Who Are We?: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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38 Responses

  1. Em says:

    “We are a community of faith, with a different destiny, different priorities and linked inextricably to the person of Christ.”. AMEN, Dr. Duane
    Good observation, worth repeating… IMV

  2. Michael says:

    Well done, Duane.
    This has become the primary issue i teach and preach on as of late…our only hope of influence in the church and the culture is to reclaim our primary status as aliens instead of political and cultural identifications.
    The entire narrative of Scripture is God calling out a people to Himself…and if we’re unwilling to come out we will not have the presence of His Spirit.

  3. Duane Arnold says:

    Thanks Michael…

    I think in many ways, we’ve lost our way. It seems we not only wish to live in the “city of man”… we want to run it! Maybe it’s human nature. No one, it seems, wants to be an outsider. People want to be “insiders”. Everyone wants their opinion to be heard and taken as “profound truth”. When you combine that with our current celebrity culture in which people are famous for being famous, I think it is a toxic brew. If another revival comes to us, instead of the Great Awakening we might have to call it the Great Disentangling…

  4. Em says:

    For the last few years i have been impressed with the admonishment “to stand.” Ephesians 6 has so much to say… It lists our weapons of war and then tells us to stand? Doesn’t that imply that we are to hold in place, not go out to conquer the world’s kingdoms… kind of sounds like they’ll come after us? 😏
    Maybe the modern man needs to quit asking, “what’s in it for me?” . .. Start asking what’s in me for God? ” Too many preachers today pandering to our humanity? It seems like it to me… dunno

  5. Randy Davis says:

    The idea of being an alien, a sojourner, a pilgrim, goes back to Abraham. I’m use to the idea that we are residents aliens in this world. But what I’m finding is I feel like an alien at Church.

  6. Duane Arnold says:

    Randy

    You’re not unusual… these days many of us feel the same.

  7. Duane Arnold says:

    Another aspect of identity, which I chose not to post here as it is specifically Anglican…
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2048524365183256&set=a.1754754274560268&type=3&theater

  8. Randy Davis says:

    I’m asking the why question. Alienation is part of the human condition. I can understand why a Christian is an alien in a strange land. We are, to use a C S Lewis illustration, we are behind enemy lines. Scripture seems to celebrate this condition and expresses joy in it. Ok, I can see that as well.

    But why do we feel alienated in the presence of a God’s people, particularly when we gather to worship? Do we feel alienated from God? Sometimes I do, even when I know better. I assume that, at least for me, I’m tired of the battle. I mean bone tired. It is even wearying to write this. Personally I have been sidelined from the the “battle” because of health, and quite frankly a bad attitude—I sometimes feel that I have wasted 40 years of my life, so my broken heart tells me. But I know I have been as faithful to The cause of Christ as I know how to be and being faithful is never a waste of time. But my era, my social location contributes to this feeling of failure.

    I wonder if this is due to misplaced idealism? I was just listening to a playlist that included songs by The Second Chapter of Acts, Barry McGuire, Phil Keaggy, Honeytree, and Mustard Faith. I realize that many of you come out of the CC. movement. All of us have been influenced by it, as is illustrated by my music choices.

    The early 1970s was an idealistic time. Christ was being proclaimed, hippies being reached. It was the church militant and there was no stopping it. By 1976 it was declared to be the Year of the Evangelical. We have fallen a long way since then. Success was a detrimental thing.

    Is this shift, this failure the source of our alienation? I know I spend too much thinking about the past. Is idealism our problem? I miss a church that was simpler, less competitive, less entertaining. But is there real change or is it just my imagination? I know the church has always been more complicated than we might suspect. Do we need to be more realistic?

  9. Em says:

    Hmmm… My daughter in the Seattle area just emailed me that they are looking for a new place to fellowship… tired of platitudinous repetetive sermons with no meat. Her youngest said, as they were leaving church, that she needed to learn more – to be more grounded and knowledgeable in the Faith… then she started crying… Pastors, maybe it is time to preach and teach the Word … ask yourselves if the contents that offering plate is being placed above your calling, perhaps?
    They tell stories up here of a Presbyterian minister of long ago… He’d make the rounds of the taverns and, if he recognized one of his, he’d haul them out and tell them to get home to their families. He’d go to jail for that today… LOL

  10. Duane Arnold says:

    Randy Davis,

    You and I came out of the same time and place – most of the musicians you name are friends of mine and I’ve known them for forty years. Firstly, I don’t think that you’ve wasted 40 years of your life. You’ve walked in the light Christ gave you and the heart that shines through in your post confirms this in my mind at least.

    Were we too idealistic? Probably, but that is no cause for self-condemnation. Was success detrimental? Probably, but the whole movement has morphed into something that few of us recognize. Do we need to be more realistic? Probably, but there is still a place for idealism… even if you feel bruised and battered. You desire a church that is simpler, less competitive and less entertaining. They are out there, but it takes some effort to find them. That being said, try to find one that feeds you.

