When I was a young christian, most churches were part of a denomination and most people knew what denomination they belonged to, even if they never actually attended. People didn’t switch denominations very often. When they moved house, they would generally find the closest church of their denomination and attend it.
Most new churches began when a new suburb was developed and the denomination would set up a new congregation. There were few independent churches and they were generally quite small.
But it’s all different now. People change denominations easily. There are many independent churches, many of which began as a “church plant” from a larger independent congregation. And increasingly, the denominations are “planting churches” too. But is this a good thing?
A lot of disagreements between christians come down to how we see the Bible. And a lot of how we present the christian faith to outsiders (whether well or badly) is similarly determined by how we see the Bible.
I think there are four basic views, and I thought diagrams might make them clearer.
I remember about 40 years ago coming to the conclusion that the church in the western world was, in the next few decades, going to go through changes as significant as the Reformation. I felt we had got away from the truth in several important areas – introspective & hierarchical churches, dead orthodoxy in many christians’ lives (including me), and failing to heed Jesus’ teachings on non-violence, acceptance and the perils of wealth – and God surely wouldn’t allow this to continue unchecked.
I think we are now in the middle of a new reformation, and here are some of the signs I see.
Last week (Close to understanding Jesus?) I outlined how I came to see that much of the evangelical teaching I had received about Jesus didn’t really explain Jesus and his ministry in accurate terms historically.
It seems that many people are coming to similar conclusions, for example New Testament scholar NT Wright and the philosopher, the late Dallas Willard.
New Testament scholar and theologian, Scot McKnight’s 2011 book, The King Jesus Gospel, takes up the same theme, but from a theological rather than historical perspective. So I guess it is hardly surprising that Wright and Willard both contributed Forewords.
One day, when I was a young christian, I had a surprising thought. As soon as I thought it, I knew it couldn’t be true.
But this untrue thought set me on a path of discovery that I am still on today. This path has enriched my understanding of Jesus and changed the way I live and some substantial things about what I believe.
The Barna Group has recently released results of research into church attendance in USA, including information on “millennials” (under-30s). While this will have little relevance to other countries, there may be some similarities and thus things we may all learn
You can read the New Testament without knowing anything about the authors or the background to their writing. If that’s you, you probably won’t be interested in this post. But I have long been interested in these background matters, and lately I’ve be coming to a few conclusions.