Our Decision, Our Opportunity

By Mark A. Taylor

Some in Christian churches and churches of Christ are worried about the future of our movement.

Others aren’t thinking about our movement much at all—its past or its future.

But regardless of whether we’re fretting or forgetting about our future, it is still before us, and we ignore it at our peril.

“The future doesn’t care if you believe in it,” says marketing guru and entrepreneur Seth Godin. Godin tells his audiences they can invent their own future. Part of that process involves looking carefully at what’s happening now. Some trends to consider:

Denominationalism is dead. Mainline churches are declining, and many growing Evangelical churches are not affiliated with any organized denomination.

This parallels a lack of institutional loyalty in our culture at large and has permeated the thinking of many in our churches. They are rejecting anything that smacks of sectarianism, whether they see it among Baptists or at the North American Christian Convention.

At a conference of emerging Christian church leaders this winter, more than one said, “We want to be a movement of restoration more than ‘the Restoration Movement.’”

Association is free. This means many Christian churches and their leaders are working closely with folks outside our group. This is true not only among local congregations but in many of our institutions as well. Two examples:

• Four of the colleges listed in our annual Christian college summary (March 13) report 20 percent or less of their student body is from Restoration Movement churches. For five more the figure is below half.

• Many would say the best conference sponsored by Christian church folks is Exponential. Previously the National New Church Conference, with annual attendance of about 300, the event now welcomes 5,000. The platform and the registration list are filled with the names of Evangelicals with no connection to Christian churches. The conference ignores questions of denominational influence while one Christian church guy makes it happen.

The question is changing from “What do you believe?” to “What are you doing?” This doesn’t mean today’s church leaders no longer believe anything. Most of them hold firmly to the deity of Christ, the authority of the Scriptures, and the efficacy of baptism. But correct doctrine isn’t their first discussion; crucial to them is correct practice: How are we living out the gospel and offering God’s hope to our world? Is ours a good church for the community as well as in the community?

Whether or not we feel comfortable with trends like these, we can’t pretend they’re not with us. Our decision—our opportunity—is to respond to such changes and make a brighter future for the Lord’s work in our world.

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6 Comments

  1. June 9, 2011 at 10:02 am

    “What are you doing?” is a good question. I would imagine that an equal question that is necessary is “Why are you doing it?” I am glad to be an individual who has entered the ministry along side of other people who are recognizing that the fences that have been part of this movement need to be demolished. There is an emerging recognition that the Holy Spirit is far more trustworthy than our movement has recognized in previous generations. I don’t think we are “melting down” I believe we are being refined in refiner’s fire. I for one, enjoy the pain involved with the purification. You can’t have one without the other.

  2. Al Edmonds
    June 10, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    I was astonished when I attended graduation at KCU a few weeks ago; I asked a graduating senior about the Restoration Movement. She hadn’t a clue. I asked her, isn’t Restoration History required? Answer “No” [I am sure her thought was, . . . what is he talking about?]. So although 10 Bible/religion courses are required, Restoration History is not. Very strange. Almost as strange as a Bible college becoming a Christian university, and then dropping the name “Christian” . . . Our movement is dead. Only the older folks remember and care. The rest? And don’t assume that the New Order believe in the same doctrine that the Christian churches and churches of Christ have viewed as foundational. Many of “our” megachurches hire staff from non Restoration Movement backgrounds. And church planting organizations like Stadia have already done the same. So I guess Baptism is irrelevant now, as is following the Word of God.

  3. Bob
    June 15, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    I’m not so sure I think the future of “our movement” is all that important. What is important is spreading the Gospel. I don’t think God cares about “our movemnet” either. He will bless our work if we are doing the work that he wants us to do and that may lead to the continuation of our movement. I think we should focus on spreading the Gospel and making Disciples and let the rest take care of itself. If we worry about “our movement” we will take our focus of Christ. It is the same as our individual lives — we are not to focus on ourselves. We are to focus on Jesus.

