Book Reviews: The American Church in Crisis (David T. Olson) and unChristian (Dave Kinnaman)

The United States of America is headed in the same spiritual direction as Europe: toward a post-Christian society. Absent another Great Awakening, that will be our new reality within this century, and no amount of denial will change that fact.

David T. Olson provides a devastating statistical assessment of this in The American Church in Crisis. Almost every denomination is in decline, and even those that are growing are doing so at rates that lag overall population growth.

In other words, while the Church is growing numerically, Her overall representation of the population is actually in decline.

Some denominations–such as the mainline Protestant sectors (United Methodists, United Church of Christ, Christian Church DOC, Episcopalian Church USA, Presbyterian Church USA, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America)–have been in freefall for several decades. Much of that is attributable to secularization via liberal theology and far-left politics.

Even so, the Southern Baptist Convention–for decades a solid, growing denomination–is experiencing tepid growth, with overall membership in 2006 less than a quarter percent greater than 2005, and with baptisms–EVIDENCE OF NEW BELIEVERS–declining from 2005 to 2006.

In other words:

  1. Of the little growth experienced by the SBC, the number of Christians transferring from other denominations exceeds that of people actually receiving Jesus Christ.
  2. The marginal contribution to the Body of Christ by the Southern Baptist Convention HAS GONE DOWN! Adding members from other denominations IS NOT adding to the Church but rather transferring believers from one denomination to another. The number of NEW BELIEVERS is in decline!

Ergo, one cannot blame the decline of the Church exclusively on liberal theology. That may carry some weight as we assess mainline denominations, but the Southern Baptists are experiencing decline in spite of otherwise conservative theology.

For many pastors and laypersons on the front lines, this is not news. As a former youth minister and minister of education–and a layperson who has served in various teaching roles spanning children through adults–I’ve seen this coming for most of the last 20 years. Neither the causes nor the remedies can be summed up in the bumper stickers that dominate our theological landscape, nor is it all the fault of the Church.

That said, Olson’s book should be a required text in every Bible school and seminary, and laypersons ought to read it, too.

Olson does a good job with the analysis, and does a better job avoiding getting bogged down in a theological morass. This is not about the definitions of Biblical inerrancy, or the culture wars, or the five points of Calvinism, or Reform Theology versus Arminianism, or contemporary versus liturgical worship styles. Churches of all the aforementioned stripes have pockets of growth while being in overall decline.

Olson, whose passion is church planting, even provides some constructive ideas for how the Church can emerge from this decline, and even thrive in a post-Christian world.

As for a more in-depth examination of what the post-Baby Boom generation thinks of the Church, unChristian--by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons–will make your skin crawl.

Where Olson provided a statistical assessment that showed a Church in decline, Kinnaman and Lyons provide a statistical assessment that shows a large part of the reason why.

Fairly or unfairly, the Church has an image problem, especially among younger people inside and outside the Church.

Some of that image problem is unavoidable: much coverage of the church by the secular media has been neither fair nor representative of the Church as a whole.

Some of that image problem is indeed the fault of the Church, and has been fomented by religious political movements, in particular those on the right.

As a lifelong supporter of the pro-life cause, I can attest to those criticisms, many of which are valid.

For my first three years out of college, I wore three hats outside my regular job: I was a counselor at a crisis pregnancy center. I was also President of the county Right to Life chapter. I was also a speaking director for a maternity home.

My Sunday nights often involved going to a different church, giving a presentation on behalf of the maternity home, ostensibly raising the money we needed to keep our operations afloat. During the week–after work–I would work three-hour shift at the crisis pregnancy center. On weekends, I would help the Right to Life group plan the baby photo contests for the county and state fairs, as well as work on the newsletter.

During my work in that arena, I got to know a lot of people who were supportive of the pro-life cause. Sadly, this is what I observed happening: the cause became more important to them than the Faith from which a passion for the cause emanated.

On the matter of homosexuality, the situation was even worse. A very prominent evangelical pastor in the area was very ostensible in his opposition to gay adoptions. In his discourse, he referenced homosexuals via epithets.

For every conservative pastor who says, “We hate the sin but love the sinner”, there are almost as many like the aforementioned who would burn homosexuals at the stake given the legal wherewithal.

Compounding matters, as Kinnaman notes, the religious right blundered horribly when the Christian Coalition refused to hire a leader who desired a global AIDS outreach. (That the past President of the Christian Coalition was tacitly supportive of child slavery and child trafficking, and mounted some of the dirtiest political campaigns in recent history, does not help either.)

