Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Cultural Captivity of the Church

With the ever-provocative Professor Anthony Bradley, I think the Presbyterian Church in America has a whole lot to learn from a man named Soong-Chan Rah. His book The Next Evangelicalism is a provocative read.

He challenges the whole cultural and racial assumption behind the church growth model. He quotes Bob Linthicum's book City of God, City of Satan..

I know of no instrument [church attendance statistics] that creates more guilt and sense of failure in my denomination than this instrument. That is because it favors any church located in a community of rapid growth and radically disfavors any church in a decaying, declining comunity. The first kind of community is found mostly in suburban areas of the United States, while the second is found primarily in inner cities.

Let's be honest. Suburban churches grow off the backs of city churches. To date, I have only received one phone call from any suburban pastor (who also happens to be a very dear friend) inquiring why someone might consider moving from our city congregation to his suburban one. One phone call. Many of the people who move from city church to suburban church have serious pastoral issues that ought to be addressed. The onus is not on me to make those things known, I don't think, but on the pastors who so gladly receive them into their flocks on a simple exchange of paper. But, hey, they are an addition to the membership rolls, and that is the extent of pastoral concern, apparently.

Why don't we start working for kingdom growth instead of church growth? The cities, tough places though they are, are the places where this can happen. There are a lot of lost people in the city, a lot of heartache, tons of need. It is there in the suburbs, too, but I am not so sure PCA churches are reaching them. It is, after all, very easy to catch fish when they are jumping.

God calls us to move away from comfort and towards pain. I need to keep telling myself that.


  1. Thanks very much for this Ken. These are words I needed to hear.

  2. But now it is cool to start an urban church. :) Good points Ken, the church is not a business with customers, although when time for pastoral evaluations come out it is usually the underlying subtext. Keep seeking to please our Master.