… a series of posts on politics, church life, culture, theology-discipleship, and ministry
It seems that it’s not only the mushy middle in politics that is being pushed out, but also the mushy middle in church life. Take a look at the life of the established (or rather, de-establishing) mainline churches. The United Church and Anglican Church have been the fastest dying churches in Canada for years. The Lutheran Church is also headed in a similar direction today. The United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church (USA), amongst others, are also quickly emptying out in America (see 2011 Yearbook). Today, there is a feeling of desperation—a desperation to find a last gasp of air before easing into oblivion [maybe this is an exaggeration, but it’s only to make a point].
Soren Kierkegard, a Lutheran religious philosopher, railed on the wishy-washiness of the spiritual state of cultural Christians and state-run Lutheran church in the 18th century (Attack upon Christendom). Today’s state of Christendom in the northern hemisphere is in a similar state—a state of death and dying. The numbers of young people attending historic mainline, and some mainline evangelical churches, are decreasing each year (Hat Tip: Rev. Tim Keller). The mushy middle within church life today is too comfortable. There is no need to have a clear conviction in one’s personal religious beliefs or any need to live as devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. Many pastors are no longer preaching Law and Gospel. Their faith does not really mean very much to them, and lacks any sense of urgency or intent. If you’ll allow me, I wonder what would happen if our churches were to burn down? Would it upset many Christians who are in the mushy middle? I suspect that it might not affect many in “Christendom” This explains today’s closures of our mainline congregations.
As a result, generations of children of unchurched families rarely ever darken church doors (except for the occasional wedding, funeral, confirmation, and infant baptism). Spirituality in their eyes is privatized and is not lived out in fellowship/communion with other Christian believers. Today, as a result of generations living the mushy middle life of “church-ianity”, people have either become atheists/agnostic, or living like as if they were one. This is why there is an increasing number of people who are declaring themselves as ‘non-religious’, ‘agnostic’, or ‘atheist’. The alternative, which is increasingly more popular today, is that they are rejecting the wishy-washy ways of their parent’s past life, and are seeking to live a more devoted Christian life, and are attending church more often and regularly. This explains the growth of evangelical churches.
Here’s my point. The mushy middle in church life seems to be in the process of being weeded out. People who do want a new way of living in spiritual/faith community will find it. They want to be a part of a spiritual Christian community in which they are challenged to live as devoted disciples, othewise, they may choose to have no part of the church at all. Wishy-washiness should no longer be tolerated. It’s time to say bye bye to the mushy middle attitude.