What is the cause of this shift? The blame, once again, seems to lie with us and not some externally imposed force. According to McNeal (and I think he's right), "The North American church culture unfortunately now reflects the materialism and secularism of the modern era." In other words, the Church has in many ways conformed to the world and this conformity will not capture the attention of the lost much less the commitment of the faithful.

In so many churches today we have unwittingly reduced the gospel to a "come to Jesus and be happy" proposition (the therapeutic Jesus) rather than a "call on the name of the Lord and be saved" reality. Additionally, many churches have become so reliant upon modern methodologies, growth strategies, and best practices that they operate like well-ordered corporations who, practically speaking, have no need of God.

There seems to be a fundamental failure in defining the Church. Is the Church a "club" into which we invite people to join, or is the Church the Body of Christ sent out into the world? How we answer these questions will necessarily produce two very different churches, one institutional and dying (world come to us) and the other missional and vibrant (go to the world).

I would argue that the "world come to us" approach has largely stripped the Church of authentic faith in Jesus Christ and replaced it with a club mentality that seeks like-minded "club members," people who already share our values and are looking to be with their own kind. The "go to the world" or missional approach presses into the world among those not like us, seeking to share the love of Christ through word and deed. Given these two approaches; do you think it possible that the "club" approach coupled with the growing reaction to the "Christian right" might send outsiders into questioning the existence of God?

Regardless of where you are in relation to politics or the kind of church you attend, the question we must each ask ourselves everyday is this: Is my life and conduct drawing people toward Christ or pushing them away? I pray for my own sake that it is the former.
 

S. Michael Craven is the Founding Director of the Center for Christ & Culture, a ministry of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families. The Center for Christ & Culture is dedicated to renewal within the Church and works to equip Christians with an intelligent and thoroughly Christian approach to matters of culture in order to recapture and demonstrate the relevance of Christianity to all of life. For more information on the Center for Christ & Culture, additional resources and other works by S. Michael Craven visit: www.battlefortruth.org

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