Yesterday I wrote about the meaning of the term “mainline” churches in American church history. I wrote that I grew up in a very culturally conservative, even insular, background as a small town Southern Baptist. I do not want to be misunderstood when I write about my background as a child. My memories of my childhood and my Baptist church are almost all positive. Except for the pervasive racism I came to loathe, and the ever present aspects of ecclesial nominalism, which were both so common to many churches of the time, I have very positive memories. (We have as many or more such problems in churches in our day. The anti-Christian philosopher Nietzsche once said that the church is “human, all too human.” He was right for the wrong reasons but we should keep this in mind always.)
Now that I am a minister in the mainline I have a very different perspective on these churches, both their present decline and their long-term future. I do believe they have a future and I also believe it could be better than most of the critics think. If history is viewed in the short term things look bleak for most mainline churches. But in the long run these churches may well be better able to adjust to the genuine missional opportunities an increasingly secular culture presents to us than their more conservative counterparts. I suggest this is true precisely because the mainline churches do not have all the social baggage to give up if they ever begin to hear the gospel preached and lived with clarity and power. I am also not convinced that the more conservative churches understand the gospel nearly as powerfully as they once did, having traded the real good news for a cultural message of political conservatism. The transforming good news of the Jesus that we read about in the Gospels can be preached anywhere and in the mainline it can still be heard in a way that embraces a full-orbed message about life and death that is not ephemeral or Gnostic.
What is needed in the mainline is awakening. What is also needed is encouragement in the work of the ministry and mission of Christ. To this end I am pleased to tell you about a great conference to be held in the Chicago area this summer (August 6-8).
If you are looking for a way to invest your life in the mission of God, or if you are already serving in the mainline and want help and encouragement, then this event is for you. Here is the story of one mainline church that has come to life after years of conflict and decline.
When you watch my friend Bob Thompson’s story then check out the new site www.mainlinecall.org.
Mainline Call is devoted to the unique calling of renewing the mainline Church in North America through prayer, education, recruitment, and training. Please Subscribe to MainlineCall.org by Email to be updated about the progress of our movement – and your place in it through God’s Call!
We’re calling Seminarians who know and cherish God’s Word and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be the instruments of God to bring the life giving touch of God to the mainline Church in North America and speak His Truth to the people of our generation as God’s Servants in scripture spoke to their generation!
The conference, Answering the Call: Replanting, Revitalizing and Pastoring the Church, August 6-8, will be held at Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, Illinois. (Elmhurst is about twenty minutes south of O’Hare Airport.) The program for this exciting event is available at the site www.mainlinecall.org. You can find a great deal more information there and also register. I hope some of you will join me at this event. I especially hope that many of you will help young pastors, seminarians and potential seminarians attend. Here both you and others can find the resources that will help you go the distance in making a real difference in mainline churches where the door is still wide open for a grace-filled ministry that preaches the gospel and seeks spiritual renewal.
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