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Americans Deciding with Their Feet: The Ongoing Exodus from Traditional Christianity (1)

         Several years ago, an elder relative was bemoaning the state of his traditional church. “It’s nothing but a few old people,” he said.

         Of course, he was one of the old people. The church was dying.

         This phenomenon has been happening all across the country for several decades now, as traditional churches fight to maintain their existence while also fighting to resist any change for the better.

         In big metropolitan areas the problem is not perceived as much since many churches manage to keep the pews full. The problem, however, remains. It does not go away simply by increasing or maintaining attendance, because many of these churchgoers are mere new transplants from elsewhere or the next generation of existing families. There are extremely few new converts in these places.

         Regarding the next generation, a new Pew Research Center report  reveals that only 27% of Younger Millennials attend religious services on a weekly basis. Younger Millennials are American adults born after 1990:

         “As older cohorts of adults (comprised mainly of self-identified Christians) pass away, they are being replaced by a new cohort of young adults who display far lower levels of attachment to organized religion than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations did when they were the same age.” [1]

         For the past twenty-five years I have been writing and teaching about this subject, and warning that American Christianity’s insistence on maintaining a dying status quo would cost it severely in the future. Few listen. Many who are listening have been deciding with their feet, regardless of any warnings. They decide to leave because American Christianity has been dying a slow death for many decades. They notice this phenomenon, as those with vision notice any obvious institutional pretense, in that the ones who buy into a false, unsustainable, and dying method are blind to its relatively short life expectancy.

         American Christianity of the twentieth century had devolved into saying one thing and doing another as standard operating procedure. It had adopted the enterprising spirit of the times, in that success was measured in the same terms that businesses and professional sports teams are measured—there must be backsides in the pews and the backsides must have healthy wallets.

         For those who did not have the wherewithal, as did the Catholics and large Protestant denominations, to build large buildings to house their flocks, some new Christian enterprises bought giant tents and moved them from city to city.

         Regardless of what appeared on the surface as decidedly different approaches to Christianity and completely different belief systems, the one thing that stayed constant was that “Christianity” must possess large containers (church buildings) and put large groups of people in the containers on a regular basis (congregations), and these people must be willing to support this non-Biblical concept monetarily.

         However, the Lord Jesus has always had a different plan—the right plan—and He began revealing much spiritual light in the very midst of, and against, the enterprising, false “Christian” revival which was based on the popular political propaganda of those times.

         It was in the bustling and burgeoning post-war 1950s when this populist form of American Christianity reached its peak, and it was toward the end of the 1950s when the Lord Jesus made His move toward real revival… [To Be Continued.]

         © 2015 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] © 2015 Pew Research Center: U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious

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The Parable of the Church Chairs

       Then Peter and John went to church.

        It was the day after the Sabbath. The new padded folding chairs had arrived from Antioch. The tasteful gray tones of each identical chair matched well with the muted shades of the carpet and fabric-covered acoustic wall panels.

         Strolling to the front row, the two apostles looked forward to seeing their own new church chairs with their names scripted tastefully on the backrest, but otherwise denoting a pure spiritual humility in that the chairs were identical to all the others.

         They had learned this from the Master, who had decided it best to no longer sit in His huge and decorative platform throne but down among the little people in a regular chair. And His new chair was a regular chair like all the rest, of course, except for being gold-plated, just a tad larger, with His name embossed, and with special wiring and comports to facilitate better communication and access to His laptop.

         The usual comforting din of low voices and polite conversation had ceased momentarily as the two great men took their seats on either side of the big chair in the center of the first row like all the rest. Church was about to begin. All was in good order.

         The church song leader and choir director strode to the front. Also known as Pastor of Music, he was beaming. Some thought it was because his new contract increased his salary to match that of the top 5% of mega church song leaders and choir directors across the land. But others whispered something about a new friend. The congregation had always admired his polished taste in manner and clothing, as well as his unashamed emotive expressions and being able to cry so easily at the moving of the Spirit. He always worked very hard at putting forth an excellent expression of taste and unity toward the outside community. He handpicked and/or created the choir robe fabrics, wall hangings, platform arrangements (though he abhorred the term “platform”), and all else associated with his music and performance. He believed that God deserved the very best and was thankful for the generous monetary outlays which allowed him to give God the very best.