    If you want to continue our conversation, please feel free to get my contact info from Michael. Please know that you will be in my prayers… you are one of us.

  11. Randy Davis says:

    Duane

    I very much appreciate your response and your concern. When I say I I felt like a failure, I had in mind the ministry of Jeremiah, who never had a single convert. I saw change in many of the lives of former church members. But the leadership, the social structures of the church, did not change after 27 years of ministry. It’s always about power. That’s where I weep for them.

    In my theology, the Word of God goes through the very imperfect efforts of the one preaching, and God accomplishes His purposes. I guess that a bit Lutheran. I lived by that thought. But the church really did not change. While repentance and change are part of God’s plan, so is judgment. I realize that time has not ended and change can still come. So my whining is a bit selfish and self centered.

    We probably are not idealistic enough. We settle for efforts of men and forget that Christ is our center. My whole ministry I worked as if it all depended on me. Of course it all depends on God. If the world is closing in on the church as several writers are suggesting, then we need to recover our ideals.

    Em
    The reaction of your daughter gives me hope. Those who faithfully preach and teach Scripture are usually not as flashy and charismatic as the superstars. I suspect that the main reason that church life is declining is that a large number of people are like your daughter, people tried of the show, who want a proper teacher. I certainly hope she finds it.

    I don’t want the church to be bound by culture but neither do I was to force churches into a particular style. I don’t know anything about churches in Seattle, but I do know about churches here in the Deep South. Even the most evangelical denominations, are destroying themselves because of a utilitarian approach that will do anything to find success— which means rapid growth, the admiration and envy of other pastors, and the money of success.

    I think our circumstances will soon impose needed change.

  12. Jean says:

    If one reads the experiences of Jesus and Paul, as well as their preaching, one might experience as the greatest fruit of a faithful congregation that it is reviled by the surrounding community, including, without limitation, other churches which consider themselves Christian.

    Of course, because of the carnality of many churches, this paradigm must be tempered with the proviso: “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. ”

    In summary, it appears that it is impossible, according to Scripture, to be held in high esteem by both God and the world. You cannot serve to masters…

    On the other hand, if a church is cozy with the world, that is a sure sign of unbelief and of unfaithfulness to Christ.

  13. Duane Arnold says:

    ” If the world is closing in on the church as several writers are suggesting, then we need to recover our ideals.”

    I could not agree more… even when it seems a brick wall is in front of us.

  14. Duane Arnold says:

    Additionally, I don’t believe we are talking about “the carnality of many churches”….

  15. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    This should not be taken as directed to Randy’s comments or a challenge to what he says. I am sure his feelings are true for him.
    However, can someone explain what it means to be alienated from the church? Is this an alienation from the church at large but not necessarily your own local congregation? One comment made was “I know the church has always been more complicated than we might suspect. ”

    Is church really complicated or is it complicated by our expectations? Perhaps it is my age but I have only one expectation of the church – to have a pastor who will lead me through the liturgy so I may receive the good and freely given gifts of God during the divine service. Other than that, the expectations are those I put on myself which are related to my serving my neighbor through my vocation.

    I know I cannot be alienated from my local congregation – goodness, we drink from a common cup.

  16. Duane Arnold says:

    MLD

    I’m sure that what you say is true for you. Not all share your circumstances…

  17. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane, why did you comment if you were not going to answer a straightforward question? BOT.

  18. Duane Arnold says:

    Because my pastoral concern is not for you… you, by your own admission, feel safe and secure. There is no question to answer. Our friend, however, is in a different circumstance…

  19. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Then silence should have been your pastoral care here.
    I tried to remove it from Randy’s situation and use it for a launch into discussion – this is an article asking who we are.
    Aside from safety, and I have no idea what that means, if people are tossing around terms, we should define those terms. The church is Christ’s church and he loves his church – so if we are alienated from his church, are we not alienated from Jesus himself?

    I’ll just wait for a more down to earth reply.

  20. Randy Davis says:

    If church is only a liturgy, then the is no danger of alienation. But church is a fellowship of saints who worship together and who love and serve one another. Much of the New Testament gives instructions on church life. According to Scripture, we are accountable to each other when we are part of the church.

    So, if the fellowship of the saints is missing, if people worship when they don’t love each other, then it is certainly possible to be alienated in church. To be an alien “to not belong.” If a Christian is a member of a church, but does not experience the basics of Christian fellowship, then it is certainly possible that one does not belong. I have experienced it and I have observed numerous people who were alienated by the shallow welcome, the limp handshake, and the church members scurrying away because their obligation was done.

    Duane posted an article titled “Welcome” in which he describes a church that made no effort to welcome him, even acknowledge that he was there. It is a very common experience.

  21. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Randy, thanks for the clarification. Your alienation is from a local church but not The Church. I wish you well in your venture to find a loving, welcoming group with firm handshakes – those who make it their responsibility to serve their neighbor…you.

