The polarization of Christianity

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Gina B, Jul 17, 2006.

  1. Gina B

    Gina B
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    Impressive title, ain't it? :smilewinkgrin:

    Now for the topic.

    There seems to have been a major shift from generalized Christianity across the board to opposite extremes. No longer will the majority claim Christianity, and no longer will the majority of fundamentalist Christians accept a broad definition of it. On the other hand, obvious non-Christians are being accepted by the majority of non-fundamentalist Christians.

    Confusing?

    Here's the point.

    IMO, the majority of Christianity can be divided into two segments:

    1. "do as we do or die"

    2. "come have an experience"

    Neither one is good.
    The first drives people away with harsh rules, lack of true compassion, and an in-your-face mentality. They tend to leave out that we serve a God of love. They focus on self: do this right, live this way, look this way, and you'll be ok.

    The second gives a false sense of security by molly-coddling the new Christian and making Christianity a sugar-dipped pacifier instead of a reality. They tend to leave out that we serve a jealous God. They focus on self: how does Jesus make you feel, are you happy, just try to do as much as you're comfortable with and you'll be ok.

    I think that this extremism is something that has been planned, molded, and worked on by Satan and his angels for a long long time, and is now coming to reality. Both extremes make Christianity look silly. It's become a farce. Both sides have seen the world's view of Christianity and taken two different approaches:

    1. Get defensive, separate yourself totally so they know where you stand, at all costs.

    2. Mesh with them so they see we aren't so different, if we get in wtih them we have a better chance of leading them to Christ.

    But neither of them work. Both give a false sense of security. Neither embraces the balanced truth of Christianity. One pounds the foundation too far in, the other knocks it right out of the park. And Christianity falls.

    And the goal is accomplished.
    And we were part of that because we were too blinded by the enemy to see the right way.

    Is it too late to change it? Has it gone too far?
     
  2. preacher

    preacher
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    You're right on some points, but true Christianity isn't dead, course I also agree it seems like it sometimes.
    It's partly the "age" we're living in, & all the hoopla & selling & glitter that goes on with TV, Radio, & now espicially the net.
    Don't worry though...the Church hasn't gone up yet, so there is time to right wrongs, & use the basic values taught in the Word. If enough folks want to. I know there is a lot wrong with what is called the "church" but the TRUE Church can still be strong & capable! I started to say we could still have the victory, but we already have that....we just need to show more how to come to the same victory!!!
     
  3. Joseph M. Smith

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    I agree that authentic Christianity is not dead, but also join the OP in bewailing the extremes to which we have gone. It strikes me, too, that the old humanistic liberalism which we associate with popular Christianity of the 1930's ff is quite similar to the feel-good church you describe today. Both offer a theological minimalism.

    Two truisms come to mind as we think about this worthwhile topic:

    "Be not the first by whom the new is tried, nor yet the last to lay the old aside" -- not Scripture, but one way to express the classic idea of the Golden Mean

    "Speaking the truth in love" -- I hammered away at that for years to repair a damaged congregation ... insisting that there must be a fellowship of love, but that unless it was founded on truth it was only sentimental nothingness.

    There is so much positive to be said about small Christian communities which do not even aspire to become huge megachurches, but which can give ample attention to persons, one by one, and redeem them.
     
  4. Joseph_Botwinick

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    Hi Gina,

    I think I probably agree with you here. Just to be sure, would you mind being a bit more specific? Would you give a specific example of both extremes and then tell us specifically what you think the Church ought to be like as opposed to the two extremes. I only ask, because it seems to me that the idea of the two extremes is subjective depending on your worldview. For example, I would consider most Church Growth Models today to be to the extreme of feel goodism, while I am sure more seeker churches would consider anyone who holds doctrine to be more important than methods to be the extreme of narrow mindedness. What say you?

    Joseph Botwinick
     
  5. Tom Butler

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    I agree with the bewailing and bemoaning divided Christianity.

    What can be done about it?

    Of course, if everyone would adjust their thinking to bring it in line with mine, the problem will go away.