While the Biblical position–that homosexual behavior is not compatible with Christian faith–is indeed the proper Christian perspective, it is a completely different matter when Christians expend effort in promoting every political cause that is predisposed against gays.

Moreover, while it is correct to point out that the gay community should bear a large amount of responsibility for the spread of AIDS, it is equally correct to point out that Christian indifference to the AIDS suffer is anything but Christian.

Even on abortion, the Church has shown considerable insensitivity toward women who have had prior abortions. During my crisis pregnancy center days, I had no small number of clients who had one or more prior abortions. Most were not proud of that fact. Kinnaman provides an account of a women–having had a prior abortion–who experienced condemnation by others in a Bible study.

Fact: about 1 in 4 women of childbearing age have had at least one abortion. That is a great tragedy for both the child aborted as well as the women who must now deal with the aftermath. While I know a few who are comfy with their prior choice, I know many more who are not.

It’s a golden ministry opportunity on which the Church has punted.

While it is necessary to confront feminism–and other vestiges of theological liberalism–in the Church, the Church must not forget the scoldings that Jesus handed the Pharisees for punting on loving their neighbor, in spite of their otherwise sound doctrine.

Kinnaman also confronts the “get saved” culture fomented by the shallow cultural fundamentalism of Southern Baptists and other evangelical groups that overemphasize “conversions” and “professions of faith” to the exclusion of real discipleship.

Many conservatives will read Kinnaman with a degree of skepticism, as he includes perspectives from some far-left ministers (such as Jim Wallis of the Sojourners). On the other hand, Kinnaman also provides commentary from conservative leaders such as Charles Colson. Overall, the balance is there, and the truths are inconvenient.

The only thing I think Kinnaman did not address was the shoddy state of the youth ministry and their transition to young adults. That, perhaps, is the subject for another book.

Overall, Olson and Kinnaman have provided a stunning assessment of the Church in the United States. Anyone who cares for the future of the Church ought to take this assessment seriously.

39 thoughts on “Book Reviews: The American Church in Crisis (David T. Olson) and unChristian (Dave Kinnaman)

  1. Its a long review consisting of two books and contains a lot of information, so I’ll probably leave several comments as I go through.

    As someone leaving the Episcopal Church denomination (and the heaps of people leaving similar denominations – presbyterian, lutheran, methodist, etc), I can say with some experience that those people are largely NOT going to go to the Baptist church, mainly because of very large differences in theology (Baptism being the largest). Trust me, we’re not likely to go to a church that thinks our infant baptism is invalid. Also, the lack of a liturgical service is not going to attract these people that are leaving in droves. (and if they’re leaving due to liberal theology, then these people do actually take their faith seriously…)

    Also, without the liturgical service, your not likely to find those people going to community churches, either…which probably has a higher rate of growth than the baptist churches…

    Absent a church that believers feel confident in, you will not have new believers attending churches and being baptised. There may actually, in fact, be more new believers than we know, but undoubtedly, if their witness is not actively attending a church, then they will not be, either.

    The churches are in dire need of a revival and there is an entire generation of believers that fully acknowledge it and are aware of it. However, I think that many of us have no idea where to start. Instead of beginning in our churches (due to the segregation of ages and any lack of active role), many have been seduced by the “Emerging” Church.

  2. The only thing I think Kinnaman did not address was the shoddy state of the youth ministry and their transition to young adults. That, perhaps, is the subject for another book.

    Seriously, if the youth ministry actually did fix what they’re doing wrong, there would be a generation of people who can actually DO something!!!

  3. Christina: Not sure how many regular-attending Episcopalians are bolting for the SBC; on the other hand, there are probably no small number of folks who were nominally ECUSA–or PCUSA–who jumped on-board with the SBC. Those folks would not necessarily have a hardcore commitment to infant baptism.

    Most of the “new members”–at least among the adults–that I’ve seen in the SBC have been transfers from other Baptist churches, or Methodists, or Christian Church (independent), or “by statement”. Those have exceeded the number of new members via confession (the latter of whom get baptized as new believers).

