Abductive Columns

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sign of the Times

It was disappointing to learn that the Center for Christian Education (formerly Preston School of Preaching) closed its doors in July after a long ministry of preacher training going back to the early 1960s. They join another school, Whites Ferry Road School of Preaching which closed a few years ago. from Lifeline a publication of Sunset International Bible Institute
The demise of the preaching school will be painful for many. Deans, teachers, prospective students and supporters will scrape and beg to keep the doors open but in the end the preaching school (as we’ve known it) will give way to a new era. Transitions are always painful. Yet, God’s work will continue via a relevant venue. Most likely what we have called ‘preaching’ will be reinvented. Nevertheless the change will leave many paid preachers treading in the wake of a new era as fewer and fewer churches support those who stand front and center discoursing before a passive audience.
Ron Martoia writes... "We are closing 9,000 churches a year in this country, and only 2 percent of this nation's churches are growing; others are growing only by the migration from the churches that are closing." Martoia is one of many warning about the bleak future of the church unless things change soon.

Ironically, while church attendance continues to drop, there is a rising interest among the U. S. population in matters of spirituality. Martoia continues...

"There is tremendous cultural interest in spirituality, but the church has been unable to tap into it. This is the first time in recorded history this type of growth has been outside the church... We have to learn to do church differently. We're arguing about the color of carpet or if we can have drums or pipe organs (in my tribe instrumental accompainment or not), but people aren't coming anyway. When you get married to the model, that's a problem."

To better be an agent for this change nationally, Martoia recently resigned from his home church (Westwinds Church in Jackson MI). He hopes, among other things to be instrumental in a group that would like to start a new type of seminary.

"We are not out to shut seminaries down, but obviously they aren't working, with 90 percent of our churches having flat or declining attendance... The pipeline (of pastors) needs to be altered, because we are graduating eggheads. I'm a seminary graduate, and I teach at one, so I can say that. We need to create church leaders who are culture savvy" Martoia says.


At 9:36 PM, Blogger Dallasfan said...

I am struggling with the idea that church has to follow culture. Culture is by a large dictated by the world and thereby does not have spiritual focus. Why would the church need to follow the culture to be relevant?

At 12:28 AM, Blogger Neal W. said...

Big question. The quick answer is that to minister in Japan, it sure helps to speak Japanese.

At 11:50 AM, Blogger Dallasfan said...

Something tells me that speaking the langauge of the country is not what martoia was talking about wehn he said, "We need to create church leaders who are culture savvy".

At 10:49 AM, Blogger Neal W. said...

That's just a metaphor. Just because the churched and the un-churched are both speaking English, does NOT mean they are speaking the same language. Particularly when it comes to faith. I can walk onto the campus of the university I live near and speak in terms of scriptural authority and apologetics and nobody will oppose me. But nobody will listen either. There is a very clear communication gap that exists in the "new era" the post talks about. It's why "fewer & fewer churches support those who stand front and center discoursing before a passive audience." That's not a concession to the laziness of the culture, it's understanding that the emerging culture values dialogue over lecture (and that's probably a healthy thing).

Maybe culture-savvy means leaders that realize that culture is something that can't be avoided. To abuse an oft-quoted metaphor, culture is to us like water is to fish. Most of the time it just is, we don't even realize it. It surrounds us and effects us in many ways we don't even realize. It permeates every part of our life. There has never been and never will be a church that is divorced from culture. I'm not sure separation from culture is the point. Maybe culture isn't inherently bad (although it includes many bad things to be sure). Culture-savvy leaders speak the "language" of technology, of relationships, of collaboration, of inclusion...stuff the preaching school mindset hasn't traditionally been good at.

At 8:30 PM, Blogger Martijn said...

Hi, i found a site that has a very fresh vision on church, religion and culture.


Dr Carl Rhode is the remarkable initiator. He also sells 'cool'cd-roms.

I am a jesuit myself. That's why i like the Church of the Gesu and the Priory of Sion.

I also just started a blog at,

Kind regards,
Martijn Fransen


Post a Comment

<< Home