  4. Donald Isenberg
    June 26, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    I mentioned Mark Taylor in a recent email, and looked for an email address to keep him informed. That was in reference to this article and the larger subject of Emergent. I’ll paste the body of that email. Dear SS Teacher, “I was thinking of Romans 3:4b “let God be true but every man a liar,” and the emergent situation. Brian McLaren was the only emergent leader mentioned by name in the Christian Standard article “Emergent for the Rest of Us” by Josh Tandy last December. I’m recommending Sandy Simpson’s article “The Emergent Church – Introducing Heresies http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/echereticalteachings.pdf.” It is 32 pages. Sandy has about 40 quotes by Brian McLaren, and about 42 quotes by other emergent leaders, with Leonard Sweet being the main part of those. “Erwin McManus, another emergent leader and pastor of Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, CA, says it is his goal to “destroy Christianity as a world religion and be a recatalyst for the movement of Jesus Christ.”‘ “What McManus is proposing is another “world religion” that is not based on Christianity but based on Kingdom Now principles.” To compromise or indicate agreement with emergent is wrong. I’ll use a few Brian McLaren (B McL) quotes to show how serious an error that is. B McL has endorsed Steve Chalke’s book “The Lost Message Of Jesus,” by saying “Steve Chalke’s new book could help save Jesus from Christianity.” B McL says “Our understanding of the gospel constantly change,” and “I don’t think we’ve got the gospel right yet.” Consider this B McL quote in contrast to Acts 4:12: “so wouldn’t it be better to just talk about Jesus as one among many, rather than lift Him up as some extraordinary example. Because by doing that we create, we perpetuate this Christian elitism and exclusivism, et cetera, et cetera.” Emergents don’t really like the cross of Christ. Consider B McL’s endorsement of a book by Alan Jones which calls the doctrine of the Cross a vile doctrine. Roger Oakland’s book “Faith Undone” quotes B McL on page 192 as saying “The cross is almost a distraction and false advertising for God.” That is footnoted B McL interview with Leif Hanson (The Bleeding Purple Podcast) January 8, 2006. “Doug Pagitt is among the emergent leaders that denies there is a place of eternal conscious torment for persons who die apart from faith in Jesus Christ.” You ought to consider the list of Scriptures that Sandy provides after that quote. Having experience emphasized over the importance of Biblical doctrine is dangerous. Mark Taylor’s editor comment “Our Decision, Our Opportunity” Christian Standard June 12, 2011 acknowledges this happening among emergents, but with out the warning. The Bible says faith comes by hearing. True faith will result in doing, but doing/having experiences does not necessary results in true faith. B McL “Universalism is not as bankrupt of biblical support as some suggest.” I believe there are 345 verses in the KJV that use the words ‘every’ and ‘man,’ but God still has much exclusiveness. Watch-out for emergent statements about being followers of Jesus and remaining within their religion of Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish. B McL “The Christian faith, I am proposing, should become (in the name of Jesus Christ) a welcome friend to other religions of the world, not a threat,”
    I’ll also recommend a book review by Gary Gilley titled “Love Wins – Universalism’s New Champion.” It is about Rob Bell’s book. There are serious connections between Bell and Rick Warren, and Warren has many connections to emergent. Try: http://www.svchapel.org/resources/articles/20-christian-living/715-love-wins-universalisms-new-champion.” Don I.

  5. Lance Alter
    June 30, 2011 at 10:17 am

    This comment came in through email.

    Mark–I don’t feel completely comfortable with “trends like these.” I’m all in favor of correct practice, but surely correct practice could take place and have no results for the eternal kingdom unless correct doctrine is first priority. Without correct doctrine, the other may simply be the same as any other social and charitable organization. They do good work, but they don’t lead anyone to salvation. If I were going to move to a different area, the first thing I’d look for is a church that teaches correct doctrine. I’m very interested in music, worship styles, good works, communty outreach, etc., but the first priority has to be that it is teaching the truth. It seems to be a trend these days among many people that I know to simply shop around for a chuch that has good music, good youth programs, etc., with no concern about doctrine. That frightens me.
    Best wishes–Lance Alter

  6. Daniel
    November 21, 2011 at 9:52 am

    I have to agree with Bob. It’s not “our movement” that’s important. It’s the truth that is important and if we’re so wrapped up in what we “used to do” as opposed to what we “ought to do” according to the word of God then we miss the point and in the process become a stumbling block to many. I don’t think Restoration History is really all that important in the scheme of things. They were men just like you and me. How about instead of trying to fit God’s word into the principles made by men in the late 1800’s and 1900’s, we try and form our principles directly from God’s word. Too echo Bob, we are to focus on Jesus.

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