  4. What I am afraid I see going on too often in my faith tradition is what I see going on in other conservative groups — an external confessionalism which measures holiness in terms of staying away from the Saturday night variety of sins (porn, drugs, etc.) and doing the brownie point thingy with church activities. It’s all Southern-fried, Amercanized and deeply insular. I’m afraid many churches have 2nd, 3rd, 4th generation adherents who are conservative because they go to a certain church and go to a certain church because they are conservative. QED. “Conservative” becomes a word that means wholesome, respectable, safe, and comfortable. Bottom line: Canaan isn’t being taken because everyone is sitting on lawnchairs at Kadesh-Barnea.

  5. Anakin: Bingo! While I have some misgivings with Kinnaman and Lyons, they nailed that point. Big Time.

    There’s no real effort to love neighbors, because the Church is more interested in having all the right theology, and people in turn have become too introspective.

    Fellowship has a tendency to be closed, and churches seem to have more castes than a Hindu temple.

    There was a time in which even the nonbelievers respected the Church. One of the most blistering indictments on the Church–leveled by Kinnaman–is that such a time is long past.

    Today’s younger generation sees a church that is more interested in right-wing politics than about answering the call to follow Jesus.

    While some of that perception is due to unfair treatment in the media, most of that perception is deserved.

    I’ve been there, done that, got the flight jacket.

  6. Clarification is in order: I’m all for having the right theology. On the other hand, I’m observing churches–especially within the SBC–who seem to have an unhealthy obsession with “What we believe”.

    I mean good grief…I’m all for inerrancy of Scripture. But it seems that pastors preach their “doctrine of the Bible” sermon whenever they haven’t been studying enough to have something more relevant to preach.

    I’d say that within most conservative congregations, you are not going to find much dissent over the inspiration of Scripture; ergo, I think such preachers need to preach what’s actually in Scripture rather than about how inerrant it is. The latter is–to quote Dick Cheney–a “no-brainer”.

  7. I went to a Casting Crowns concert a few months ago and, where I found Casting Crowns themselves to be more relevant, the people who were introducing them came off as fake.

    I’m not saying that they are fake – in fact, I strongly believe that they are firm believers and very genuine believers in Christ.

    Since I graduated high school, my relationship with the Church has been incredibly rocky. Where I would tenaciously cling to my faith, in spite of that faith, I made some decisions that were not looked on favorably by the college ministries at my college – further segregating myself from them. It was primarily the act of dating my first boyfriend that completely seperated me from any fellowship with any christian group on my campus.

    Having spent more time with non-christians than with christians in the last 7 years, and having experienced first hand what it means to be truly a fallen creature and what forgiveness means (while also knowing what its like to be the kid that grew up in church that never did anything wrong…), listening to people TALK like christians is grating and somehow feels too sunday-schoolish to WORK.

    I told my mother at that concert that I felt DIRTY, but somehow that my faith in God felt more genuine than what they were putting forth. American christians are safe. The vast majority that are in the church don’t know what REAL life can throw at them. They live sheltered existences, with no real idea of how fallen the world really is. They see homosexuals and people who get abortions and think – “YOU ARE A SINNER!!! REPENT!!! HOW COULD YOU POSSIBLY THINK WHAT YOUR DOING IS RIGHT???” Without trying to understand that they are human beings living in a fallen world. They don’t understand that. To them, life is still a rosy place to live. At least it was for me before I discovered what its like to be faced with decisions, consequences, feelings, attitudes, and yes – persecution.

    Maybe all the changes going on in America need to happen. Maybe, America does need to fully reject christians and real persecution needs to begin before the American church can truly reform. In which case, I say “Bring it on!” If that is God’s will and that is what it takes for the American Church to be genuine again, DO IT.

  8. In my few years as a Christian – and even less as a grown up in the real world – I don’t quite know how to break through hard hearts. (I know it’s not me that is supposed to do such things. I just have lots of questions about how the Holy Spirit works.) We had a young lady in my current church who was bent on self-destruction. People were willing to give her hour by hour accountability. However, as my pastor has pointed out, you have to be willing to be accountable in order for accountability to work.
    Yes, the Church does need to be more loving and less bent on manipulating people to follow Christ. It’s not my intention to deny that. Too often, their focus is on numbers. How can we pack the pews? What new programs can we do? Ministers are unfaithful and lay people are poorly trained. Responsibilities of elders and deacons are bestowed on people in order to help them with their self-esteem.
    If the Gospel is to permeate the culture, then the adherents to the Gospel have to actually be permeated. When the followers themselves are only there because it’s a good tradition, it shouldn’t be too hard to figure why going to Church isn’t popular anymore.
    This morning we started a new Sunday School class for the summer. It’s on Church History. The teacher opened up by asking us “Why do some people groan about this subject?” and the consensus was that there is the cultural notion that we are in the best condition we can possibly be. History tends to be “boring” because people 300 years ago were very different from our current way of doing things, so what important things could they have to offer us?
    It is my personal opinion that the Church is under an persecution of intellectual nature rather than physical nature as has been past precedent. Satan has become more cunning and he assails logic and common sense in ways he hasn’t been able to before. He has learned from his mistakes. He will continue up until the bitter end to seek and destroy. The question is, how much effort are we willing to put in to bringing forth the Good News?

