the goal?

5/18/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

"I don't feel like I'm part of 'the church' because I'm not physically part of one"

More proof of Christendom's death? Even Christians view the physical community called church as non-essential. Even Christians can't be attracted to the event of church.

Before Christendom the concept of a community-less/churchless Christian would have been absurd. In a society set against the Church, every Christian needed church (meeting, eating, learning and serving together) to remember who they were, what is true and to merely survive physically. THe gathering of Christians as the church is what Paul called the "temple of the Holy Spirit" and it was believed that to miss that gathering was to miss out on the fullness of Christ. How different is our modern Christian post-Christendom mindset from that of the early church?

"He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother. If any one could escape who was outside the ark of Noah, then he also may escape who shall be outside of the Church. The Lord warns, saying, 'He who is not with me is against me, and he who gathereth not with me scattereth.' " Cyprian,Unity of the Church,6(A.D. 256),in ANF,V:423

"Those, therefore, who desert the preaching of the Church, call in question the knowledge of the holy presbyters...Now, such are all the heretics, and those who imagine that they have hit upon something more beyond the truth, so that by following those things already mentioned, proceeding on their way variously, in harmoniously, and foolishly, not keeping always to the same opinions with regard to the same things, as blind men are led by the blind, they shall deservedly fall into the ditch of ignorance lying in their path, ever seeking and never finding out the truth. It behoves us, therefore, to avoid their doctrines, and to take careful heed lest we suffer any injury from them; but to flee to the Church, and be brought up in her bosom, and be nourished with the Lord's Scriptures." Irenaeus,Against Heresies,5,20:2(A.D. 180),in ANF,I:548

"[T]hey who are placed without the Church, cannot attain to any understanding of the divine word. For the ship exhibits a type of Church, the word of life placed and preached within which, they who are without, and lie near like barren and useless sands, cannot understand." Hilary of Poitiers,On Matthew,Homily 13:1(A.D. 355),in FOC,I:347

5/18/2006  
Anonymous jwise said...

Shaun,

I've been thinking recently about writing a more lengthy post about the very topic you're discussing -- the death of the "American church". You bring in more church history than I'm planning to, but the general feeling is the same.

I look at some of the things taking place in society around us. Australia and Canada now have laws against hate crimes such as "speaking against homosexuality." I think in less than 10 years, the US will be in the same boat. Pastors will be forced to give up their "official" roles in a "church building" and move to leading in home ministries, or they will have to abandon the absolute message of the gospel. I'm convinced most American pastors will choose the latter. The rest, however, will become stronger.

The Church began with persecution -- being pushed out into society and forced to interact and cling to their faith. I think you've been shown a small glimpse of the present and of the future. The church is dying. The Church is about to start living. Lines are being drawn, and the lukewarm is evaporating just like the middle class.

More when I get time to write all my thoughts.

5/18/2006  
Anonymous Stephen said...

Continuing with that thought, Shaun, here is another of my favorite quotes from Dr Harold Best's Unceasing Worship:

PEOPLE NEED PEOPLE

We were not created to live in compartments. People belong together. We must own up to this fact about humanity even before we consider the scriptural examples and instructions about Christians meeting together. If I go to a baseball game, I want to be with my grandchildren or my buddies or my associates. The more crowded the ballpark, the greater my delight and the more I soak up the warmth of this communal cacophony called a baseball game. There I am, caught up in the colors, the smells, the cheers and jeers. Why do we have clubs and quilting bees, cookouts and beach parties, other than to do something in each other's company?

Put the Lord Jesus and his gospel into this natural urgency for company, and we have the body of Christ eagerly seeking times and places to be together. Mutual indwelling demands company. Continuous outpouring demands fellowship. The corporate assembly is where love and mutual indwelling congregate; it is where believers have each other within eye-and earshot, within kindly embrace. If there were no such things as church buildings and regularly scheduled services, Christians would, out of necessity, seek each other out for the sheer pleasure of finding Christ in each other, hearing different stories about his work in them, enjoying the ordinary and the exceptional, and perhaps only then gathering around what we call a liturgy. In such a gathering there would be little need at some point to say, "Now let us worship," because no one would be able to locate the dividing line between "now" and "always."

