With various issues brought into the light of day, and a number of apparently unaddressed needs discussed, the picture being painted might appear to be a tad bleak. In the face of some of the issues that may well be the case. As a side note, I have just started to read John MacArthur’s latest book (The Truth War) and discovered that I have been harping on roughly the same track. It is encouraging on the one hand to find that much greater thinkers are proposing similar concerns, but discouraging in that it further confirms my suspicions. That having been said, however, I am still naive enough to think that there are a number of simple prescriptions to move things back toward the yellow brick road.
Let me also state that there are surely many other better answers and approaches than those proposed here. That having been said, anxiety about inadequate answers can be an excuse for inaction and decline. For those old enough to recall a TV show named WKRP in Cincinnati, the series opening show had the newly self-named Dr. Johnny Fever exclaiming on the air “Give it to me straight, Doctor. I can take it”. With that in mind, we shall wade in boldly and see what happens.
Overall, I think that we can preserve much of the popular ‘look and feel’ changes that seem to delight people, while still re-incorporating the foundational basics. The point here is not to declare all current changes as unwanted and throw the baby out with the bath water, but to use the present preferential changes to enhance the foundational basics. The problem to date has often been that the new approaches have replaced the basics and not enhanced them, as if these modern preferences formed an equally valid theology of their own. That is surely the road to apostasy!
The other present day reality is that of financial resources. A great advantage to the re-incorporation of the foundational, biblical content is that is it relatively cost free. This also conveniently removes a major excuse.
One key is to give those foundational basics at least as much emphasis as the newer issues. Moreover, in order to re-orient things, it may be required in the short run to put more emphasis on the issues to be re-established as foundational. The next, but likely the most important, key is consistency. The foundational basics must be consistently and persistently taught, preached, discussed and thought about until they are second nature and endemic in the congregation’s paradigm. This second point is absolutely crucial to success. Application of those two changes alone would likely yield a positive result even in the short them, but they must be actually applied, not simply thought about about or talked about.
So how can we practically combine the present and the foundational basics? Here is an off-the-cuff action list (in no particular order of importance) for starters:
1. Blended contemporary and traditional worship – many do this now and it seems to work well.
2. Preaching which is foundational and biblical at least 75% of the time. This means exposition, not excess commentary and particularly not application!
3. A congregational approach to familiarity (preferably with some memorization) with foundational Bible verses.
4. Bible reading, both individual and congregational (this is not small group bible study from a booklet).
5. Congregational education on the denominational doctrines and distinctives to a level of repeatability.
6. A provision for and endorsement of congregational prayer, specific as well as generic.
7. Church leadership (beyond the paid pastoral staff) actively and obviously engaged in the clear Biblical requirements – spiritual guidance, teaching, preaching and congregational care.
And one further point, more an attitude than an action – Forget church growth! It is a side effect of Glorifying our Lord, not an activity.
That is a start. It will no doubt offend the “church is boring, you must engage people to draw them to the Gospel” set. Good! That would indicate that we are at least actually discussing the issues. Points two and possibly four could use some expansion since two is so pivotal and four is such a strong focus in today’s church, but that can wait until the next article.
Within the points listed there is a basic framework for at least a beginning toward more general biblical literacy. And that is real literacy, not just talk about it and vague references. This might just yield an assembly of people who actually are of the Book…