  9. Carrie, Christina: There is a logical front to this, but it is more than that. After all, Olson illustrates that even the denominations that are apologetically sound–such as the PCA and the SBC–are not exactly lighting up the world in terms of growth, and in fact the only denominations that are growing (Pentecostals and non-denominational churches that are probably closer to “emergent church” truth be told) tend to put less (even no) emphasis on sound doctrine.

    I’m not saying sound doctrine and apologetics aren’t important–they certainly are–on the other hand, in our quest for theological purity the Church has lost its way with respect to the larger Commission. Churches–even the traditionally Reform and the quasi-Reform folks in the SBC–have become overly introspective.

    Of course, I would suggest that the SBC’s larger problem is less about introspection and more about lack of depth in their overall discipleship.

    With the SBC, they have sacrificed quality in the name of pursuing bigger numerical stats. The telos of this is an eventual drop in both quality and converts.

  10. Ummm…this isn’t about the church growing or not growing.

    Where sharing the gospel is always our responsibility and reaching as many people as possible is our responsibility, we are not responsible for conversions.

    Did you know that before the Rwanda Genocide, 97% of the population identified as Christian?

    HOW could genocide happen in a civilization where the vast majority profess christianity?

    Do you really expect the entire world to be christian?

    Our job is to spread the gospel. EVERYONE in america knows what christianity is. They have had the gospel presented to them – by genuine christian witnesses that demonstrate compassion AND by the not so genuine and the not so compassionate…but they have heard. That they are not in church is NOT completely our fault.

    Yes, there are things that need to get better – but its largely internal to the church. CHRISTIANS need a reformation. Not the non-christians. We are supposed to be a witness to the world by our lives and our actions – and that is going to require a spiritual rebirth IN THE CHURCH. The hearts of believers are not displaying the light of Christ.

    I don’t think we can judge the health of the church by how rapidly it grows in new christians. Especially when American christians have it so easy. Part of what draws people to Christ is seeing peace and joy in someone’s life when they are suffering in adversity.

    I also think Evangelical Christians need to learn a lesson in evangelising. You seriously can’t beat people over the head with the Bible. There’s a verse that says not to cast your pearls before swine. I told one of my non-christian friends that when I explained why it took so long for me to have a conversation with him about Christ. He laughed at me, but it was sooo true. Did you know pigs are the most stubborn animals in creation? And this guy has heard it all before – the majority of his friends are christian…do you think anything I was going to say was going to change his mind? He was stubborn about his atheism. So, it would NOT have worked for me to tenaciously plead with him, argue with him, and tell him how wrong he is. And then, just ONE day…he felt softer…and the words just poured out…and now he’s been getting on me to continue the discussion – he wants to know more.

    People don’t proselytize like that these days. They see a guy holding hands with a guy and start yelling “REPENT!” They don’t know when to shake the dust off their feet and leave town when they’re words fall on unwilling ears.

  11. Christina: I disagree. The Commission is about making disciples. It’s not just about preaching. Preaching is the medium of communication, but making disciples of the nations is indeed the Commission. Matthew 28 says it pretty succinctly.

    I certainly don’t expect the whole world to become Christian–let’s face it, while the Atonement is sufficient to cover everyone, it is only applicable to those who actually receive it. On the other hand, taking the Gospel to all people is the Commission–making disciples of the nations.

    As for Rwanda, that a majority of the populace “professed Christanity” means nothing. The majority of Jesus’ audience claimed their heritage in Abraham; that hardly made them followers of YHWH, and in fact a majority actually rejected His message.

    Many of the same people who praised Him as He entered Jerusalem were among those screaming, “Crucify Him!” and demanding Barrabas be freed.