Christ in us demands that each of us seek out who the rest of us are. It means realizing that we actually have each other, that we are already at one with each other, greeting each other, blessing each other, settling on acceptable ways to express ourselves to God's glory. Then we craft these into a liturgy, knowing that it is at best a passing reference to the one who abides from the eternities and lights our path wherever we walk. If we were to concentrate more on the sheer joy of getting together on a Sunday - people made holy, people yet to be made holy and people not sure of the difference, all banded together around the Lord - we would then more fully understand the depth and width of "the communion of the saints" in the Apostles' Creed.

5/18/2006  
Blogger Davidge said...

Christendom is dead. It would not be BENEFICIAL TO THE GOSPLE to pretend that it is still alive. Getting to be the best again, "cue Bono", is almost an option, but those in power for the power itself are often easily corrupted, Christian or not. So the third option is what we are left with:
REMEMBER WHERE WE CAME FROM: Quit our addiction to power, influence, and wealth cold turkey. Learn to live without the adoration of Caesar, Hollywood, and Johnny Q. Public. Somehow remember what the church believed and how it operated before the Emperor put his arm around her and made her his influential, powerful and wealthy bride. Contextualize this memory to the 21st century and live it out whether powerful and influential or ignored and marginalized.
The fact is, if we DID live this out, live our lives like the church of Acts, we would see people flocking to us. we would be ELEVATED to power, without the intention of recieving it. Christ did not want the 'power' of this world, though he could have taken it easily.instead he was MEEK. He used his power graciously and generously, and always for the good of others. As Christians, we have the power of Christ. He has got our back. there are people of this world that have healed the blind and lame! not by any power of their own, but because CHRIST does the healing. they are just the tool. When we seek and follow God's will, there is NOTHING that can hold us back!
So the 'power' that we seek, is the privelidge, and the blessing, that comes with being a tool of the Lord's work. His hands. To do His will. His Feet. To go wherever He sends us. And then we will not have to worry about power, for the world will not convert to kneel to us, but convert to kneel beside us, and to The Father.

'...but that's just my thoughts'
~David

5/18/2006  
Blogger Hale-Yeah! said...

i think, now more than ever, we need to strengthen our community of believers. i admit, that it is often easier to build community in the blog world than in the real world. with 5 minutes time, you can read what is going on in someone else's life, respond, and tell them about yours. amazing. I heard a quote once from graham kendrick saying something to the effect of, "if we (christians) learned how to worship properly, we wouldn't need to formerly evangelize." pretty profound, i thought. not that we will ever be perfect, but if we all loved God with all our heart, we would love others and live right.

5/18/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1 Corintians 13. That doens't seem all that deep. Let's just do that.

b

5/18/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

b = brody or brant?

5/18/2006  
Blogger Chaotic Hammer said...

Shaun - So far nobody has stepped up to express a sentiment similar to mine here, so I'll give it a try.

Using your "three options" offered, I'm believe I'm currently living something like this:

Strive for 3, applying those ideals to daily life and to the important relationships closest to us, but engage in 1 as a pragmatic approach to the current larger world around us. I know that sounds like a recipe for compromise, and maybe I'm missing something.

We do live in a system here in America where our involvement in political and social systems can directly and tangibly affect the very culture we encounter when we step out into public. Would we be more effective in discipling people and effecting change in lives around us if we were so disengaged from the system that when we stepped outside our doors, we were faced with billboards showing vile pornography, gross lasciviousness on display, and every sort of vulgar affection glorified? If the clear benefits of home schooling, which have become a powerful tool for Christian parents to train up their children in the way they should go as the scriptures direct, were taken away by legislative decisions, how would that benefit the Lord's cause in the lives of those children?

I say that we approach this system pragmatically -- not believing that the Kingdom of God is somehow ultimately advanced by the kingdom of Caesar, and not with a lot of passion and eager expectation that Caesar and the other power structures are best to make the changes that are only made by one-on-one relationships, but so that the general tone of the culture and environment in which we live and raise our families at least becomes a reflection of our values, rather than a ferocious opponent.