         At last, the moment that everyone anticipated had finally arrived—the time had come for the church members to stand in place among the rows of new chairs. The joy was palpable. There was a kind of hush all over the church.

         Within seconds all was quiet. All children below the age of thirteen had long since been tucked away out of sight in Sunday school rooms and all the precious little toddlers and infants in their Sunday best were ensconced in the large permanent cry room and nursery far in the back. Amid the dignified and inspirational silence, the church lights were dimmed, and the low opening strains of introductory live instrumental praise and worship music commenced. Since only standing was allowed during praise and worship, trying out the new church chairs would have to wait. Thankfully, though many were tempted, every single person in the congregation continued standing and no one gave in to temptation, though many were sorely tried.

         Some were visibly saddened on this momentous day because the Master would not be in attendance. If only He could be here! Instead, and much more important, He had a church business meeting in Jerusalem regarding the purchase of a new plot of land near the old city of David to build a new satellite church facility including extensive grounds for multipurpose use in sight of the Temple Mount. Among the attendees of the church business meeting would be highbrow Sadducees and high-level temple priests who had no little concern at such a radical-appearing move of the young upstarts. They were especially concerned about the large parking lot and the effect on traffic flow, not to mentioned further strain on the local Gihon Spring water supply. But Christianity must prevail, of course, regardless of such outright persecution.

         Praise and worship had finally ended. After almost an hour of standing and singing, some with arms raised, most congregants were ready to take a rest and try out the new chairs. After resisting temptation for so long several people hesitated. But those who sat instantly felt the difference! The new chairs were a hit! Although the previous padded pews had been quite comfortable, the padding in the new chairs was better, and even more relaxing. Some of the older church members were sad at the loss of their favored pews, but the pews were deemed much too “churchy.”

         Though not nearly as dignified as the stately old state-of-the-art padded pews in muted taupe, the new shade-of-gray padded metal folding chairs represented well the new freedom everyone was feeling—the chairs lightened the mood and helped bring the local church into the twentieth century. Of course, the chairs had to be fastened together in clearly delineated exact rows with perfect spacing and placement. But unlike the former pews, these new chairs were not bolted to the floor. That particular fact alone was an obvious unspoken cry of freedom and spiritual liberty.

         The brand new chairs, like each congregant, illustrated very well the clear New Testament concept that freedom of spiritual expression should be greatly encouraged but never allowed to go so far as to affect controlled unity, church uniforms, or correct and proper attitude and decorum. Though such facts were much appreciated by those of the older generation, they would have to understand that church must be brought closer to the original model, though even many young adults were concerned that change was happening too fast. But they appreciated the freedom to dress down somewhat and be more comfortable.

         Some of the younger men actually got together beforehand and made a pact, vowing to bring the church into even greater liberty by no longer wearing neckties with their business suits. Though applauded on one level, these boat-rocking young men knew that such a radical move would cost them when unpaid entitled staff positions became available. And they could forget about church valet parking without a considerable increase in gratuity. Such is the cost paid by spiritual pioneers.

         It was now time for the preaching to start. The Lord had left the Apostle Peter in charge, of course, as He always did when He was on the road. The Apostle Peter was noted for being the first among equals and relished his place in the pecking order. As the Lord taught, the big man was to be addressed by his title and never his name, hold his head high, and walk in the dignity of his office. And unlike the religious Pharisees who insisted on wearing specialized ecclesiastical clothing, the Apostle Peter, as did the other apostles, dressed instead in the simple attire of mere business executives and CEO’s.

         Being second in command to God was certainly okay under such circumstances. The Apostle Peter celebrated the day by wearing a brand new blazer with a new gold “key” motif on the front, designed specifically for him by the Pastor of Music and fashioned by a local tailor who had also received the contract to make the choir robes, special singer costumes, and general performance attire.

         Then, exactly on cue, with the Apostle John looking on (who was also looking forward to the day when the Apostle Peter would get promoted to Senior Pastor of the new satellite church so he could have his own opportunity to preach on such occasions when the Master left town on important church business), the Apostle Peter arose from his humble new front row padded church chair and strode toward the huge handcrafted wood pulpit atop the platform, climbing each step with dignity and decorum, his head held high, a servant to all.

         It had taken him years to get the smell of fish off his hands.

         © 2013 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.