Example Of Problems And Possibilities Of The Evangelical Organizational Context Literature Review

Type of paper: Literature Review

Topic: Religion, Church, Christians, Jesus Christ, God, Leadership, World, Mission

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2021/01/04

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The Decline in the Twenty-First Century Christian Church: Strengthening the Mission, Operation, and Commitment of the Local Church’s Spiritual Formation

INTRODUCTION

Within the context of modernity in the twenty-first century, change is unequivocally necessary due to increasing competition from Eastern religions and other non-traditional religious sects combined with the nascent forces of modernism and postmodernism that have slowly squeezed out Christianity. Understanding what state Christian ministry and evangelism are in will facilitate the reformulation of and a new design for an evangelistic ministry within local contexts using support from secondary literature, scriptural evidence, and survey analyses. The influence of the Church as a central institution has diminished around the globe because of the burgeoning and intertwining forces of secularization and modernization has increasingly led to the ostracism of Christianity as a universal religion. A survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in 2008 concluded that the majority of American citizens approach religion from a non-dogmatic point of view because they do not believe that they need to follow institutionalized religion in order to attain salvation. This lack of dogmatism indicates how diverse religious practices, perceptions and affiliations have become in the modern day.
The church remains in the eyes of many an outdated institution and remnant of an antiquated past that has failed to successfully navigate the shifting social, cultural, and political contexts amidst the Quantum Age as an epoch defined by both modern and postmodern worldviews. Thus, the Christian church has lost its socio-cultural currency, which explains why the youth opt "to define their own spiritual journey." To thwart such trends, many church leaders are constantly devising innovative ways to transform the church in an increasingly diverse, post-Christian world. These leaders look to the gospels and scriptural precepts to justify church-sponsored evangelistic efforts aimed at fomenting religious fervor amongst the ambivalent. Direct personal evangelism has greatly contributed to and catalyzed the transformation of the lives of the so-called “unchurched.” More commonly known in religious circles as "friendship evangelism," a tactic used to forge meaningful relationships and friendships between non-believers and proselytizers, who seek to convince non-believers to become proselytizers themselves. The Landscape Survey conducted in 2008 thus underscores that individuals who remain religiously unaffiliated do not necessarily lack spirituality or religiosity, as they still reports that they still believe in a higher power or in the power of the divine. However, they have not felt personally connected to any affiliation or religious following because of the perceived corruption, greed, and self-interest displayed by many leaders viewed as sacrosanct in the Christian church, which further underscores why direct evangelism is needed to design a ministry that caters and response to twenty-first century exigencies.

