While I take a break from sewing dozens of kit bags for CAM, I'll share with you excerpts from an article I clipped from Saturday's newspaper that impressed me. It was written by Susan Shelly and I quote:
Nearly two decades ago, John Shelby Spong, a bishop in the Episcopal Church, wrote and released a book that attracted a lot of attention in religious circles.
The book, Why Christianity Must Change or Die, addressed the decline of mainline Protestant churches and argued that in order to reverse the decline, congregations should abandon a literal interpretation of the Bible and be willing to change with the times.
Almost 20 years later, mainline churches are still in decline. A 2015 report by the Pew Research Center revealed that these congregations are losing about 1 million members each year, while membership at many evangelical and fundamentalist churches is on the rise.
Marlene Druckenmiller, a retired deacon of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, (which, despite its name, is a mainline church) addressed this issue recently in a talk called "Does Your Church Need Hospice?". . .
Within the Northeastern Synod, Druckenmiller said, churches are closing and buildings being abandoned or sold to another congregation or other group. Congregations are shrinking, with a particular decline in younger members.
Churches are no longer able to pay clergy and staff members, and positions are cut. Church buildings may fall into disrepair because the congregation cannot afford to fix problems.
As all these things occur, and members recognize that their churches are in decline, many experience a sense of loss and grief, similar to what is experienced with a loved one dies.
The article goes on to give advice for coping with a dying church. The number of churches that are closing or merging is increasing and the newspaper prints articles about them at regular intervals. This not only happens in mainline Protestant churches but in Mennonite churches as well. Our Mid-Atlantic Conference has purchased several buildings from other Mennonite churches that were forced to close due to dwindling membership.
The first two paragraphs of the article above identifies the cause of death of these churches. If we abandon the literal interpretation of the Bible and make it subjective rather than absolute, we destroy the foundation on which our faith is built and it cannot endure. If the Bible does not mean what it says, what's the point? Why bother reading the Bible or going to church if it's only a farce?
The article says that while mainline congregations are losing members, "evangelical and fundamentalist churches" are growing. Only by standing on the solid foundation of the Word of God can a church grow in faith and numbers.
Does the Bible say what it means and mean what it says? Absolutely! It's a life and death matter.