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Discussion in 'Ecclesiology' started by Romans5eight, Mar 27, 2018.
Forget influence! Embrace faithfulness as revealed in God's word.
"The PCA is predominantly made up of white, middle class families, a demographic no longer reproducing at replacement rate." We need more babies!
I would encourage you to consider more carefully what a Protestant Church is. I don't regard every church outside of Rome or eastern "orthodoxy" as Protestant. What are 95% of these communions protesting?
Follow up on those 500-odd people. I hate to sound critical, but the sad truth of most revival-style meetings is that many go away fundamentally unchanged.
Why do the Reformed churches have to be big to be important? Sure, many will dismiss us because we might be smaller or less flashy than Rome or Furtick, but what does it matter if we don't have influence? I'd much rather see faithfulness to God, right worship, genuine holiness.
What matters is not pleasing men, but pleasing God. That's never going to be the most popular option.
The Bible and history show fluctuations in the state of the church. Winter inevitability follows summer, and declension follows spiritual prosperity. Generations grow up not knowing the God of their fathers. There are many factors to consider, but two in particular are foremost. The first is to evaluate or rather discern whether God has a controversy with His people, and that the present dearth is His judgment upon us. Indeed we wonder if His judgments are on the nations when we consider the terrible wickedness that abounds. But in it all there is a remnant according to the election of Grace, and faith is still found in the earth.
The other reason to consider is whether we pay lip service to the reality of the person of the Holy Spirit. “When He is come,”are words that afford me encouragement and comfort in this benighted scenario. I truly believe that we have grieved and quenched the blessed dove, and consequently though there is much preaching, there is very little fruit on the vine. When one reads the Acts of the Apostles, or Acts of the Spirit, we read of of steadfastness to the Apostolic doctrine and the profusion of converts that were “added to the Lord,” and “added to the church.” Three thousand through one sermon, five thousand men through another sermon, but also there were “multitudes” frequently converted, and the Lord “added daily to the church such as should be saved.” When He is come, that’s what follows!
In the church of Kirk o Shotts on Monday morning, June 21st 1630, John Livingstone a probationer preached a two and a half hour sermon, and 500 traced their conversion to that service. Just last night I read of a service in the past in my own country lasting 9hrs, and the congregation had to be sent home otherwise they would have stayed.
When He is come He will convict of sin, righteousness and judgment, come then Holy One, and lift up Christ crucified and placard Him before the eyes of sinners.
The more I thought about this, the more convinced what I proposed has significant merit. Which "churches" are most popular? I submit it is the dog-n-pony shows. The regulated worship with emphasis on the ordinary means of faithful, Reformed churches kicks the false props out from underneath the desires of the sinful nature. The dog-n-pony show appeals strongly to the baser side of man....
I agree with these guys pushing back against the premise that Reformed churches are small due to “obsessive tendencies over Scripture” and not playing well with others. Most more broadly evangelical people just don’t want to hear about what the Bible teaches if it contradicts their settled opinions, and tend to become angry when they do understand what’s really being said. It can’t be proved that this is due to a lack of love and engagement on the part of confessional, Reformed people. I see the opposite in my world.
I’ve wondered if it’s all about worship; the high places were a snare to Israel throughout all their history under the kings, even in times of reform. The people did love them, and the people now seem to, still.
The Reformed church is important. The question is why is it such a small minority in number of people compared to all of Protestant churches? I understand people wanting to attend to newest and coolest church, but that can’t explain why we are less than 5% of Protestant churches.
Yes, blame it on the government. I’m guessing the government would make things worse.
There is a factor that has been largely overlooked in this thread: the widespread growth of false religion beginning in the "Second Great Awakening" in the 1800s. The fervor of this movement dramatically changed the religious landscape of the United States. It spread Arminianism, and ultimately led to the development of Seventh-Day Adventism, Jehovah's Witnesses (I hate calling them that), Mormonism, etc. The Baptist and Methodist churches experienced tremendous growth during this time (no offense to my Baptist brethren). The end result was that shallow sentimentalism on the one hand, and zealotry on the other, triumphed over sound religion.
Bear in mind that a lot of this fervor occurred in the Frontier, where there were few sound churches to begin with.
As has been said, the view of the Reformed churches towards worship, as well as numerous other matters, goes against man's natural will worship. But in different times and different places numbers have fluctuated. England in the 16th and 17th centuries had quite a few more Puritans than it has now. We might not always be able to determine the reasons for these rises and falls in numbers.
By the way, where did you dig up that statistic? I am curious about the definition of "Protestant" in whatever source you used. (Ie. Does it include JWs, Mormons, Pentecostals, etc.?)
And, yes, he's saying the government did make things worse. I don't think godless government is the only reason for any of this, but it doubtless has contributed to the fact that confessional Presbyterianism, for example, is no longer a national religion in Scotland.
Yes, and all that spread around the world quite quickly. The USA has been a breeding ground for sects and cults.
I hear that Pentecostalism/charismaticism is, globally, the fastest growing segment of Christianity. And it's no wonder, considering is unashamed appeals to the natural man.
Reformed Christianity, meanwhile, sees no such exponential growth.
It's not a question of whether you (or anyone else, for that matter) think it would make things "worse," which is also a subjective designation. What you define as "successful," "healthy," or "best" is not necessarily successful, healthy, or best. It is not a matter of what any man thinks is the best scenario, but a matter of what God has required of a magistrate in his office. The scriptures are clear that he that would rule over men must rule justly, and in the fear of God, subduing his calling for the sake of Christ, and being a rewarder of those who do well, as well as a terror of those who do evil. So whether we think the government will cause what we finite men perceive to be problematic is irrelevant as to what God has said is our duty.