I don't have to put any trust into Caesar, or have any expectations that he should mingle with my business of doing the Lord's work -- but that doesn't mean there's error in trying to create a favorable culture to allow freedoms and opportunities to continue, does it?

I know that there are many people in the 1 camp who are taking it much further than I describe, and maybe you're addressing them more than someone like me. There are people who passionately believe that, and are working hard to "make America a Christian nation again". I realize that. There are also issues like the War in Iraq, and being a member of the U.S. military, that will potentially bring these two ideas into direct opposition. Will you obey Caesar's orders to kill people, or God's orders to love people? And I know that we then get back to the "Pacifism vs. Just War" thing that has been debated here before.

Do you see these two ideas (#1 and #3), the way that I am talking about living them in my life, as mutually exclusive? Maybe I'm missing a point here and focusing on the wrong things.

5/18/2006  
Blogger Brody Harper said...

b = brody this time, not sure if that was wordy enough to be brant.

5/18/2006  
Blogger Seth Ward said...

I agree that the church is no longer perceived as central to society and culture, good Lord it has become synonymous with all thing cheeze, but the Chruch acting as an attractional mode, I think the Protestant church in America is just getting fired up.

As far as this goes is seems the past 10 years has seen Constantinianism increase and Christendom in its classical definition has gotten stronger and at least attempting to be more attractive. Of course, I do live in a City where mega-churches are the rave, so local Polititicans, Judges, High-Powered Lawyers rub shoulders and play Golf with our most High-Profile Pastors. Pastors resemble corporate gurus just like Bishops and Popes were on par with Emperors and Govenors thanks to Constantine.

Second Baptist (and NO offense meant to this Church,) has billboards plastered up with the logo "Come Home" still adhering to that second charachteristic, "2)the church operated primarily in an "attractional" mode, meaning that the church expected non-Christians to come to the church." We build our Christian Schools inside the walls of the Church, coffiee shops, Yoga Classes, Christ centered Karate, etc. all in attempt to lure members.

The Protestant Church in America has fused corporate savoy and influence to do what the Christians did in Classic Christendom. Things that don't "sell" or test well are removed to become more attractive. Olsteen, took down the symbol of the Cross and other common Christian smybols (they still have a dove I believe) to attract a broader audience.

What do you think?

5/18/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

What's the question?

5/18/2006  
Blogger Seth Ward said...

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll tootsie pop?

sorry, my original question really needs to be rephrased or actually just phrased would be good.

Do you think I am off? Am I misunderstanding something about the Death of Christendom or Constantinianism in America? This is some new territory for me so I am trying to put it together.

You stated that the second most notable characteristic of C. was" 2)the church operated primarily in an "attractional" mode, meaning that the church expected non-Christians to come to the church."

I am saying that it seems it is still operating that way but in a different context i.e. the corporate infrastructure and marketing characteristics the Evangelical Protestant Churches in America have adapted. They all seem to function for the purpose of "attracting" people.

5/18/2006  
Anonymous Miss Munky said...

Shaun,
RE: your response to Kathryn...
I didn't sign on here today for conviction man!

I left church a couple of months ago when I realized that my focus was on the church and off of Jesus.
I felt nothing in that building, nothing during worship or teaching...NOTHING. So I left.
I sought Him and His forgiveness and now feel called back to the church. I just don't ever want to make that mistake again, I am determined to keep my focus this time.
I can't tell the difference between the world and the church sometimes. That's where I lost my focus...looking around instead of up.
I get wanting the church to be "cooler", but maybe our defenition of cool needs to change.

5/18/2006  
Anonymous Miss Munky said...

Debra,
I just read your comment, sorry I'm bad about skimming them...
Asking questions is the only way to learn. I'm sorry no one has had the answers you are looking for yet, but that doesn't mean you should stop asking. I am the worst about going to people to get my answers and comfort instead of going to the Lord...the only one with the real answers and the real comfort we need.
I'm praying for you.
(((hugs)))
Trish

5/18/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Do you guys think the only options are the three I listed? There are many many more. And, I wonder if the answer isn't bound to be a combination of two or more things currently being tried.