    As for evangelizing/proselytizing, I agree with you: the last thing we need is some mass visitation campaign. In fact, we need more robust preaching, more commitment to ministering in grace, more commitment to nurturing disciples as they receive Christ, and less focus on the numbers game. If they do that, they will find the numbers will work out. Worked for the Early Church in a post-Christian society…

    Evangelicals have been trading quality for quanity, and this has been a disaster from which we will continue to reap the harvest for at least a generation.

  12. I think my point about the commission is that we don’t change hearts – God does. And I think scripture makes it quite clear that many will not come to the cross.

    Yes, its our job to make disciples. But we have done a poor job of that all the way around. We have the “sharing” part down (as far as actually DOING it…maybe not doing it right…), but what about when they DO accept Christ? Which goes into the part about how we need to be teaching those in the church. The ones already there AREN’T being discipled. Those we DO convert, we fail to make disciples.

  13. My meaning is thus:

    We are to
    A) Spread the word
    C) Make disciples

    Its God, through the Holy Spirit that does
    B) Change hearts

    We seriously are not supposed to be doing that or focusing on that. We are not the ones that convert.

    Making disciples comes AFTER the converstion…not before…and that isn’t THE conversion.

    And Scripture HAS said over and over again –
    – Not everyone is going to come to Christ.
    – Not everyone who confesses Christ is going to be in Christ.
    – When the word falls on deaf ears, get up and leave.

  14. One more thing –

    If, indeed, the low baptism rates or low growth of new christians in churches is representative of people not coming to Christ, then that is not a CHURCH problem. That is a statement about the hearts of our society. The word has been spread, its out there, people have heard. Don’t limit God to the tools he has in the tool shed. He doesn’t need us to make Christians.

    However, if there are more people out there coming to Christ that are NOT going to church, that IS a statement about the condition of the church.

  15. Christina says:

    If, indeed, the low baptism rates or low growth of new christians in churches is representative of people not coming to Christ, then that is not a CHURCH problem.

    Not necessarily. Depends on the reasons for that. Some of it could be the fault of the Church, and I would submit that some of it–not all of it–is.

    That is a statement about the hearts of our society.

    Not exclusively.

    The word has been spread, its out there, people have heard. Don’t limit God to the tools he has in the tool shed. He doesn’t need us to make Christians.

    While that latter statement is true, the reality is that He uses the Church as the instrument to make disciples.

    To say that none of the existing issues are a statement about the Church is pure denial; in fact, much skepticism about the Church, among outsiders, is a product of the Church’s own doing. The “get saved” culture is a large part of it, but the hypocrisy and double-standards and overemphasis on right-wing political movements has also contributed to this.

    This is especially the case in the Northeast. Olson points this out quite effectively.

    (Having lived in the Northeast, I can attest to the truth of what he is saying.)

  16. Christina says:

    I think my point about the commission is that we don’t change hearts – God does. And I think scripture makes it quite clear that many will not come to the cross.

    On the other hand, we cannot use that first sentence as a cop-out for the Church having dropped the ball and refusing to bear substantial responsibility for the current situation. While all of it is not the fault of the Church, a substantial part of it is.

    Yes, its our job to make disciples. But we have done a poor job of that all the way around. We have the “sharing” part down (as far as actually DOING it…maybe not doing it right…), but what about when they DO accept Christ? Which goes into the part about how we need to be teaching those in the church. The ones already there AREN’T being discipled. Those we DO convert, we fail to make disciples.

    Discipleship includes conversion; however, the Church–especially among evangelical ranks–has stopped at the latter. That was my point.

  17. the reality is that He uses the Church as the instrument to make disciples.

    Here, I would ask you what you mean by “making disciples”. Do you mean leading people to Christ? To mean making converts?

    Or do you mean teaching them the word of God AFTER they have chosen to follow Christ? Teaching them what it means to be a Christian? What it means to be a follower of Christ?

    You see, we have 2 responsibilities:

    1) Spread the word (check…not well done, but done in America).
    2) Make disciples (not doing that).

    God is the only one that converts

    Like I said, just because we suck at it, doesn’t mean God can’t get it done. However, when God DOES get it done, we fail on following through with the rest of the commission. Which is not converting…it is taking those changed hearts and teaching them how to be disciples.