    :smilewinkgrin:
     
  6. Gina B

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    Ok, I'll give examples from two churches I've visited in the past, both of which seem to be from opposite ends. Nothing in and of itself was a terrible thing when taken apart, but done on a regular basis and put all together was pretty...blick.

    1. This one was non denom, just a Christian church. I walked in and was greeted by a coffee bar. There was a movie theater set up in the church. On the stage, and I did call it a stage, were people dressed as if they'd stepped out of a "Modern Christianity" magazine, complete with ripped jeans, wooded bead bracelets with Christian symbols on them, and punk hairdo's. They were screeching out words to a song with very nice words, but the only way I knew those were praise words was because they were projected on the huge screen up front.
    After the music, the pastor came on, dressed in the latest fashion, hair slicked back, big gold ring on his hand. He told us Jesus loved us. The rest was about how we should be good, and he told an amusing story about how he was driving down the road and speeding and realized it was bad and slowed down. That took up most of the message, but it was very entertaining, the way he described driving down the road, enjoying it all, seeing the officer, etc.. If I hadn't heard the same analogy a zillion times and known its meaning, I would have wondered if I'd walked into a comedy house or a church. It ended with the music people blasting away on their instruments again. One of them was crying. They took up an offering. The pastor walked down off the stage and people seemed quite eager to reach out and shake his hand, and their faces beamed if he spoke directly to them.
    Others headed towards the coffee bar for drinks and donuts and to look at the CD's and t-shirts for sale.
    Went and got the kids, and they said "Mom, we don't like this place." They had been encouraged to hop up and down and dance in praise (as in almost head banging stuff) to some rock-sounding music. We laughed about it for some time...funny experience in a way, but also kinda...sad. That wasn't really even real milk being fed, let alone meat. It was dry milk, without the water.

    2. This was a Baptist church. (independant) I walked up to the door and was greeted by an elder in a suit. I was directed to the proper place for Sunday School and was the only one there. The teacher walked in and quickly walked out, until someone else was there so we wouldn't be alone.
    When class started, I was introduced and asked a few very pointed questions meant to sound like conversation, but they were meant to feel out if I was "really" a Christian. I had a feeling I was very suspicious, as I was the only female in slacks. The woman all wore dresses or skirts below their knees, and matching accessories. The men all wore suits or very nice slacks and collared shirts with ties and had buzzed or extremely short hair.

    The Sunday School hour ended and I was shown to the sanctuary. It was large, carpeted in red, quiet and stuffy. Being the friendly sort, I introduced myself to people. I got the feeling some were mortified to be seen shaking hands with such a one, but a few were quite polite, even if not engagingly friendly. I sat down and we sang a number of songs from a traditional book of hymns, accompanied by the piano and a male song leader. When the songs were done, the song leader sat back down with the pastor and announcement guy. All sat there in black wing tip shoes, looking serious. The announcements were made (Mark and Cindy had a baby, donations for a gift basket on back table, Petulia Johnson is having heart problems, we are below budget in our missionary fund)
    Then the sermon. It was a sound sermon, telling everyone that Christ had died for their sins and explaining the guilt of man, that every person was in need of a savior. He expounded on this for, and I kid you not, an hour and a half, at times his voice breaking. He also spoke of a couple who had recently left the church, talking about how they might not have really been saved, and said they had been getting into things that weren't of God and let that be a warning to everyone. They were going to movie houses and listening to modern worship tunes. Then continued on with the news of ChristI wondered why he was breaking this news to a group of Christians...who by definition already believed in Christ's death and resurrection. Then I thought maybe it was just for me, being a visitor and maybe unsaved, but I went the next week and they did the same thing, and I even wore a skirt that time. Followed by an invitation, long, nobody came, but he urged them for a very long time to quit resisting the spirit and come to the altar and get right. (I finally went up, but because I felt sorry for him because nobody else would) Then I felt even worse because he pointed me out as an example. Plus it's just wrong to expect a woman to kneel with her back end to the crowd while wearing a skirt and concentrate on praying instead of what might go wrong, and all I could think of was how I was gonna get back up gracefully.

    The method of attraction for the first church was to make people feel good and entertain them.

    The method for the second one was guilt.