5/18/2006  
Blogger Brody Harper said...

perhaps i should clarify:

I believe that there are several ways and "tactics" to a sucessful ministry. I believe there are several ways to have effective "church". I also think there is a common element that must be present, and that element (i believe) is found in 1 Corinthians 13. If every believer were to truly love like we are called to do, the "church" would be a desirable place to be. Would it be attractive? Yes. Would it be powerful? Yes. Would it be relevant? Yes. I don't know how possible it is for that to actually happen, but I think above every other action, Christians must love. Beyond that I think there has to be a combination of things that make a strong ministry.

(1)Should we "take back our country"? Absolutely. I think it should be the desire of every Christian to strive to be the best at what they do. In our lifetimes Christian "products" have always been second rate. We want to be cool and "with the times" so we make crappy t-shirts that say "Lost" on them and pretend they are from a popular T.V. show. That is not taking back our country. That is being druug by the crative nose by a fallen world. God created art and music and we (the modern church) have screwed it up so bad that all we can do is copy what Carson Daly says is cool. That to me needs to change.

(2)I think people will continue to search. The problem with that one is that there are now so many watered down versions of everything. One could search an entire lifetime and still never find truth. The struggle for the Church is to be there when they are asking. To cause people to question and seek, and be prepared to asnswer those questions. I believe that goes back to loving people though. If I love people, they will wonder why, as it is so uncommon in America today.

One thing that jumped out to me Shaun was this:

"I'm no longer contractually obligated to make "Christian" music for Christians and am able, for the first time..."

Were you ever contractually obligated to make music "for Christians"? Has the art that we are talking about in example (1) ever been obligated to Christians? Did God ever design art/music/poetry ect. to be exclusive? Or was it created to glorify Him? You know more about what your label was asking you to write than I do, but where in history did art adopt that Christian genre? I have never liked that, I have never agreed with it and I can't see that you have either. Where did it turn into making things "for Christians" and away from making things "for God"? I think if we traced that back to where it started we may see Christendom with a mere cold, but far from dying.

Your thoughts?

5/18/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Brody asked, "Were you ever contractually obligated to make music "for Christians"?"

Brody, you, of all people, being in the employment at one time of a massively popular "Christian artist" know what I meant by this. But I'll try to clarify. ; )

Christian music defined by what it is today in reality and not by what we'd like it to be or what whomever says it should be is this: Music made by Christians for consumption by Christians.

That's what I signed up for, and for good reason. I'm a Christian. I'm a teacher at heart. I believe there are simple things I learned along the way that could inspire and educate and help other Christians. I put those in songs.

We never ask do we why pastors are speaking to Christians and not just speaking to God? I've a pastor with a guitar on. I don't think everyone in the CCM biz is or should be, but I am. Whatever the other artists in CCM are they will be disillusioned soon and often if they signed a contract believing they were making music for anyone BUT Christians. Again, we can argue what whomever thinks CCM should be but this is what it IS. SIgning a contract with Rocketown, Essential, Sparrow, or whomever means making music for Christians. Deviating from that agenda means failure and getting dropped after record one by said label. Ask Chasing Furies, Silage, Honey, Taylor Sorenson and a host of others.

Seriously, good question.

Now, if I wanted to, I could be 10% teaching in music made for a broader audience - say distributed free through this blog - and 90% teaching through books and pastoring and other speaking gigs. The remaining percentages would be mostly nougat.

SG

5/18/2006  
Blogger anonwriter said...

I think option three: remembering where we came from is the option that is strongest and most influential over other options (such as option one). We need to quit thinking about the Bible in relation to modern culture and just love the Bible as a stand alone standard. Shaun said that "In a society set against the Church, every Christian needed church (meeting, eating, learning and serving together) to remember who they were, what is true and to merely survive physically. The gathering of Christians as the church is what Paul called the "temple of the Holy Spirit" and it was believed that to miss that gathering was to miss out on the fullness of Christ" and that definitely lines up with the Bible and should be pursued even though it has the appearance of being rather out of reach currently. It would be nice if the church was sort of like the mall in the respect that it is always someplace to go and find something to do with yourself and your friends and to meet new people whenever you feel like it/have the opportunity. People have such bizarre work schedules, class schedules, ect, it would be nice to be able stop by church and meet with who is there and do some kind of service for the community whenever the opportunity is open. I don't know how feasible that is for the church to do, but it would be cool nonetheless and be a step toward community and working together.

