Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Revolution: 5 Years Later

You have to give George Barna credit. He may not be the creator of trends within the wider evangelical church, but he is certainly an early reporter (and frequently cheerleader) of them. Five years ago, in his book Revolution, Barna reported (and cheered for) the phenomenon of self-identified born again people leaving the local church for something else. The book caused quite a stir, mostly because it put a name to a trend that lots of pastors had been seeing all over the country, of people who desired a sort of customized spirituality, devoid of the preaching of God's Word and the possibly uncomfortable parts of living in a community composed of fallen sinners like oneself, light on commitment and sacrifice, but heavy on ideas like being missional, emerging, serving the poor, and "being the church."

Five years on and it seems that revolution is deader than the leisure suit. The Emergent/emerging church is dead. It is now buried under the weight of its own pretentiousness, pseudo-intellectualism, and fundamental unwillingness to actually commit to anything larger than feeling coolly superior to the rest of us benighted members of traditional churches. Even the die-hards among them are starting to realize that two guys having coffee at Starbucks or drinking dark, boutique beer while talking about Jesus and how cool they are doesn't make for much in the way of lasting spirituality.

But what I find distressing is this idea, of a customizable, "feel good about yourself for doing good deeds while not being part of a real local church" version of Christian spirituality retains its appeal for a lot of people. Perhaps it's because we live in the post-iPhone world, such that people now think that all of life should consist of a series of infinitely customizable "apps" and that the local church is an "app" which as as obsolete as Windows 3.1. But whatever the reason, I think that people who take that approach to the Christian life are in serious danger. For the Christianity of the Bible is not one which adapts to suit personal preferences or which it is possible to faithfully live in isolation from the church. Moreover, "being the church" is simply not possible without "going to church," any more than it is possible to consider yourself married to someone with whom you do not live.

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