Authentic Christianity: What Do We Believe?
For decades, we have seen mainline churches of which the United Methodists are a part plummet in membership. There are several factors that can attribute to that fall. Since their peak in the late 1960s, these denominations have seen membership fall from around 30 million to around 20 million. At one time, one-third of the population of the United States were part of the Methodist Church. Because of this decline, churches have tried everything to be relevant. We have brought in consulting groups and training seminars that show us how to set up our churches and even brought in business terms like marketing and focus groups to "sell" the church to wayward Millennials. The fear of the Church becoming older and grayer has sent local churches and denominations into full on panic mode. I have been trained in and sat through so many seminars that I should be an expert. All the things I have learned one would think I could implant that knowledge into a church and suddenly the skies will open and people will begin flocking to the church. But unfortunately it doesn't work that way. The reason is that in the midst of all the seminars, buzz words, and training we have lost authenticity.
We have lost what makes the Church the Church. We have tried so hard to be like everything else that we have become just one more thing in someone's life. There is no difference in someone's choice to go to church or to go to the movies or some other form of recreation. Going to church is seen as a disposable commodity. We can live with it or without it because it's just one more thing.
The question is how do we become more authentic in who we are as the church. It's not about light shows and fog machines. It's not about hipster pastors with skinny jeans and finely trimmed beards feeding people pop psychology and calling it a sermon. It's not embracing "contemporary" or "emerging" church at the expense of "traditional."
There is a question that is emerging more and more in the current climate of the Church: what do we believe? This isn't a political or social justice question. It is an authentic question about the foundations of who we are in Christ. Many will say that doctrine is not important anymore. All that really matters is how we feel about a particular cause. Emotion plays a larger part in our thinking than what the early Church Fathers said in the second and third centuries. However, if we do that, we lose that connection that has bound us to the New Testament Church and the Apostles. Doctrine and orthodoxy matter even today in our culture of relativism. This is why throughout the month of June we will be talking about the foundational beliefs of the Church by using the creeds as our guides. The creeds of the Church are based on Biblical truths that have been put in a succinct way. This will be done primarily with the Nicene and Apostles' Creed.
I hope that you will join me in looking at how we can understand our faith in an authentic way and talk about how we can share the message of Christ with others so that they will know the good news of Jesus.