Monday, May 03, 2010

PCA Strategic Plan: Post 7

External Challenges

A. North American and European Challenges

1. Loss of Christian consensus in West replaced by Naturalistic worldview

2. Dominance of Pluralism and intolerance of religious “preference”

3. “Hidden revival” in immigrant church; church decline in general U.S. culture

4. Mainline church decline

5. Evangelicals now mainline (minority 􀃆 majority)

(Salvation theology 􀃆 Kingdom theology)

(Orthodoxy [Word] 􀃆Orthopraxy [deed])

(Doctrinal consensus􀃆Relational consensus)

No Protestant faith group rivals Evangelicals in both membership and political influence. Evangelicals have moved from a mid-Twentieth Century minority to an early 21st-Century majority. With majority status has come a shift in emphasis from hope not-of-this-world (Salvation theology) to this-world hope (Kingdom theology). Reacting to self-oriented pietism and consumerism of previous generations, movements as diverse as Focus on the Family and the New Perspective on Paul have argued the Gospel requires Christians to engage in some form of cultural transformation. Orthodoxy (the right proclamation of the Word) has been deemed impossible without orthopraxy (the the right practice of the Word). With the diminished emphasis on the Word, Evangelicalism has become a much broader tent theologically, embracing those who both in doctrine and lifestyle choices differ widely from previous generations. Evangelical leaders and laypersons are paying less and less attention to denominational lines and distinctives, but while trying to survive in an increasingly secular culture that views the church as either irrelevant or polarizing.

6. Evangelicals strongly divided over Formal (let’s be church) vs. Informal (let’s be real) worship practices (differences are not strictly generational)

7. Evangelical generational divides (Builders vs. Boomers vs. Gen-X; e.g. zeal for programmatic evangelism vs. relational evangelism; antipathy to vs. acceptance of pop culture; differing socio-political agendas – see below) Builders/Boomers = Constraint Theology (STOP abortion, homosexuality, pornography, immigration, minimum wage, etc.) Busters/X-ers/ Millennials = Compassion Theology (HELP poor, discriminated, AIDS victims, refugees, environment, etc.)

8. Dominant influence of parachurch for diaconal and mission work

9. Rise of Emergent Church in West (Proclamation emphasis 􀃆 Incarnation emphasis)

10. Youth exodus of Western Church and modern Evangelicalism

11. Rising generation financial stress, and sense of having been denied earlier generations’ privileges

12. Postmodern philosophies and mindset (subjective truth; narrative vs. didactic learning)

13. Orality and visual literacy of Western youth culture and Developing World

14. Pervasive Biblical/doctrinal Illiteracy (all generations)

15. Birth control/abortion normalized

16. Traditional family decline (divorce, delayed adolescence, delayed marriages, starter marriages, pervasive pornography, working parents, absent fathers, abuse)

17. Gender Roles re-definition and confusion (more than Feminism per se)

18. Transition from Anglo-majority culture in U.S.

19. Transition to No-growth Economies in Western Europe as Birth Rates Fall among All But Immigrant (Muslim, African and Asian) Populations (sic)

Summary: There are may challenges facing the church. Some are external, some are internal. These are some of the external challenges particularly facing the church in North America.

Comment: So? We needed the PCA Strategic Plan to tell us this? I suspect most ministers in the PCA (or in evnagelical churches in general) could have come up with most of this off the tops of their heads. That’s not to say it’s not true. It is to say that this falls in line with the simplistic “analysis” which this Plan presents to us, and is ultimately not very helpful.

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