    So, I’ll say it again…the lack of changed hearts is a systemic problem in our society…

    The lack of discipling changed hearts – those in our church and outside our church – is a systemic problem in our church…

    And, coincidentally, they affect eachother. However, God is not limited to us in making changed hearts.

  18. Christina asks:

    Here, I would ask you what you mean by “making disciples”. Do you mean leading people to Christ? To mean making converts?

    I mean (a) preaching the Gospel, (b) ministering to those who have received Jesus Christ–which includes baptizing them, teaching them, admonishing them, etc–and (c) demonstrating the grace of Jesus Christ to the world.

  19. Christina says:

    So, I’ll say it again…the lack of changed hearts is a systemic problem in our society…

    That is not an acceptable copout when discussing the failures within the Body.

    I never said that those faults were the exclusive cause for the existing skepticism. In fact, this is what I said:

    Some of that image problem is unavoidable: much coverage of the church by the secular media has been neither fair nor representative of the Church as a whole.

    Some of that image problem is indeed the fault of the Church, and has been fomented by religious political movements, in particular those on the right.

    So tell me…where is the controversy here?

  20. I don’t think lack of church growth in new christians is evidence of an unhealthy church.

    I think the church is unhealthy, but I don’t think that is the statistic we should be looking at to determine that.

    Taking care of other things that are bigger problems in the health of the church would be discipling the un-churched christians that are already around.

    From there, we can go back spreading the word. And those that are already strong in discipleship should be splitting their time. But discipling our brothers and sisters in christ needs to have some attention.

  21. Christina:

    I don’t think lack of church growth in new christians is evidence of an unhealthy church.

    On its own, that would be a true statement. On the other hand, in light of all the evidence, it is symptomatic of a very unhealthy Church.

    Olson’s book, by itself, paints one portrait that might lend credence to specificities that are not applicable in general. On the other hand, combined with Kinnaman, it’s a pretty damning picture.

    When the Church is viewed negatively by the majority of outsiders–and even the insiders are largely disillusioned–then the decline of the Church is hardly dismissable as a exclusively a problem with the world.

  22. Christina: Besides, there is a better link in this case–asserting that the decline of the Church in the U.S. is at least in part the fault of the Church–than there is with the assertion that porn use causes sex crimes.

    Kinnaman and Olson have given a pretty telling case. Disagree all you want, but I’m not going to let you use the standard copout over “the lack of changed hearts”.

    Part of King David’s punishment–for the Bathsheba scandal–was due to the disgracing of the name of the LORD to the enemies of Israel. 2 Samuel 12:13b-14 (emphasis mine):

    Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.”

    Ergo, dismissing this as a matter of, “well, only God makes converts anyway,” is a copout.

  23. I’m not trying to provide a means for copping out of our responsibilities. I’m trying to provide some perspective before we think that to be “healthy” we need to be converting more people.

    Face it, your original post and the following ones make it sound like to be healthy again, we need to be seeking new christians. That is an unhealthy response to the problems in the church.

    I’m not saying DON’T do the great commission. I’m not saying DON’T spread the word or DON’T make new disciples. I’m saying that that is NOT our only responsibility. We are also supposed to be raising disciples within our church.

    Think Boundless Podcast # 17 where Joel Rosenberg said that (paraphrased) “the end is at hand! We should be doing something! Get out there and spread the word! Don’t just limit yourself to sunday school and nursery duty!”

    When the Church is viewed negatively by the majority of outsiders

    I sincerely don’t think that’s a problem. Consider China. Where the church is probably the healthiest and growing at a rapid rate, the majority of the outsiders view it negatively. Does that make it unhealthy?

    After all, more liberal people with feministic ideals favor the methodist church – clearly they are not healthy. Homosexuals favor the Episcopal church – that church is DEFINITLY not healthy. How the world looks on the church is not proof that something is or is not wrong.

    and even the insiders are largely disillusioned

    THIS is a problem – afterall, how effective a witness are we when we have no confidence in what we believe? When we don’t feel that we can boast in Christ?

    Just don’t focus on our image. We have an internal problem that is affecting the external. Focusing on the external problem is NOT the solution. And I think the way Kinnaman and Olson have presented the illnesses of the church highlights the external problems without showing how the internal problems have caused the external ones.

  24. Ergo, dismissing this as a matter of, “well, only God makes converts anyway,” is a copout.

    Oh… and its not a copout. Its the truth.

    It just does not excuse us from the responsibilities that God lined out in the Great Commission.

