By Mark Tooley, Juicy Ecumenism.
Princeton Seminary President Craig Barnes, former pastor of evangelical-leaning National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., urges in Christian Century that Mainline Protestants stop obsessing over their decline.
Most of the people who used to fill the pews of the mainline congregations long ago decided that the church has little relevancy to their souls, which are worn down by work, family, and a world that seems to be coming apart at the seams. They didn’t leave in a huff. They didn’t nail up 95 theses that called for reform. They wandered away and found that a Sunday morning spent with the New York Times or cheering for a child’s soccer game came closer to a sabbath than what they found in a sanctuary.
True enough. Barnes adds:
Little good comes from getting fixated on the empty pews. The mainline Protestant church has to stop fretting about its future. The anxiety takes up the air and leaves the church too lethargic to offer anything to the world. The alternative response is for the church to do what it’s always done at its best, what it did from the beginning: stop thinking about its future and sacrifice itself to its mission.
But what is the Mainline church’s mission? Barnes doesn’t really say, and neither typically does the Mainline church in any compelling way. Instead, he notes that Christianity has been remarkably resilient over 2000 years:
Historically, every time we landed in the ditch, as the mainline church has done today, Christ pulls us out and invites us again to lose our lives to find them.
True, but there’s no pledge from Christ, who promised that The Church will prevail, that Mainline Protestantism will necessarily have any future.
Read more: The post-anxiety church, by Craig Barnes.