5/18/2006  
Blogger Brody Harper said...

Shaun.
Of course, me of all people understand some of the games that are played in the Christian music industry. My point in taking your tiny quote (possibly out of context) was simply to pose the question:

Throughout history when was there ever a time that art was created for a specific (religious) group of people?

I understand that record companies have to decide whom they are marketing to, and whom they SHOULD be marketing to, but was that the case in the age of the early church? Honestly I don't know. Obviously there were no record companies, but there was music/art/poetry ect. Was that music created for the culture, or was it created for a smaller "sub-culture"? When was the time where we started having to create things "for Christians"? I am just wondering if that mentality has anything to do with the death of Christendom.
You know (I hope) that I wasn't calling you out personally. (If you feel that way you can beat me up tomorrow).

5/18/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Brody...

"Throughout history when was there ever a time that art was created for a specific (religious) group of people? "

During Christendom's height when the Catholic church funded art and all of society was considered under the reign of the Church, therefore Christian. The nation was called "Christian" - Holy Empire, therefore the arts cranked about by artists, funded by the church, were for the Church. For the Catholic church's purposes and for a society deemed to be holy. That's at least one time in history when art by Christians (IF those artists were truly Christians) was made for Christians (IF those citizens were truly Christians).

Icons were made by the early church for the purpose of meditation on the character of God. I do not know if artisans made what you and I would call "art" today - since the word did not exist then in their culture as we use it now - for a non-Christian audience. Were Paul's tents art? Do they count?

I don't know the answer to your last question. I think thinking non-Christians will listen to Christians radio is VERY Christendom-ish. Making music only for Christians, to me, isn't all that unlike a pastor choosing to orate only for Christians on SUnday morning. I don't know how that relates to Christendom. Let me think.

I get where you're coming form now. Good questions.

5/19/2006  
Blogger Kathryn said...

miss munky:

my church, i can't take the time now to explain. . it is a sick place, very ill. . it was not about me 'feeling' nothing. . it was about some really bad stuff going on there. .

I'm glad you went back to yours. You're right - the focus is on Jesus, up not around. .

5/19/2006  
Anonymous miss munky said...

kathryn,
I can't go back to that church, too many distractions...
For now we are "hiding out" (licking our wounds I guess...maybe benchwarming is a better term LOL!) in a church too big to care what is going on around us. Does that make any sense?
The church we were in before was the only church I'd ever been a part of and we were there for 5 years. I won't go into detail, but will just say that my eyes were opened to the behind the scenes ugliness that can happen (hopefully doesn't always happen) in ministry. I am learning not to base my faith on "feelings" or what other Christians say or do. Those things fail us every time.
Now I'm feeling (oh, there's that word again) led to really to get back in there and be a functioning part of a church again. I figure I might get hurt again, but what relationship other doesn't hurt once in a while?
I look at it like building muscle...
From what I understand, exercising tears the muscle just slightly and it repairs itself and gets bigger and stronger.
Now don't quote me on that, I'm just thinking outloud here.
I will pray for you kathryn.
Blessings,
Trish

5/19/2006  
Anonymous miss munky said...

crud, don't you people have an edit button around here anywhere?!

That part where I said:
"but what realtionship OTHER doesn't hurt once in a while?"

I was going to say "other than with Jesus..." but changed my mind because there have been times that my relationship with Jesus hurt very much.
Not because He hurt me, but rather because He allowed things to happen that hurt me, or He convicted me and of course that's never pleasant.

Sorry, just wanted to clarify.

5/19/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

I've been at my current church for 10 years. There's plenty not to like there. There always will be. But my devotion is to a group of people I know for the most part love God. SOme of them even love me too. And so, whatever changes happen, I stick. It's not a service to me. It's a place to serve and celebrate and mourn and learn and have a great time and pick fights and say I'm sorry and be forgiven and...You get the idea. It's never ideal. But I'm not either.

