The church has an image problem. How do you know what kind of tree is growing in your yard? By the fruit it bears. (Luke 6:43) Image is everything, and the church's fruit is pretty rotten lately.
In my opinion, there are basically three image issues keeping the church from reaching its fullest potential. These three things are
1) Clergy boundary transgressions,
2) Anti-intellectualism, and
Thousands upon thousands of people, in their life quest for meaning, do not think of the church as the place that meaning can be found. And I think the reason is that the image of the church is tarnished. Most people just don't like church, and frankly I can understand why.
In the public discourse about church, we are either talking about another clergy person involved with a sex or financial scandal, or about the attempt to negate the sceintific endeavor altogether, or about whom the church will choose to exclude from participation. Until more positive images of the church enter the sphere of conversation, there is no way that the body of Christ will fulfill its calling to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19) and realize the reign of God "on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10)
Okay, Andy, but what about those "fundamentalist" (for the sake of this discussion meaning generally anti-science and morally exclusivistic) mega-churches that seem to be flourishing all over the place just now?
Good question, my friend!
First, not all mega-churches are so-called "fundamentalist." That is a stereotypical generalization only partly based upon fact.
Second, my guess is (no specific research has been done to back this up, mind you) that if you added up the number of fundamentalist-mega-church-members and added up the number of disillusioned-with-church-but-still-seeking-meaning-in-life-people in our society, the second group would be able to soundly defeat the first in a game of Red Rover. In short, there are many, many more meaning-seekers than mega-members. And, if I read the great commission correctly, it is with these meaning-seekers that disciples of Jesus Christ are invited to share God's grace and love.
So, this is my informed opinion based on a scriptural understanding of the church's mission, my personal experience in ministry, and a rational response to the image of the church as it is presented in our societal mass-media. The church's image is preventing it from reaching the potential to which God is calling it. The primary task of evangelism, seems to me, should therefore be changing that image.
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