    HOWEVER, we need to know when enough is enough. The world hates Christ. You will not convert everyone. And to spend time futilely trying to break through to a stubborn individual who won’t listen to reason is a waste of time and breath (as Jesus put it so kindly in phrasing it as not casting your pearls before swine). Seeking approval in the world’s eyes, converting as many christians as possible, and futilely defending your position to people who have no intention of changing their minds is not the right way to go about it.

    Jesus was an excellent example in remaining silent during his interrogation before his execution. Why? Because nothing they were not going to listen or hear.

    Whether you believe it or not, the church is being persecuted right now. Maybe not with sticks and stones, but very much in an intellectual way. People who hate Christians hate Christ. And they are not afraid to make classrooms, courtrooms, or work offices hell for anyone who professes a faith that speaks so unfavorably of the world and what the world has to offer.

  25. Oh…in spite of how ardently I’m attempting to defend my position here, thank you for sharing the reviews.

    Also, thank you for giving me something to talk about =p

    I’m enjoying our discussion, even if I don’t necessarily agree with what you are saying =p

  26. I’ll have to read thru all the comments later.

    i’ve found the church to be so fearful of accepting ‘sin’ that they have forgotten to love … anyone who does not ‘fit’ their perceived ‘mold.’ not only that, i’ve found most in the church actually ‘shocked’ that there are those of us who have been so hurt by the church … and they’re even offended if they find out such truth … very defensive.

  27. Christina: Actually, in my original post (4th paragraph from the bottom), I mentioned the “get saved” culture of the evangelical world as part of the problem.

    Let’s face it: you read into my post what you wanted to read.

  28. Ame: I visited a church yesterday, and that was one of the points that the pastor hit: the tendency to overlook sin under the guise of “not offending anyone”. At the same time, confronting it with a restorative intent and style is the hard part.

    Even then, the larger issue is the political landscape. Many Christians have decided that Biblical opposition to homosexual behavior MUST NECESSARILY translate into supporting all legislation aimed at homosexuals.

    As I’ve pointed out on this space, the “cure” can be worse than the “disease”. A government apparatus large enough to enforce anti-sodomy laws, will one day be used against conservative Christian homeschoolers.

    It’s like Reagan once said: “As government expands, freedom contracts.”

  29. A government apparatus large enough to enforce anti-sodomy laws, will one day be used against conservative Christian homeschoolers.

    Where I agree, government shouldn’t be involved in this, Christian homeschoolers (or any other Christian) shouldn’t be practicing sodomy any more than homosexuals are =p

    Both were listed as things people shouldn’t engage in in deuteronomy. Granted, so was refraining from eating pork.

    Sodomy IS dangerous and is inconsistent with natural laws as much for hetero as it is for homosexuals.

    If our only concern about homosexual relationships is that it is sex outside of marriage, than a law giving them the right to marry nixes that argument. So WHY are we so opposed? Especially if we condone that act of sexual relation for heterosexuals?

  30. I’m not trying to be contrary, really I’m not.

    Just voicing some concerns in an arena that I feel I can get some other input from like-minded Christians.

    Yeah, I have a tendency to read into things that aren’t there. I apologize for that.

    However, I still think there was a valid point in all my arguments.

  31. Christina – if i am correct … i believe that Amir is referring to mutually-consented and desired oral sex within marriage … which is safe, good, healthy, and not wrong … as long as it is mutually agreed upon and desire by both the husband and wife.

    if i am correct … Amir is saying they could stretch the definition of sodomy to include oral sex and use it against normal people in healthy marriages.

  32. Trouble is, Christina, many legal definitions of sodomy include activities practiced by heterosexual Christian married couples.

    While I have conservative views on the matter, the last thing I want is a government that is obsessed with investigating couples who are rumored to enjoy sexual positions other than the “missionary” variety.

  33. Ame: That is correct. I was trying to keep this conversation from devolving into discussions about specific sexual acts. This is not a sexology blog.

  34. Ame: Don’t sweat it. In this case, clarification was necessary.

    When people refer to “sodomy”, they often think of what the IRS does to us every payday. But legally, “sodomy” often includes acts such as what you have described.

    And yes, this is prevalent among many Christian heterosexual married homeschooling husbands and wives.

    My point was that I don’t want a government peeking into everyone’s bedrooms to ensure that every couple is doing the “missionary position”.

    Doesn’t the government have more important things to be doing?

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