I once paid a visit to one of the most mega of America’s megachurches. It’s a church whose pastor is well-known, a church known for its innovation, a church held up as a model for modern evangelicalism. I went in with as open a mind as I could muster. I left perplexed. I was perplexed not by what was said or done in the service as much as what was left unsaid and undone. Since that visit I’ve had the opportunity to attend many more churches and, as often as not, they have been similar, missing a lot of the elements that used to be hallmarks of Christian worship. Here are some of the missing elements of modern worship.
The intellectual conditions in Europe and on American university campuses have now secularized such that it is impossible for those under such conditions to believe in God. In other words, we have arrived at the third intellectual epoch of Western society: impossible to believe. As Taylor observes, to be a candidate for tenure at a major American university is to inhabit a world in which it is virtually impossible to believe in God. Under the first set of Western intellectual conditions, not everyone was a Christian, but all were accountable to a Christian worldview because there was no alternative. Secularization in American culture has reversed the conditions: not everyone is a non-Christian, but all must operate under a secular worldview that denies the legitimacy of a Christian worldview. In three hundred years, Western intellectual conditions have moved from an impossibility of unbelief to an impossibility of belief. So what does this mean for us as preachers? We must recognize that these intellectual conditions now prevalent in Europe and in the American universities are quickly filtering down from the elites to the general culture. The mechanisms in this process are fairly easy to trace. In fact a number of polls reveal that the greatest predictor for whether you will find yourself in an increasingly secular space comes down to whether you live near a coast, a city, or a university. Given that the future of America is increasingly defined by most of its population being coastal, urban, and university-educated, you can see that the future of America is also increasingly secular.
A lay minister who is suing the Georgia Department of Public Health for religious discrimination has been directed by the state’s attorney general to relinquish his sermons to the government, according to federal court documents. “Please produce a copy of your sermon notes and/or transcripts,” Attorney General Samuel Olens wrote to attorneys representing Dr. Eric Walsh. Dr. Walsh said he will not comply with the request. “No government has the right to require a pastor to turn over his sermons,” Walsh said. “I cannot and will not give up my sermons unless I am forced to do so.” Walsh, a Seventh-day Adventist lay minister had been hired in May 2014 by as a District Health Director with the Georgia Department of Public Health. A week later, a government official asked him to submit copies of his sermons for review. He complied and two days later he was fired.
A true defense of the Christian faith has never been more needed than now, but an attempt to rescue Christianity from its dependence upon Scripture is doomed to disaster.
An Iowa pastor, saying the government needs to stop “meddling in religious affairs,” is at odds with the state over a law focused on sexual orientation and gender identity that he says hinders his First Amendment right to teach on matters of sexuality.
Bulldozer death of pastor’s wife draws attention, but president’s long-awaited speech on religion will impact Chinese Christians much more. At a long-awaited national conference on religion, held April 22-23 in Beijing, China’s president Xi Jinping called on leaders to take the initiative in reasserting Communist Party of China (CPC) control over religion.
Everything has changed and nothing has changed. The Supreme Court’s decision yesterday is a central assault upon marriage as the conjugal union of a man and a woman and in a five to four decision the nation’s highest court has now imposed its mandate redefining marriage on all fifty states. As Chief Justice Roberts said in his dissent, “The majority’s decision is an act of will, not a legal judgment.”
The highest court in the land has passed its judgment. The headlines proclaim that a slim majority of Supreme Court justices considers freedom of sexual orientation a right for all Americans. This exchange of one set of values in favor of another does not come as a surprise to us who already know that the god of this world has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe (2 Cor. 4:4). June 26th, 2015 stands as a significant milestone in the American demonstration of this ancient reality.