Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life religious landscape survey made front-page news across the nation this week and appeared in several of the websites, blogs and papers I read.
Perhaps most significant is that mainline denominational groups are dieing, loosing members at alarming rates. In the mean time non-denominational church are the ones growing.
Americans no longer are just "Baptists" or "Methodists" 'cause granddad was. 44% say they are not tied to the church of their childhood. Did you hear that? 44%!
They are looking for authentic religion and see the hierarchy and layers of nonsensical traditions as nothing more than burdens - foolish ones at that.
I haven't heard news this good since visiting Russia in the mid-80's. Folks, churches of Christ, if we will be what we our plea claims are positioned to grow like NEVER before. We have the opportunity to become more relevant than in generations. Or not.
It's heartrending that in the very moment when people are flocking to non-denominational churches (and yes, I know all that implies) it seems some in our fellowship are running helter-skelter toward denominationalism. They are mimicking the denominational world as they jettison, ignore and refuse to discuss the things that are of priority, like the authority of the scriptures in worship, church polity and the singular nature of the church. I want to ask the most radical of them "Do you still even believe the Scriptures or has the latest "trend" become your 'Bible'?" They belittle the past and make jest of men who's heart's desire was to speak God's Word clearly. They pretend to have it all figured out - oftentimes hiding behind a degree from some prestigious seminary or school of theology (where often the teachers themselves do not even believe in the inspiration of the Scriptures). And those who follow these folks often do it for the smooth speech and sharp intellect of these or because of the ineptitude of the "right".
Just as deflating, some of our right leaning brethren seem to want to denominationalize the church by setting a prescribed agenda based on reliving glory days of old. They have deified the past as surely as the other have change. If it is a method and it works, embrace it. If it is a matter of opinion leave it in that realm. Don't judge brothers over matters of opinion nor shut doors just because the congregation you worship at is not going to embrace a practice (even if you think it an unwise one) decides to in a matter of judgment. Some of you are making easy sport of our brotherhood and I'm tempted to question if you sincerely love the brotherhood (remember that's a command). The word for those who cut brethren off over matters of opinion is "legalists". And Jesus had no words more harsh than to those who made laws over and above God's Law. How crazy when some in our brotherhood are going to far to push over the edge a brother or group for some matter of judgment. Are you too a know-it-all? Don't make sport of striking off brothers and sisters who are tying to do right!
I love my brethren on both sides of these issues, and I fear the very words written here will not serve their intent but would only cause those angry or misunderstanding. But brethren, let us not rend the church of our Lord in a time of great opportunity. Let's not shut doors that are opening and create a negative imagine for Her over our pet agendas and/or preferences.
What a time to live in - let's not squander it! Reach out with the love of the Lord in His joy with His good news. If someone is trying to break from traditions of men, getting closer to the Word of God...applaud the good. Commend the desire and effort.
Non-denominational Christianity, who'd ever thought it'd work? Well, other than God.