The idea of the government stopping heresy is another topic that is purely theoretical.
Why do you think it’s theoretical? It has been successfully done before (see orthodox Church councils beginning with Nicea).
Rather than “the government stopping heresy” it’s better to realize that the magistrate calls for and protects the church in gathering to define and condemn heretical views. So that a standard of orthodoxy can be official, I guess you’d say.
I've only glanced the thread so if this has been suggested my apologies. We cannot know why for sure and it may be many reasons why the Reformed churches may be small and weak influence in American Christianity. My first speculation would be because of our own sin. We've compromised as much as any other communion with the surrounding culture. The canary in the coalmine is the observation of the Lord's Day (the most common exception taken by ministers in the PCA). What percentage for instance of the Presbyterian Church in America looks no different than the rest of the culture outside of 11 to noon on Sunday? We need to start with ourselves and get our house in order and then the Lord may bless the ministry of the reformed churches in this country. Or it may be our role is simply to be faithful while our witness goes unheard if the Lord has determined judgment on the US. Either way we first have to reform ourselves. As many have said, As goes the Sabbath, so the church, as goes the church, so the nation.
I just think it’s a different topic and not the reason why more non-denominational Christians aren’t moving to reformed churches.
I read the current thread on the topic. Maybe I think that the minority opinion of a minority of Christians won’t effect the practice of the government. Considering that the handfull of people on this board don’t even agree.
A scenario comes to mind. Say a war, or a coup, or a natural disaster of some sort, brings about the collapse of our republican form of government and eventually a new coalition comes together to reform, and they desire a government that will rule justly according to the law of God, and they have the WCF as their constituting principle. They’d either be glad they retained the language about the authority of the magistrate to act as a nursing father or mother to the church, or they’d want to restore that section to their version of the WCF! (It does seem to come back to that, among other things, one way or another.)
I think this is largely the thing.
No apologies needed! It bears repeating on a loop. For you it is not greivous, and for us it is safe.
This is what I meant by “theoretical”. To even have the discussion we have to suspend reality.
So what you are saying is that the reformed church has really become so much like non-denominational Christianity that it has become a non-alternative for churchgoing people.
The shifting of things that reformation may come is not theoretical but a thing that has happened time and again in history, and we do well, I think, to consider that history has a way of repeating itself. The reformation under Luther and Calvin was brought about by the providential acts of God that included wars and the changed face of the nations, and the invention of the printing press, to name a couple. All the time, as Jeff alluded to, his Spirit was bringing the prayers of his people to fruition. It’s certainly not a suspension of reality to have that discussion.
However this is not the point of your OP though I believe it has bearing on it. I think Chris’s point is huge. The reformed churches must be partaking of the judgment that begins with the household of God; we have sinned. Turn us again, O God. (Psalm 80:1-19, Psalm 85:4).
I almost tend to agree, though the lack of growth in the more conservative reformed churches, such as the OPC, appears to not bear this out.
Probably a variety of reasons, but some would be that the common american Evangelical would hold to semi-pelegian theology on salvation, would chaff at adding Confessions to the Bible, and also many want to have fun and be comfortable listening to those teaching watered down/bad theology.
Who is "we"? There are lots of people involved in parachurch ministries - for example, consider Ligonier Ministries, and anyone who supports that. That outreach is one of the great tools that God is using to communicate reformed truth to the general Christian masses.
Again, I don't think you can say "we" without qualifying the geographic and/or social limits of that pronoun. Surely you don't mean all reformed churches in North America?
As an example of how "we" are influencing others, I'll give you the example of my own church. Our church has a young adults Bible study led by our reformed pastor. It draws in some young adults from other local churches (evangelical ones). In this Bible study they are exposed to solid true Biblical theology.
This is only one tiny example.
Another contributing factor is the abandonment by Confessional Presbyterianism of the principle that God perpetuates the Church from age to age, through the children of the Church. God in wisdom constituted society in family structures, and likewise in the church. There is an organic unity in both. The responsibility and privilege given to parents to train up the child in the way it should go, has suffered a laxity that has damaged the health of the church. It is regrettable that Presbyterianism seems to follow Edwards’ maxim that children are “little vipers” rather than Calvin’s belief that the seed of believers are little Christians. There is a lamentable ignorance amongst Presbyterian parents respecting the covenant obligations we have in raising our offspring not only in the fear and admonition of the Lord, but as citizens of His kingdom and heirs of the covenant. The present attitude is one of a general christian upbringing and leave it to the maturing child to decide for itself. Consequently many Presbyterian churches have very few young people in them. If I speak too generally I apologise, but my words are but my experience.
I have been told if Westminster Sabbatarianism is an important issue for me, then the OPC would be a disappointment. So in theory, maybe it is borne out.
In general, Reformed Churches aren't into gimmick. There's generally no push towards emotional / manipulative appeal. My father-in-law regularly tells me after his service that he was "really beat up" by the sermon (he does afterwards clarify and explain that he was also edified by the Gospel as well!).
Most people don't go to a service to "get beat up on." I know many people who come to our service (and other churches) that care little about doctrine, but more so about the forms, the ceremonial aspects, the lighting, the music style, the childcare, etc. They just do not have the interest at this point in hearing the Word of God.
That said, there are large Reformed churches and there are small Reformed churches. Some have large influences over their cities. Some have little influence. It depends on where you are.
You can't really apply that broad a brush to paint with.
One reason Reformed denominations tend to be so small has to do with our attitude toward evangelism, in my opinion. Our attitude seems to be: "If you find us, great - and welcome. But we're not going to to looking for you."
I've been in the OPC since 1996, and it's often said among us that every communicant member of the OPC in the United States could fit in the Rose Bowl with plenty of room left over.