During the modern era, the church has catered to particular segments of society while ignoring the desires and needs of others, which has exacerbated its inefficacy. The influx of immigrants has diversified urban centers, which has rendered the church’s message obsolete in the eyes of many due to the perceived discriminatory dimensions conveyed by the church. The 2008 Landscape survey underscores that Christian leaders and pastors at the local level must rethink and reconfigure how they devise and carry out their ministry must develop in an idiosyncratic fashion in order to effectively address the needs of congregation members while also imparting the Gospel message to a diverse audience in a non-prejudicial manner. Rather than sustain its current inward focus and internal reorientation, Christian ministry needs to restructure its leadership, strategy, and organizational structures to effectively impart the mission and the Word of God in a way people from all backgrounds, ethnicities, nationalities, political affiliations, and social classes, regardless of the extent of their religiosity can comprehend, assess, embrace, and ultimately internalize. This paradigm shift would address the spiritual needs of individuals living during a modern and postmodern epoch, thereby speaking and reaching out to a wider audience.
Evangelicals have devised and adopted a lexicon that fuses the language found in both the Old and New Testaments. Although the language used is unequivocally idiosyncratic according to locale and demographic composition in various regions, an imagined community of evangelicals forged together by the common belief in Christian ministry and mission around the world would nonetheless still be able to recognize the aforementioned terminology. The notion of a "born again" Christian appears repeatedly in public discourses and has become ubiquitous within the evangelical community. Approximately forty-five million Americans identify themselves as born-again Christians ready to be absolved of their sins in order to fervently devote their lives to serving God and disseminate God’s message across the globe. Despite the fact that evangelical Christians have encroached on a vast array of religious denominations that each preach God’s message in an idiosyncratic fashion with regards to doctrine and worship, evangelicals nonetheless share many of the same characteristics. All branches publically assert their personal relationship with God and Jesus Christ, the human incarnation of the Lord and Savior. Moreover, they view scripture and scriptural texts as being authoritative in governing how believers must treat others and comport themselves because their actions directly reflect those of God. Finally, evangelicals publically profess their steadfast commitment to spreading "the message of the gospels." In recent years, the Church has organized its events and activities around inviting people to a vast array of events in order to entice and recruit non-believers into local church chapters. Rather than remaining a so-called institution of invitation, evangelicals must infiltrate areas and remote locales where nonbelievers reside and socialize in order to better diffuse the God’s message as written in the bible and carry out their mission according to Scriptural precepts that are also politically relevant within the context of the twenty-first century. Although the church is unable to offer or give more to adherents than many other worldly institutions can, the gospels themselves—which themselves manifest the Word of God—separates the Church from secular matters while also granting local branches social and cultural authority/agency.
Pastors and other church leaders must also execute its ministry in a far disparate fashion than they had in the past by becoming more mission-oriented and focusing on saintly and apostolic concerns and preoccupations rather than market-driven and glib ones. Church leaders must also continue to read and reread Christian Scripture in order to effectively adapt scriptural precepts to shifting political and cultural contexts in order to attract believers and neophytes and render Christian evangelism relevant to modern believers. Ubiquitous distrust of institutional authority has propelled new pastors and church leaders who are not tethered to traditional institutional power structures must accept the task and responsibility of navigate the church’s obstacles modern and postmodern contexts. Authority must be removed from particular offices within local church branches. Rather, power must be reoriented and shifted towards the parishioners themselves who have earned both the respect and trust of seminarians. Relational networking with other pastors, church leaders, and denominations would also ease the high demands that are current placed on and straining larger congregations at the local level. Doing so would eliminate the stigmatizations that remain tethered to bureaucratic hierarchies of the old model ministry but avoids disempowering church leaders. Evangelicals have trumpeted the importance of preserving human rights around the world and thus have ascended to the fore of social services, modern evangelical theology conveys a hackneyed ambivalence towards taking action to promote international human rights. Nonetheless, various non-governmental and evangelical organizations have cropped up, which signals that evangelicals will in the future become more ensconced in international human rights movements in the next few decades. Catering to all social and ethnics groups in society rather than just targeting the middling and elite classes has emerged as the church’s most pressing concern in the context of the twenty-first century at both the local and global levels.