  22. Duane Arnold says:

    MLD

    “Then silence should have been your pastoral care here…” Sorry, but I don’t really recall asking for your advice or you being asked a question. On the question of pastoral care, I doubt if I would look to you for guidance…

  23. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane, my post at 4:54pm was made up of 2 questions – sorry you missed them.

    Of bigger concern is how Edgar Martinez, a player reduced to a 4 times a game pinch hitter got elected to the Hall of Fame.

  24. Duane Arnold says:

    They were not questions… they were statements.

  25. Jean says:

    When one is in a small communion, especially when surrounded by larger ones, there often is the temptation to look at numbers as a judge of either what God is doing in that community or whether one’s small communion is being faithful to its calling.

    However, is what we see a reflection of reality? When Jesus crucified, arguably only three faithful remained: Joseph, Nicodemus and the thief on the cross. When Elijah was hiding in a cave, he thought he was the only faithful Israelite left. Yet, invisible to Elijah were 7,000 men that God had kept faithful.

    Therefore, the church’s calling is to remain faithful. We are only the body; Christ is the head. Faithful includes right doctrine, right practice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. But, faithfulness does not include panic. God’s Word is still effective.

    If Christ is sanctifying His Church, by definition that means cleansing her of impurity. May Christians endure His sanctification in faith, hope and love.

  26. Duane Arnold says:

    “…faithfulness does not include panic…”

    I would agree, but the panic in many quarters is palpable.

  27. Jean says:

    Duane, one area in particular that I’ve seen arouse panic is around finances and budgets.

    Another odd paradox is that while many people may panic over the future of their church, their willingness to change doesn’t seem to reflect any urgency.

  28. Josh The Baptist says:

    “Holy Ghost” by John Mark Mcmillan

    Who are we sometimes I wonder
    Mercenaries or lovers
    On this side of the thunder
    It can be awful hard to know
    Sell our love for the paycheck or
    Spend the night on the freight deck
    For all the dues that we collect
    Our hearts can be overdrawn
    Dead in the water
    Like lamb to the slaughter
    If the wind doesn’t sing her song
    And I’m speaking in tongues
    Cause I need a Holy Ghost
    The geeks they can smell when you’re coming
    Even out in the cold
    They’ll wait you out yeah
    They’ll grind you down
    But they’re gonna get what they’re owed
    I know the red thread unravels
    I know you’re blue and you’re black
    But there’s still time if you don’t mind
    The way that the odds are stacked
    Dead in the water
    Lamb to the slaughter
    If the wind doesn’t sing her song
    And I’m speaking in tongues
    Cause I need a Holy Ghost

  29. Duane Arnold says:

    Jean

    They change, but it’s only when they are at the edge of the cliff… and it’s usually too late.

  30. Duane Arnold says:

    Josh

    Love that one…

  31. Josh The Baptist says:

    Good grief it speaks to me.

  32. Duane Arnold says:

    Josh

    “But there’s still time if you don’t mind
    The way that the odds are stacked”

    I feel this every day with regard to the Church (writ large). It’s not just from those on the left of theological concerns, it is also those hardliners on the right. In most denomination we have lost (or are losing) the broad moderate center. That broad moderate center was informed by voices on the left and right, but not overtaken. With the broad center gone or going, the hardliners on the extreme wings of theological reflection (so-called) have dug in and become echo chambers influencing few outside their own groups… Yes, the odds are stacked.

  33. Josh The Baptist says:

    Well said. I like the refrain, “I’m speaking in tongues cause I need a Holy Ghost.” That’s the end of the day when you are beat down by the all the church stuff, the left and right, the hardliner, the doubts…and you close your eyes and rely completely on a supernatural solution.

  34. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Perspective is odd. I see people in my church fall asleep and I think, “I’ll bet this is the only time this week they have found peace and comfort.” I don’t know what they go through in their life, ailments, family issues – just the tough life of working the past 50 yrs and now retired. They come in, confess their sin and hear the absolution and they are at peace with God and they doze off – perhaps into the suggested ‘supernatural solution.’
    That is when I know ‘church’ has done it’s job.

  35. Josh The Baptist says:

    I am not troubled by people sleeping in church.

  36. Mud Man says:

    Who are we? Great question.

    In this post religious centered culture we live in it is easy to forget that it wasn’t that long ago when religion was a part of the ideals that defined the community in general.

    When traveling one can’t help but notice in most of the world every community, small or large, has at its center some sort of religious structure that defined authority and practice for the community.

    Koln is a great example where the people spent huge amounts of money and resources to build the biggest and most grand building possible. It literally defined to the rest of the nation who they were.

    So who are we these days and how does our faith define us?

    What I see is a world obsessed with everything internet and social media, we even have a leader (USA) who makes his case via that outlet. There are even people who are famous for being famous and followed via our own personal media outlet.

    Everyone has their opinion and wants to be heard, that I think is who we are.

    Oh well, back to snoozing in church.

  37. Duane Arnold says:

    Mud Man

    “Everyone has their opinion and wants to be heard, that I think is who we are.” … And, unfortunately, people consider the church to be but one more opinion of equal (or not so equal) value…

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