Delirium: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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20 Responses

  1. From my perspective, in many ways the church has lost it’s compass.

    What is our calling?

    -Exalt God through Individual and Corporate Worship
    -Equip the Saints for Love and Service
    -Make Disciples
    -Communicate the Gospel through Love and Deed
    -Practice the Ordinances
    -Engage in Congregational Care
    -Promote and Practice Prayer
    -Preach, Teach and Do the Word
    -Depend on the Spirit

    The attitude of the church is summed up well by Micah 6:8: Walk humbly, do justice, love mercy.

    These points of focus help me define my charge as a church leader. They give me clarity, and make it clear where my energy is not best spent.

    As of late, I’ve been keenly aware that some up and coming pastors are downplaying preaching and engagement with the Word.

    They’d rather gather in a group and share each other’s ignorance than allow God’s Word to take a place of influence and authority.

    For others, the pursuit is what I call hip church, or cool church. Energy is poured into brand, design, special effects and so on.

    And some just want to be liked at all costs. The greatest offense is to hear someone say, “I don’t like church,” so they bend over backwards trying to make church likable. But at some point (hopefully) the Gospel has to be communicated, which means offense is unavoidable.

    Praying we will leave our state of delirium, but my fear is the church is going to have to come to realize that by our own ingenuity, we are sucking the power out of God’s primary tool to generate worship, ministry and witness.

  2. Duane Arnold says:

    PH

    Yes, it is not about reinventing the wheel…

  3. Jean says:

    There is a thought I’ve heard that many millennials (or maybe Gen Z) see through most church growth techniques and want a church and worship more authentic (i.e., rooted in tradition), although they are reputed to be “not joiners,” although they want opportunities be get involved in projects that make a difference. Has anyone seen any data which indicates what direction young people (from teens to mid-30s) are taking with respect to church?

  4. sarahmorgan says:

    One of the things that stands out to me in Scripture is how many admonitions there are for people to “remember”…it reminds me of something that historians regard when looking at ancient written laws of a culture: the laws aren’t there to passively reminding a law-abiding people not to transgress them — the fact that they were written down is because people WEREN’T heeding them. God wants us to remember — from remembering what He did in Egypt, down to “Do this in rememberance of Me.” Seems like one of the main purposes of church leaders should be to doggedly bring these things to our attention, as there are so many things in the world and in our lives to distract us away from, and make us forget, the marvelous deeds and faithful promises of God.

    Right after I moved to where I currently live, I had the leader of a ministry I was invited to participate in tell me grouchily how much she hated to repeat instructions to everyone. Just hated it. She felt it was like talking to toddlers; adults should get it the first time she said it, and she shouldn’t have to repeat anything. A bit shocked, and as a former ministry leader in the same field, I tried to tell her that people just weren’t like that, to absolutely no avail. Was one of my first clues that something was very wrong with the churches here.

  5. Duane Arnold says:

    Sarah

    In my experience, remembering is the key. In every parish that I have been in, once a year we has a special instructed Eucharist. That is, we went through the whole service from beginning to end explaining why things were done the way that they were and the background. I always found that people looked forward to it, even if they had done it last year! It is about remembering who and what we are…

  6. Em says:

    Long ago in a big stone Presbyterian church with some 4,000 people on their roll… A church that had “The Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him” carved in wood across the front of the sanctuary,, folk would gather quietly with hymns quietly filling the auditorium from a subdued organ … the choir and the pastors filed in – then everyone stood with only a prompting from the organist and “Holy, holy holy, Lord, God Almighty…..” The congregation with one voice sang every verse. .. I don’t know if God was impressed, but i was… It was clear that we were there to learn, to handle holy things…. It wasn’t happy hour, but there was peace and joy… They had no altar calls and it did take one to prompt me to publicly declare my conversion, my allegiance to Christ. I have no problem at all with altar calls, but Church ought to be about God, not about me… then strangely, i will grow in peace, sound mind and joy…
    Some may need the “smells and bells,” i guess, but churches-so-called seem to have lost their center now. .. Or so it seems to me… 🙆
    Good, good words Dr. Duane

  7. Duane Arnold says:

    Em

    Yes, I was often in churches just like that. Where have they gone? I know some are still around, but many fewer than we once knew. I think there was an expectation that it would all “just continue”, but I think we failed in passing on the faith once delivered and began to think that “gimmicks” and “branding” could replace teaching and care…

  8. Em says:

    Dr. Duane, isn’t there a warning in Scripture about frivolous, shallow children in the market place? Or am i misinterpreting?