In his thought-provoking and engaging polemic ChurchNext: Quantum Changes in How we do Ministry, Eddie Gibbs examines the state of Christianity during an epoch when untraditional and Eastern religions combined with the shifting cultural contexts as a result of the impact modernism and postmodernism threaten to marginalize Christianity in the western world. As a result, Christian must transform itself in a post-Christian world. He provides an excellent overview of the secondary literature on the state and role of the Christian church in an increasingly secularized world. In a candid fashion using Scripture as his primary justification, Gibbs evaluates the strengths and limitations of various new church models and how they navigate the forces of modernization and secularization in order to adequately meet the goals of evangelism. He proposes nine areas that the church must revamp in order to fulfill its message and comply with the biblical message that validates the purpose of evangelicalism.
As Gibbs states in his introduction, the church remains an outdated and seemingly anti-modern institution that continues to grapple with shifting cultural contexts wrought by the processes that undergird modernity. Thus, it has lost its socio-cultural currency, resulting in young people today "opting to define their own spiritual journey." Other scholars concur that evangelical leaders have employed "new modes of organization to achieve collective goals" moving them from a subaltern position to a more mainstream one in post-Christian society. Drawing from the nascent developments in the Christian Church when it did not suffer from external political and social interests, Gibbs posits that although the Christian Church must navigate "major storm centers" representative of two distinct worlds, western churches can emulate the tactics of churches globally in order to adequately address pluralistic concerns which the West has hitherto ignored. By transforming the church's mission, the agenda for church leadership and pedagogy, institutional structures, mode of spirituality, worship, and evangelism, the church can adequately adapt to the seismic cultural shifts occurring in the West. Congregations include those with differing worldviews, and church leaders have the obligation to cater to each group of believers and recognize their idiosyncratic generational and cultural biases that they often mask under theological principles. Thus, the project of rendering the church a useful and relevant institution is not just project done at the micro level but also a global and relational one predicated on networking and reevaluating Scripture as it relates to shifting contexts.
While Gibbs emphasizes the role of environment and context on Christian ministry and the effectiveness of evangelism to reach a modern and postmodern audience, other scholars reject this theoretical viewpoint, positing that theology rather than church structure affect modern-day evangelism. Gibbs includes an entire chapter to discussing the necessity to restructure church leadership and educational agendas in order to better mentor leaders who can evangelize modern and postmodern generations. Seismic cultural shifts have directly impacted the pastoral training for future church leaders, resulting in the need to restructure how the church trains its future leaders to become paragons of Christian spirituality. Rather than focusing on performance, Gibbs argues that Christian leaders must show an intimate knowledge of God and pursue a lifestyle that reflects how the church's mission is to live according to the Gospel. Competence in leadership emerged as an integral concern for easing the strains on pastoral ministry that have hindered Christian ministry in the past few centuries. Gibbs tends to deemphasize how organizational ideology and theological viewpoints greatly impact evangelism worldwide and especially in the Western context. While environment plays a formative role in forging networks and coalitions, it does not play a significant role in evangelism. Thus, Gibbs fails to fully address the nuances of the impact of environment and context on Christian ministry and success of evangelical endeavors. Nonetheless, he emphasizes the need for Church leaders to act in accordance with the beliefs they articulate week after week. Evangelicals have indeed ascended to the fore of social services.