    Both worked, and both had quite a few members. But neither seemed to genuinely exhibit the traits of a group of Christians.

    How could both have improved?

    Well, here's an example of what happened at the church I joined.

    I walked in. I was greeted by almost everyone in the assembly with a smile, a handshake, questions about where I was from and how I found the place. There were a few things in back that different people had brought in as snacks. Nothing for sale.
    We sat down. We sang a few worship songs, some new, some older. A guy came up and gave us the history and story behind the hymn we were going to sing, gave it more meaning to know the heart of the person who wrote it.
    Pastor came up with announcements, took prayer requests. Someone's car had broken down, it was mentioned that whoever wanted to could put a few bucks in the offering to help fix it. Then we prayed.
    After that some of the little children came and passed around offering plates. (btw they got enough to fix the car)
    Then the lesson. James 1:18-27. (they had done the rest of it before) How do we apply it to our lives? We were asked questions like "what makes you angry?" "how did you try to handle it?" "what is a better way to handle it, what works?"
    We were shown examples from scripture of people who had failed or succeeded at some of the teachings in this passage. We talked about why, how, were encouraged to help each other live right.
    The sermon closed with communion and then prayer. I didn't really want to leave. Walked around, talked to a few people, etc.. I think I got more out of that one hour Sunday morning than I got out of hours and hours of other Sundays.

    I was shown how to live, taught how to from scripture, it was friendly, and in return I wanted to give, be a part, and help them too. I didn't care that I wasn't given free fancy cookies and lattes or that there wasn't a professional musician on stage shedding tears, I wasn't holding out my hand hoping the pastor would notice me as he walked by, I wasn't urged to go to an altar and told I wasn't right with God if I didn't, I wasn't made to feel like I probably wasn't a Christian because I wasn't wearing the right clothes.
     
  7. gb93433

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    The most dynamic church I have been a member of was a highly evangelisistic church that was a non-denominational church which never passed the plate and always had money to do God's work. Every years they had a week long missionary conference. The conference was time to minister t the missionaries. It was a time to fix their teeth, buy them new clothes and allow them to speak in the church and meet with people in homes and small groups. Many times it allowed young people to meet missionaries who had just been flown in from the field.

    Too many churches are doing the denominational wishes instead of God's wishes. Too many churches are pastor and sermon focused instead of making disciples and equipping people to do ministry.
     
  8. gekko

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    gb93433 i completely agree.
    ---

    GinaL... im going to try and simplicize your OP just a little.

    with John1:14 "John 1:14 - And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."

    Jesus had balance. a balance both of grace AND truth.

    the two extremes that you mention - could be too much grace without truth - and/or - too much truth without grace.

    we need that balance.

    here's an example straight from scripture:

    in Isaiah - the verse right after "to preach the acceptable year of the Lord" says "and the day of vengeance of our God"

    now do you think that Jesus deliberately stopped just before "and the day of vengeance of our God"? i certainly think so. because the day of vengeance was not fulfilled that day - and is not fulfilled today either.

    "this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears"

    and the people found his words gracious "And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth"
    ---

    now for the other half - the truth. we've seen Jesus display grace. now lets see His truth.

    verse 25 says "but i tell you of a truth" - theres the truth.

    truth - like surgury - hurts - but after time heals.

    look at how the people responded to the Truth that Jesus spoke. "And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong."

    woah! how could these people be so 'bipolar'? (no pun intended... polarization... get it? oh nevermind...)

    Jesus first spoke grace - and the people loved it - and then proceeded to follow up that grace with truth - and the people were filled with wrath.
    ---

    Jesus had a balance full of both grace and truth.

    those two extremes... some have all grace no truth. some have alot of grace and just a little bit of truth.

    on the other hand - some have all truth and no grace. some have alot of truth and just a little bit of grace.

    but we as true believers need to have all truth and all grace. only supplied by the Lord Jesus Christ.
    ---

    kinda make sense?
     
