It’s a sad thing, but in the midst of Christ’s message of Hope, so many churches are wallowing in despair. Rather than being filled with the Holy Spirit and striving for the joy of the Kingdom here on earth, they are engrossed in negativity, scouring their communities and congregations to condemn sinners in their midst. Is it any wonder that religion is waning in the western world?
A great many congregations, especially conservative ones, put such an emphasis on the total depravity of humanity that the concept of salvation is lost in the rant to make worshipers feel completely unworthy. Many are lectured to by old men in black robes, thundering on about every imaginable transgression that will lead us all straight to hell. Besides, predestination has already assigned us to our fate, and there is nothing else but to accept that, and thank God for it.
It is difficult to imagine that congregations like these attract new members. In this day and age, in a traumatized world, who needs more criticism than we already face in frantic lives, every day of the week? Nothing is more depressing than to be denied peace in the very place where the Gospel of Jesus Christ is supposed to be preached.
There are of course congregations on the loonie left that are all about feeling good, and that don’t really challenge the conscience very much at all. The trouble here is that their theology can be very thin, and any concept of consequence is absence. Nothing really touches the soul, and the “Jesus is my buddy” mentality doesn’t really absorb the fullness that is the Christian Story. In the long run the happy clappy church doesn’t have enough depth for those who genuinely want to progress on their faith journey. That can also be a depressing church scenario, both for the congregation and for the individual.
The state of religion in the western world itself is already depressed, with dwindling congregations in virtually every sector. Traditional congregations are witnessing erosion when operating costs are increasing, especially for building maintenance. Many non denominational churches, especially mega churches, succeed because of the skills and drive of the Senior Pastor. Unfortunately many fade when that person moves on and the successor can’t match the former minister’s charisma.
But there are a range of congregations who get it. They have deeper teaching of the Word. They confront sin and repentance with the possibility of forgiveness. They recognize they may not be of the world, but they must engage it. They accept the Great Commission as an order from God that they lovingly attend to it. They are focused on the love of God, and yes, they are friendly.
These latter congregations embrace change rather than deny it. These congregations are either stable or growing. They manifest the Christ model of worship, praise, prayer, and love. They are attacked from all sides, but they are determined to stay the course.
Ultimately these churches build strong faith communities where love, peace, hope, and faith coalesce around joy in the presence of Jesus. Nothing depressing about that!