So I spent some of my time off this past week reading for my upcoming Doctor of Ministry program. I start classes tomorrow! I just finished reading "Christ and Culture" by H. Richard Niebuhr.
Here is a bit of wisdom I gleaned. Niebuhr was influenced by the development of the Social Gospel movement which took place in the early 1900's. Right after the Civil War the Industrial Revolution took place in America. This meant the rise of cities and all the social problems dense populations bring. Poverty, racial inequality, fare wages.....these were among some of the issues of the time. The church stepped up to speak for those who had no voice applying biblical teachings to the social problems of the day. During this period the church and faith became relevant to the average person.
Eventually Labor Unions and ultimately the adoption of President Roosevelt's New Deal meant that the government rather than churches began to address the social issues of this time. When the government began to do what the church was doing....this mean that the church and faith failed to have relevancy. This gave rise to the "program" church.....teenage bowling groups, adult bridge groups, trips, movies, fellowship dinners.
The typical program church of the 50's and 60's was void of relevance other than providing worship and fellowship activities.
We now find the church struggling for an identity. Some churches present themselves as one more commodity to be bought and enjoyed. Other churches just give up.
How can the church become relevant again?
It seems all we do now is gather for an "enjoyable" worship service, throw some money towards help programs and gather for an occasional fellowship meal. Shouldn't there be more to church?