SUrely, even when church people or even pastors screw up and slice us open in the process there is reason to either stay and make peace and forgive and confront or there are other churches to attend and commit to again. This is America, not Siberia. There are 2500 Protestant churches in Nashville alone. If mine spins off into child sacrifice or orgy worship I've got options. When minor inconveniences and differences of opinion occur I've got a duty to talk one on one with leaders, make peace, be rational and kind, and try to focus on what is important and not on my own wishes and felt needs.

Problem I had in life up to college was figuring out what was "important" or "central" and therefore worth bringing up or leaving over. I think very little people leave church over these days is central. Some central issues for me would be...

the divinity of Christ
salvation is a gift and not earned
the existence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit

And the list doesn't go far beyond that. My church is patriotic. They stopped a service to broadcast live the capture of Sadaam. I thought that was bogus but it's not central so I stayed. They mixed patriotism and worship of God heavily at times when this war began but, again, not central so I stayed. We pay preschool workers. Not best in my opinion to expect so little of members but not central. I stayed. They sing songs I don't like. Not central. My pastor has made interpretation mistakes from the pulpit, but not on central issues, so I stayed. etc etc etc.

Regardless of why we're not in church - and there are GREAT reasons to leave one - we can't recover from bad church alone. We need another church to help us recover. If church is not seen as central to even a Christian who loves God deeply then Christendom truly is dead in America. Church and church are central to the imitation of Christ, the understanding of Him and communication about Him to the world.

SG

5/19/2006  
Anonymous miss munky said...

Well, Mr. Groves I cannot and will not argue with you. You make good, valid points on all fronts here.
Thanks for giving me something to think about.

5/19/2006  
Blogger Kathryn said...

thank you for praying for me, Trish. I will pray for you too.

I want to belong to a church. . i've been scarred -- but i've learned in the process.

Debra. .i know this is Shaun's blog and not mine. .so i hope i'm not overstepping here? but it sounds like you're having a rough time. . so sorry. I'll keep you and your family in my prayers, ok?

5/19/2006  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

A major central issue was the reason my family left a church in England. It's the only time we've ever left a church and it hurt like nothing I've ever experienced before. It took us a full year to go looking for another church. We home-churched with 6-8 other families who left the same time we did. We left because our pastor (who'd been in place all of 6 months, and was deceptive to get the job) outright lied to the congregation on more than one occassion and then made an arbritrary decision (contrary to church constitution) that all prospective members would have to sign a statement of unquestioned allegience to HIM in order to maintain their membership. Needless to say we ran for the door after meeting with him privately on two occassions where he lied again on several points. 80% of the membership left within two weeks, yet he still managed to stay. He's STILL there as far as we know.

Our church is in the middle of a MAJOR rewrite of our current constitution, which completely changes the way we will govern church matters. The new constitution is models Biblical standard and qualifications more (not that the current one is wrong necessarily) and I know there will be some very heavy discussions concerning this. Our first meeting is this Sunday evening. Prayers appreciated!

Beth

5/19/2006  
Anonymous Kim Adam said...

Shaun,

This is Kim. I saw you at your show in Shoreview.

You got me thinking and all stive to leave a short thought.

I think Christian or what I like to think of it as Jesus Christ centered music is for Christians overall, yes.

I listen to mostly all "Christian" Christ centered music but on the sabbath day strive to make sure that is all I listen to ie. Hymns, church music...

I look at music alot like the church. Even what is going on around you as in more premartial sex, more drugs, more homosexual relationships, should not make you dumb down or talk down or change.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

By their fruits you shall know them.

Also Ephesians chapter 4 verses 4-16

vs 14 of that is : That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to decieve.

I realize Christ centered music is different but I can see how the labels want to keep groups that music is Christian as that is how they are set up or should as their are other labels and independent ways to go otherwise.

Choices are there.

We as the body of Christ need to share the christian music or our chuch or the divinity of Jesus Christ with all others.

We need to spend the time with them and help them in their walk.

I feel music is from God and is crucial and very much enhancing or relationship with Jesus Christ and learning.

