The main problem with the contemporary church is not that some are saying God is dead, nor that the redemptive thrust of the Gospel has been dulled by the over-emphasis on social action, nor even that theologians, ministers, and ecumenical organizers are hanging crepe. The problem is that the man in the pew has lost interest in doing anything about the main challenges confronting the Church today.
And if the man in the pew is uninterested, the parish church will die, if it has not already done so. If the man in the pew does not exercise his individual Christian responsibility toward others who are not Christians, if he does not give tangible meaning to his asserted belief that he should love his brother as himself, then God will, for all modern intents and purposes have been killed by the very ones who call themselves his children.
Here is the Church’s weakest link: those who confess Christ and then do nothing for him. If the clergy share the guilt, it is because they have made it easy for church members to shirk their Christian responsibility. Many have, intentionally or not, promulgated the immoral theory that church members can give their way into heaven without ever moving from the pew; that they can feed Christ’s sheep with dollars and cents alone; that they can love their neighbors by putting crisp, green bills in clean, white envelopes, without troubling themselves over the continuing problems. Christians share their money fairly readily. But the most important thing they have to share, belief in a redeeming Lord, is hidden away somewhere, to be uncovered only when piety demands it.
Today the Church is at a tragic impasse. It has more buildings, more money, more members than ever; but it is less involved than ever, less ...1
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