Generic Churches

Last week Rod Dreher had this post about the question of Baptist churches taking the word "Baptist" from their names. This is a growing trend in Evangelical Christianity. Many large "megachurches" either have no denominational affiliation at all, or downplay it if they do. Ditto for thousands of tiny storefront churches that can be found throughout the U.S.

Why is this? Moreover, why do independent churches seem to be growing so quickly? I have a theory. When a local congregation aligns itself with a denomination, whether Baptist, Lutheran, or whatever, they are making a statement. The statement is this: "We are part of something bigger and broader. There are certain things about this church that are distinctive and non-negotiable. This is who we are."

This sort of thing is not consistent with modern American culture, in which we expect everything to be customized, adaptable, and personalized. When a church has "Baptist" in its name, people think this: "If I go there, they might say things I don't want to hear! I won't be re-affirmed in my desire to do whatever I want! I may even be told there are parts of my life I ought to change!"

It is far easier and more pleasant for most people to go to a church that doesn't ask much of them. The generic churches offer entertainment and a sense of community. In many cases they do a lot of good work by helping people deal with life and its problems. This is great - but is it enough? Shouldn't there be something more? Something transcendent and eternal? Something that goes beyond this life and anticipates the next one? Is the generic church really the church Christ founded?

No, it isn't. Christ gave us one Church, and He didn't intend for it to be some squishy "I'm ok, you're ok" concert hall where everyone has a good time and believes whatever they want to believe. He prayed at the Last Supper that we would be one, that we would be brought to perfection as one. The Apostle Paul wrote this:

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

Paul did not endorse generic Christianity. He said that the Church of the Living God is the pillar and foundation of the truth. Pillars aren't supposed to break. Foundations are supposed to be firm. You don't want your pillar and foundation shifting itself around because it thinks "circumstances are different now."

A church with no foundation is no church at all. Yes, it may look strong enough for now. Yet it will not last. Human weakness will let it start to crumble, and time will bring down its walls. The true Church is built on a rock and the the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. Christ Himself told us so. Any church not built on that rock will not last - no matter what it calls itself.

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