the most important doctrine for us to get our head around right now is…

‘…the doctrine of the church!’

Again, that’s according to Andrew Katay.

Apparently something like 60-70% of Sydney-siders claim to believe most orthodox Christian doctrines. And a surprisingly large number have attended church occasionally.

Yet this hardly translates to active Christian commitment to the local church — and all that follows from that.

Them’s the facts.

Plenty of people have theories about this — or aspects of it (I’ve been working my way through some helpful stuff Mark Sayers’ ‘über’ team has produced on ‘why young adults are leaving the church’ — the links are down on the right hand side the page).

But Andrew suggested to our NTE mission team that a significant contributing factor is our own evangelical insistence that ‘You don’t need to go to church to be a Christian’.

It’s an understandable insistence, of course. If there’s one thing every good evangelical knows it’s that we’re not Roman Catholic. And Roman Catholics are big on the church — No Church No Salvation kind of big.

So we flip out to the other extreme.

But Andrew reckons that one reason our churches are dwindling is because we keep telling people (as we explain the good news of Jesus) that they don’t need to belong to church to be saved. So it’s no surprise that more people not drawn into Christian community!

That’s why Andrew feels that the doctrine of the church is the most important doctrine to grapple with. We’ve got to address this issue — without tripping over into a kind of Protestant nominalism (ie. ‘Just attending church will do it for you’).

What’s your feeling?

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4 comments

  1. Hi Chris. I looked at the link and couldn’t find the relevant post.

    I think it goes deeper then what he has said. Research shows that there is a high percentage of burn out of Christians within 4 – 7 years of being highly involved with the church and therefore slow down on their involvement.

    Others have been deeply hurt through pastoral complacency or incompetence. Depending on the denomination / fellowship there can be little help in helping the congregation find their purpose and use their gifts and therefore this leads to dejection and unfulfilled needs of what it means to be part of the body.

  2. While I agree that there is some dodgy ecclesiology out there I am hesitant to support Katay’s theory. Do we really think that Sydney evangelicals are so cavalier about their own churches? This theory assumes that we have no problems communicating the message of Jesus so people come to faith and either 1) we leave them to their own devices, or 2) new Christians automatically assume a Lone Ranger approach to faith. In my experience those who have the strongest faith in Christ are the most committed to their faith communities. Why do we assume that our evangelists are ashamed of church? In my mind there are other factors at work.

  3. The.. “you don’t have to go to church to be saved” presentation of the gospel is a distorted one because it is presenting God as someone or something to be used for my benefit… i.e.entry into heaven, rather than knowing the grace of God and repenting to love him with all of ones heart, mind and stregnth.

    This view presents God as someone like :

    I can and I will make sushi without any other or anything helping me. I’ll do it without the materials.. so when you make your sushi, it’s either not edible or non-existent.

    Rather the sushi maker can still use the necessary materials and be seen as making it on his own.

    I think we need to think through from who’s point of view am I describing Salvation.
    If we view salvation from a human point of view – we are opened to saying: I am saved through.. faith alone, Scripture alone, church or mixing any of the above or others..

    But, if we view salvation from God’s point of view – we say God alone saves me through whatever way he wishes. He can use the church, wisdom of others, personality of others, my intellect or even my sin.. but the thing or person who saves me is God alone.

    I also think that we have reduced the meaning of ‘salvation’ merely as a result of God’s mercy so as to escape hell rather than as a grace thing where he saves us from punishement and also pours out his goodness in abundance..

    I just rambled then…

  4. Wow, OK. Great to hear from you all, Craig, Luke and Jenny.

    I’m sure you’re right Craig that many people’s experience of church community has involved hurt. We can’t paint a hopelessly rosy and unrealistic picture of church — that’s not the answer; and I certainly don’t think that’s what Andrew’s suggesting.

    Luke — I’d love to hear some more about the other factors you feel may be at work here.

    And thanks for your ramble, Jenny. I’m not quite sure what to make of your sushi analogy. But I really think there’s something to what you’re saying about not using God.

    For my own part, I find this article about ‘The Pornification of Christian Resources’ really illuminating. I like this in particular: “When we only consume Christian resources, it may challenge us, it may add to our knowledge, but nothing challenges us towards actual lifestyle change like Christian community”. I feel that’s a perspective on church that we can’t say enough about!

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