Ten years ago or so I had developed a talk that I gave at churches and conferences titled “Designer Faith.” The basic idea was that more and more people were developing a personalized faith which mixed and matched of various religions and worldviews in order to create a personalized “spirituality.” What was true was not the primary question, after all absolute truth had largely been abandoned and relative truth took center stage. What felt good and seemed most functional to make one “feel” spiritual was all that mattered. This was progressively becoming as true within the church as outside of the church. Although most churches have a statement of faith, less time is devoted to teaching why various positions are included in this statement and consequently church members are left to more freely abandon the core of the faith since they have no investment in understanding it. The consequences of this became apparent in the year 2000 when we (MCOI) reveled that weight loss guru, Gwen Shamblin (whose course was in over 30,000 churches across 60 denominations) was Weighed Down With False Doctrine. The first and foremost was her denial of the deity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity. It seems the situation has not improved and has perhaps deteriorated as we see from a national radio talk show where Bible ‘expert’ proclaims: Jesus is not God – Says most Christians wrong about divinity by misinterpreting Scripture. Incidences like this appear to be becoming more the rule than the exception these days as George Barna notes in his latest survey Christianity Is No Longer Americans’ Default Faith. Demonstrating the growing trend of designing one’s personalized faith, even in churches, Barnas notes:
Evidence of people’s willingness to part with church teaching was shown in other data from the survey regarding what people believe. Among individuals who describe themselves as Christian, for instance, close to half believe that Satan does not exist, one-third contend that Jesus sinned while He was on earth, two-fifths say they do not have a responsibility to share the Christian faith with others, and one-quarter dismiss the idea that the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches
If churches are merely human institutions whose statements of faith are collections of ideas on which the member generally agree this might all be fine. However, if the Scriptures are indeed inspired and infallible in its original writings, this isn’t an option. Either Jesus was the sinless redeemer or He was a sinner with no ability to gain us peace with God through His atoning death. Either Satan is a real being that exists or He isn’t. “Whatever” isn’t an option.
Most churches assume it’s members understand, can defend and articulates its core beliefs. They cannot. In the time when Christianity was the default faith, this was less important perhaps. Starting from the point of the death, burial and resurrection, which was generally accepted as true, the gospel could easily be proclaimed. Today. With the passing of Christianity being the default religions, when challenged in the public square, believers tend to either become combative or quiet and seek the nearest exit from the situation.
Many are calling for a reshaping of the church and I thought I would throw in my novel idea for consideration. Perhaps we could look to the Scripture. I know, that is a bit antiquated but age is not necessarily a bad thing. The early church saw itself as a mission organization preparing and training its people to be missionaries in the pagan culture where they lived. They could argue and debate with the philosophers about the philosophies of the day to demonstrate that the claims of Jesus were true and validated by the resurrection whereas competing claims were false.
This seems simple enough on the face of it but many pastors and churches are already geared a certain way and making dramatic changes could cause a sort of spiritual whiplash for them and the congregation. In this age of hiring “professionals” or “professional consultants” a way to begin addressing this dilemma would be for several area churches to unite together to hire a trained apologist. They could teach and disciple of issues essential to the faith and recuse themselves on the important but secondary issues of denominational differences. They can role play and demonstrate how a defense of the faith can be used in a way to expose to the light of day someone’s false beliefs and challenge their false worldview in order to make a case for the gospel.
I know, I know. The early church had no money, no political clout, no buildings or publishing houses and armed were armed with little more than a conviction of their belief in the resurrected Savior, their missionary mindset and zeal to challenge the cultural thinking, ability to expose false teaching and false teachers. All they seemd to be able to do with their dependence on God and His word was to turn the world upside down. The church has now discovered better marketing techniques, has money, political clout and publishing and media concerns. It too is turning something upside down but it doesn’t seem to be the culture.