For years now the local church and its minister have been victims of an angry flood of criticism in books, magazines, newspapers, sermons, lectures, and addresses the country over. Astonishingly, most of the critics have been Protestant ministers. They write:

“Five out of every six church buildings in America could be sold and dismantled without damage to the Christian mission.”

“The local church is no longer a satisfactory vehicle for doing the work of Christ.”

“The traditional work of the local parish … is hardly likely to survive in an era of religious revolution.”

“The Christian ministry is doomed to disappear with the bourgeois culture that made room for it.”

Influenced by all this, some Protestant leaders are urging that the traditional work of local churches be replaced by new types of ministries. They recommend ministers without churches, special ministries instead of pastoral ministries for clergymen, churches without buildings. Some seminaries are actually planning radically revised curricula to prepare students for these special ministries.

Further, some churches are now actually ceasing to be the Church—by recasting the Church’s mission, by becoming political agencies for a particular partisan viewpoint, by reducing their outlook to embrace only humanitarian concerns divorced from the dynamism of a redemptive Gospel. Radical judgments on the biblical Church are often uttered in these circles by those who fail to see that it is they themselves who are making the Church seem irrelevant and unnecessary.

Unquestionably, the churches have their weaknesses and failures. They are often oblivious to evil and lacking in vision; the great majority of their members and leaders would readily admit this. But it simply is not true ...

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