The face of our culture is changing before our eyes. The evidence of this fact can be observed by looking in a number of different directions. Space will not permit journeying down all of those tracks in this article. But computerized technology may be the biggest influence affecting and shaping much of the change. It seems that only our imaginations limit us as to what continued changes lay ahead.
A major change has been the basic focus of our economy. Our economic structure has shifted from manufacturing to information. Information is power! Not long ago, people got their news by reading the daily newspaper. In major cities it was common to have several daily newspapers from which to choose. Only three major television networks existed, and their national news broadcasts lasted only fifteen to thirty minutes each evening. There was no such thing as cable television, talk radio, personal computers (or much of any other kind of computer) or the internet.
With steadily advancing computer technology has also come increased emphasis on speed and convenience. We also want most everything to be easy. We don't want to have to expend much effort to get what we want, we don't want to wait, and we want it to be easy. Instant gratification is our goal.
It should not be surprising that this mindset is making its impact on many people's Christianity. According to a recent Barna study (Barna tracks religious trends similar to what Gallup does in tracking political and social trends), an increasing number of people are turning to alternatives to being involved with a traditional church setting. The study found that 89% of adults believe that engaging in faith activities at home with one's family is an acceptable alternative to participating in the conventional services and activities of a church. Being active in a house church was acceptable to 75%, watching a religious television program to 69%, and listening to a religious radio program to 68%.
Scoring under 50%, but significantly high, were interacting with a faith-oriented website (45%) and participating in live events over the internet (42%). All of these alternatives are viewed by those indicated in the percentages listed as being "a complete and biblically valid way for someone who does not participate in the services or activities of a conventional church to experience and express their faith in God."
Make no mistake as to what is being said in this study. Those percentages represent people who see these various activities as taking the place of, or replacing in their lives, the church! There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these activities. Indeed, if structured properly they can all be good works. But none of them can scripturally take the place of the church, the possible exception being a house church, but that only if it completely fulfills the scriptural model of what the church should be.
The church is part of God's eternal plan for man's salvation (Ephesians 3:8-11). There is no salvation outside of it; the Lord Himself adds those who come to salvation to His church (Acts 2:47). The notion that there can be an alternative to being a part of the church is unscriptural and ungodly. God has laid out in His word the way He wants us to follow Him. We cannot change that way and remain faithful to Him. The church's worship, service, and work should be primarily to God's glory, not to our convenience...
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Gary L. Hutchens