BIBLICAL SUPPORT FOR ESTABLISHING CHURCH-ORGANIZED EVANGELISTIC EFFORTS

Both subtle and blaring examples of the mandate to spread the gospel and proselytize permeate the Old and New Testaments. The concept of biblical revelation however controversial undergirds the evangelical mission to diffuse the message of the gospels to all parts however remote of the world. Humanity remains lost without Jesus Christ, as a chasm between God and people always exists in mortality. Thus, Christ sought to save the lost souls of human beings, and they do not have the ability to save themselves which prompts Jesus to label them as "lost sheep" who without him do not exist in the eyes of God. Because Jesus died for human salvation and reconciliation with God, God conveys his compassion towards humans who inherently sin. God wants all humans to achieve salvation, and the Holy Spirit functions as a mechanism to facilitate people's progression towards reaching it. Thus, he uses Christ to foster faith in evangelism and emulate Christ's mission to proselytize. Mission and evangelism cannot be conflated in the modern context, as mission has a more encompassing definition that does not situate it as a synonym to evangelism but nonetheless includes it. The nature of God spawns "mission" as a manifestation of His activity in the mortal realm, as the Christian "is a sending God" who sent Jesus and the apostles into the world as well as the Holy Spirit and the church itself to infiltrate the hearts of human beings. Thus, the mission of God is transposed onto the Church whose mission is to emulate His example. Jesus states that "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you."Thus, God sent Jesus to spread the message of the gospels globally, and evangelists must also serve the people of the world in the same vein. In Jesus' ministry, he healed the sick and fed the hungry while comforting the melancholy and resurrecting the dead, selflessly serving others in the service of God. Jesus constantly preached about the influence his church would have on the world, and that overwhelming influence surfaced as the central theme in his preaching when he asserted to his congregation, "You are the salt of the earthYou are the light of the world."
Thus, scholars and critics of the present state of the church and Christianity emphasize the need to become active agents in fulfilling the Great commission, Christ's command to Christians to spread the message of the gospels and foster fervor in non-believers and recruit disciples. Going out and proselytizing rather than inviting people into church congregations represents a necessary shift in ministry tactics in the present day. All four gospels emphasize the need to see this objective come to fruition, although each places a different emphasis despite the initiative of sending out church representatives to diffuse gospel teachings threading them together. Religious scholars all stress the necessity for the church today to fulfill this command globally, requiring all evangelical churches to fulfill their duty within their local contingencies. God commands church members to serve "as ambassadors to Christ" en route to salvation. God has rendered humans representative of the divine on earth, thus propelling people to serve Him through mission and diffusion of God's word to unchurched locales: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you." Thus, although evangelicals have an obligation to engage in missionary work and transform the unchurched into disciples, it also must fulfill its duty to "love thy neighbor." Thus, scripture calls for the church and its disciples to turn outward instead of inward, becoming a church for others that would transform the current church structures that have contributed to the decline of spiritual fervor in modern and postmodern contexts.
Thus, it is apparent that evangelism constitutes a formative component of the Christian mission. Evangelism translates into the proclamation of good news not always religious in nature. In Thessalonians, Timothy articulates to Paul his gleefulness that the Thessalonians demonstrated their love and faith as well as when the archangel Gabriel gleefully tells Zechariah that his wife is pregnant with a baby boy. The spread of good news undergirds the evangelical agenda, which has unmistakable consequences. Ultimately, evangelism in its biblical context does not necessitate mass conversion but rather to promulgate good news and spread the message of the gospels regardless of the results it yields in terms of converts. Furthermore, the means of evangelizing remains irrelevant and manifests itself through various words and actions. One can evangelize through speech, visual iconography, and through actions that mirror a "Christ-centered life." Paul claims in the New Testament that despite the plethora of variations of Scripture, the apostolic tradition inhered in the gospels represents the good news of God and can be reconstructed. Scholars have reached a consensus that Jesus manifests the good news of God, which explains why Paul described at the beginning of his proclamation of the gospel vis-a-vis his letter to the Romans by portraying himself as "set apart for the Gospel of Godconcerning his SonJesus Christ our Lord."
Jesus, the human incarnate of God and the embodiment of His good news, was presented by his apostles accordingly containing four elements within the Christian narrative. The events of the gospel, mainly the death of Jesus and his subsequent resurrection, occupied an integral part of the good news. Although the apostles discussed the ministry and life of the mortal Jesus as well as his role as Lord and Judge, they emphasized his demise and resuscitation as an expression of divinity that conflated him with the honorable and omnipotent Lord. The apostles further publically touted the gospel witnesses, as they proclaimed to have witnessed the great resurrection of Jesus. Thus, through empiricism the apostles spread good news vis-a-vis the apprenticeship method in a similar fashion that Jesus disseminated the word of God. Another strand of evangelism involves conveying the promises offered by the gospels. The dissemination of the good news did not merely revolve around the past event of Jesus' death and resurrection. Rather, it had to do with Christ in the contemporary context, and the historic events provide a basis for what contemporary Christians can look forward to. Salvation promises that one's sins will be forgiven and that the Holy Spirit would embrace him or her with open arms, offering a person a new life bereft of sin and guilt. Finally, evangelicals preach the promises of the gospel through faith and repentance. Those who repent and believe in Jesus would secure forgiveness from their sins via Jesus. The sacrament of baptism functioned as a public symbol of repentance and one's faith in Jesus as the Lord and Savior. The presence of Christ and God's good news thus is transmitted to Christ's disciples, putting the onus of evangelism on generations of Christian disciples. Thus, evangelism meant disseminating the message of the gospels with the public whereby good news became conflated with the person of Jesus. Jesus became a martyr for the sin inhered in humanity, and the Lord resurrected Jesus as a tool to grant forgiveness for sinning to those who repented and underwent baptism to absolve themselves of their aforementioned sin.

CONCLUSION

Evangelism during the twenty-first century promises to yield a litany of benefits within local contexts despite the challenges new church models face. Modern and post-modern obstacles and forces including modernism, postmodernism, the secularization of society at-large, and deconstructionism all pose major threats that have increasingly marginalized the Christian church in the Western world. The Church has indeed been forced to operate from a peripheral position as a result of the confluence of the aforementioned forces. Churches nonetheless continue to exert immense and meaningful influence on believers and non-believers alike, propelling adherents and listeners to transform themselves according to modern exigencies. Within the local context, church leaders must adapt and appropriate their view of Scripture to shifting cultural and social contexts. The 2008 Landscape survey unequivocally conveys that religiosity has not completely waned contrary to popular opinion. People continue to feel disenchanted and disillusioned by dogmatism both past and present, which has propelled them to pursue salvation in a far more personal and individualistic manner. Quantum shifts in American culture and society clearly requires the implementation of a proactive and concrete strategy to engage believers in the present day

Bibliography

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