As with my church we have essentials classes in the gospels focusing on what we should all know and learn.. ie baptism, faith in Christ, sabbath day, and so many others.

Just like in Christian churches we are not known unless we get the word out and share what we know is true so is it with Christian music.

Ive talked to many that were not raised in a church and just do not know what Christian music is and we are there to teach and help them be blessed.

Lastly music has changed so much since rap became more mainstream and with more acceptance of hardcore music and with internet and such.

Due to that I feel Christian or Christ centered music is more out on an island now and makes more of a difference than it ever has.

Look at what was Top 40 popular or most played music now than 10 years, 25 years 40 years.

Life and music is a changing but Jesus Christ will never change!

Remember Christ is not church on Sunday but is our life. That means all we do and choose to do.

Yes there is alot of good music out there and Christian music is just one part that we atleast need at a minumium with other music we would not be afraid to listen to with anyone we know.

KIM Adam
Minnesota

5/19/2006  
Blogger Kathryn said...

Beth - you've been through some rough stuff too! I'll pray for you!!

5/19/2006  
Blogger Clare said...

I don't want a return to Christendom. It sounds like some sort of Christian dictatorship. I don't like the assumption that the Christian way is always the right way to do everything. I think there is often a lot of value in secular approaches and those of other faiths, and there is often a lot of pain caused in the name of Christianity.

So here is my option:
4) we don't try to revive Christendom instead we try and move closer and closer to understanding and discussing with everyone, people of all faiths and none. We see what we can learn from each other when we stop trying to convert each other.
My bet is that we would get closer to 'heaven on earth' that way, than we would through any mass Christian conversion.

5/20/2006  
Anonymous Mark said...

I couldn't agree more with Clare - the separation of Church from the State is crucial to our future as a country that is succesful and respected in the world. We have chosen to undertake wars that have religious subtext and its not for the positive. We've pushed to influence documented and accepted scientific beliefs with religious stories (contrary to countries with a dominance of one particular religion). We're moving backwards with all of these actions - and to suggest that one influence all other members of a country with a subset of society's chosen religion (or at minimum its beliefs) would clearly make this country the pot calling the kettle black.

5/21/2006  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

I guess some people will never get it, but that won't stop me from praying anyway. God is bigger than me for sure and also bigger than any idiologies, thoughts, sciences, or actions human beings could ever muster.

Why is our success as a nation hinged on being respected by the rest of the world? Is that what we should be basing our gauge of success upon? Where does Christ ever tell us that to be respected by the world is what Christians should be striving for? Yes, we should live a life worthy of respect; but not because the world determines what that is and certainly not for any temporal glory it may seemingly provide. Our only goal on this planet should be to bring glory to Christ and help everyone to come to know Christ as Lord and Savior.

"Documenting" and "accepting" scientific beliefs in no way make them true. If you're speaking of evolution for instance, there is, and never has been any OBSERVED, REPRODUCABLE, evidence of it; yet many, many are swayed by the ferver behind the falicy. It's a bigger religion than it's followers are willing to admit and requires a heck of a lot more faith.

Yes, I know I'll catch some flack for my statements, but that's OK. It doesn't make them any less true or revelant. Narrow is The Way, and steep is the path.

Beth

5/22/2006  
Anonymous mark said...

I won't get it because I was raised in a religion other than one that centers around Christ. Yet I was also raised in the US. What I don't get and don't think I ever will - is why so many people believe its acceptable to impose Christendom beliefs upon all citizens of the country. Lets legislate and impose order as citizens disregarding religion. How you behave daily (should it not be against the law) is your choice - follow whatever additional beliefs you like. But don't impose them on me. Disciple someone else please and do it privately without the help of the government.

5/25/2006  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

I agree. I just don't want the ability to practice my faith, share it openly (not FORCING it upon someone), display the symbols pertaining to it, and not be persecuted or prosecuted for doing so. The flavor of the day in the legislative camps is that anything that is anti-Christian, or further chips away at our religious freedoms, is good, and Christians are the minority and should be silenced. The problem is we all want our cake and eat it too. We want the feel good, no responsibility, what's in it for me, religion. It doesn't exist.

Beth

5/25/2006  

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