I’ve been reviewing the book Disappearing Church by Mark Sayers. He begins by acknowledging a number of disappearances:
1. The disappearance of the Judeo-Christian worldview from our culture.
2. The disappearance of a large number of people who are leaving the church.
3. For those who remain, the disappearance of an engagement with the church marked by commitment, resilience & sacrifice.
4. The disappearance of thousands of churches across the American landscape.
Sayers then describes how the modern church, since the 1970’s, has tried to arrest the slide toward secularism by making the church more relevant. First, it got rid of traditions & rituals perceived as old-fashioned. Second, it began to change its message (what it talked about) so as to not offend anyone.
Rather than focusing on relevance, Sayers urges the church to focus on being resilient as a “creative minority.” Perhaps several of the chapter titles explain it best:
1. Reject the Prosperity Gospel. We Are Slaves of Christ.
2. Stop Catering to Public Opinion. Go for Depth.
3. Don’t Offer Everything. Deliver Truth.
4. Re-create the Institution of the Church.
Sayers is a strong critic of the Prosperity Gospel that has become so prominent within the American church (think Joel Osteen et al). The teaching is not only heretical, but it reflects & feeds the narcissism that has gripped our culture.
Sayers also suggests churches aim for depth over breadth. He thinks this will appeal to thoughtful young people who get tired of superficiality.
Sayers envisions a smaller but purer church that will likely need to pull back a bit from its cultural engagement as American society continues on its downward path. We mustn’t pull back entirely, he says, but instead need to find new & creative ways to engage with hurting people.