  9. Gina B

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    Yes gekko. That was very nice. Thank you! :)
     
  10. 2BHizown

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    They made terrible accusations about Christ and His doctrines also, thought He was narrowminded with only one way to heaven and all. They even killed Him for such!
    Bothers me not that others may think me to be narrowminded or worse as long as I'm sure I know Him and His truth! I will continue to pray for the lost, that they see their sin and ask His mercy! As time goes by the vast difference will even increase the more as the time of His return draws nearer. The extreme poles of opinion will be startling! Knowing scripture better is our comfort!
     
  11. I Am Blessed 24

    I Am Blessed 24
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    We are to be IN the world, not OF it.

    We should not be so integrated that we dress, talk, and act like the world.

    Neither should we be so segregated that we do not 'eat with the publicans and sinners'.

    Non-Christians know how we should act, dress, and talk better than we Christians do.

    They expect us to be different and we should be. If we're not; how can we offer them something we have that they don't? :Fish:

    Pastor just preached an excellent sermon on "Balance" yesterday.
     
    #11 I Am Blessed 24, Jul 17, 2006
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 17, 2006
  12. Marcia

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    Gina, I think the 2 extremes you describe both exist and there should be concern about both of them. But I also think there are churches in the middle of those 2 extremes. It can be tricky to stay in the middle and I think good pastors see that and try to keep the balance.

    Also, when I get discouraged about some things happening in the church, I just keep reminding myself that although there will be a falling away, God does preserve a remnant and we are called to be faithful anyway, no matter what is going on. :wavey:
     
  13. Jack Matthews

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    What people are wearing, the style of music that is used to worship, the way the pastor is dressed, those are superficial things and I don't think God cares about them. The problem that churches have today is that they can't deliver the truth of the gospel because they do not understand how to translate it for the culture. If you look at the history of the Christian church, this has always been a problem, but there is always an individual or group who learns how to do it, and they are persecuted, vilified and ridiculed by the Christians who haven't caught on, or who won't consider getting out of their comfort zone for the weaker brethren.

    Women wearing slacks or pants is a good example. My wife was thoroughly humiliated in a Baptist church one Sunday morning because she wore what I thought was a very dressy, sharp looking suit to a church where we were the invited guests of a client of hers whose son was being baptized. An older man seated behind us made a comment to his wife about women wearing men's clothing, and it took a little while for me to realize he was talking about my wife, who was the only woman in the room wearing slacks. Another older woman in the church refused to shake hands with her as we were leaving, and quoted some Bible verse about women being forbidden to wear men's clothing. My response was to point out that I didn't see any men dressed in robes or tunics, as was proper and fitting during the times that the Bible was written. That drew some sour looks from people standing nearby.

    I tend to bristle at the notion that contemporary praise music rendered by a band with drums, keyboards, guitars and electronic instruments is there for "entertainment," especially when the front of the church is full of people who have poured down the aisles during the invitation to pray and offer themselves to the Lord as a living sacrifice. I'll take that any day over the half-hearted hymn singing of people whose heads are buried in the hymnal and who come to church for the fashion parade, and who gossip in their evaluation of the entertainment value of the choir special, the soloist and the quality of the pastor's sermon.

    My experience in attending different churches isn't extensive. Other than my home congregation back in West Virginia, a handful of churches here in Nashville that I visited with friends when I was in college, the two or three my wife and I visited as we were looking for a church after we got married, and the few we have visited with friends, I have observed maybe 20 different churches in my lifetime. But 9 out of 10 of the Baptist churches in particular have been boring, legalistic, irrelevant, and unconducive (is that a real word?) to worship. It is disheartening to walk into a Baptist church with a grand sanctuary that could seat a thousand people, and see maybe two hundred scattered in clumps mainly along the sides and near the back, and realize that, as thirtysomethings, you are by far the youngest people in the room, and there are only a handful of fifty-somethings among the 70 and 80 year olds. I've been in ten different Baptist churches here in Nashville that fit that description. No wonder the convention is lamenting the drop in Baptisms.

    O.K. I see I am ranting. I'll quit notw.
     
  14. tinytim

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    I agree with you Jack.
    BTW, where in WV are you from?
     
  15. Jack Matthews

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    I was born in San Francisco, CA, but was about a year old when my parents moved to Parkersburg. Went to school from kindergarten through 12th grade in Beckley.
     

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