    I was moved by your story of your mother… May the blessing you gave her redound

  9. Duane Arnold says:

    Em

    The interesting thing about those in the marketplace is that they complain ‘to each other”. I sometimes wonder if part of the problem is that we spend so much time talking among ourselves within what is left of the Church that we forget the reason that we are here…

  10. Duane Arnold says:

    Jean
    With reference to Gen Z, this article has an overview of the Barna research… https://relevantmagazine.com/issues/issue-97/generation/

    Take away quote, “research from Barna shows Gen Z places high value on mentorship and adult role models.” That’s us…

  11. Jean says:

    I can see that, Duane, and it’s a value I share. I am skeptical, from some reading and experience, that that particular value scales well.

  12. Duane Arnold says:

    Jean

    I think part of the issue, at least with the Church, is that we once had a “critical mass” of people who were role models. With shrinking numbers, it has changed. Now we hope for the rare individuals who take this on (or we want to refer the job to clergy). There are simply fewer “good souls” with the time and inclination. I think that is at least part of the equation.

  13. Jean says:

    That could be, Duane. Speaking as someone who has spent his working career in private industry, at least here in America, the demands of one’s employment as a percentage of the week have steadily increased. With the advent of smart phones and Skype (or its equivalent), many full time workers are fully scheduled, between work and home. Many workers do not even fully utilize the vacation and personal days they earn. Some of this is, of course, self-inflicted, but in many cases workers are put into a very demanding and competitive environment. Not arguing, just sharing a perspective.

  14. Duane Arnold says:

    Jean

    I agree. Most new associates at Law firms in NYC and Chicago are asked for 2600-2800 billable hours. So, 12-14 hour days AND taking work home. My wife, a VP with a city organization, has not taken her full personal or vacation days for over eight years. Moreover, our churches are smaller. Fewer hands to do the work, fewer men and women to step into the breach as role models. There are no easy answers. Reducing parishioners to spectators, however, makes the problem even worse…

  15. Em says:

    The late Adrian Rogers preached a pretty good sermon on “parishioners as spectators” yesterday… After His return to the Father the Church is Christ’s body here on earth and is tasked with carrying out His mission….

  16. Michael says:

    I think this is gold…and the next step is reminding individual Christians about who they are…

  17. Duane Arnold says:

    Michael

    To some extent, the church can only be the sum total of its members (not discounting the work of the Spirit). Part of the failure has been treating parishioners like children. Too much is “dumbed down” in seeking the lowest common denominator. In the main, I have found parishioners to be smart, inquisitive and wanting to learn… if only someone will teach them and share the richness of the Christian tradition.

  18. Michael says:

    Duane,

    I keep coming back to the issue of identity…and the thought that Christian identity begins with an embrace of our alien status.
    It seems to be a hard sell…

  19. Duane Arnold says:

    Michael

    I think it is a hard sell for a number of reasons. Chief among them, is we don’t see the Church as a “separate society”, i.e. being in the world but not of the world. When we invite someone to a church that looks like a nightclub… what do we expect? When a substantial number of prominent evangelicals in this country identify with a sanctified nationalism… what do we expect? When the sexual mores of society at large are imported into the church wholesale… what do we expect? I’m afraid that we have in some sense created what we are now enduring. Even in our theology, we spend an enormous amount of time defending or attacking theological positions, and thereby “teach” others to do the same. I wonder, do we spend the same amount of energy teaching people to pray? Do we spend the same amount of energy encouraging people to read and reflect? Em may have hit it – we’ve become like children in the marketplace complaining that we are not being listened to… but there’s a reason.

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