The Church Today

God

Dec 27, 2017 by Alyssa Duvall

5 Challenges And 5 Opportunities Facing The Church Today

Looking back on 2017 and into the year ahead, The Gospel Coalition notes that "many evangelicals are confused and concerned, worried about trends in the broader culture and also within their churches." While ever-increasing secularism and threats to religious liberty are valid concerns, TGC leaders Don Carson, Tim Keller, Kevin DeYoung, and Ben Peays suggest that there are bigger, more pressing threats within the Church itself. Here is their list of the five biggest challenges and the five biggest opportunities facing the Church today:

Challenges

1. Sin

“The most significant obstacles are the ones we’ve always faced,” said Kevin DeYoung, of sin, the root of every problem. “The world is worldly. Sinners and sinful. And the heart is deceitful. Which is to say, God is not surprised by what we face, and the gospel is not impotent to make all the difference.”

2. Division in the Church

Not unlike the division among the world, with feuds on every topic from guns to marriage to kneeling NFL players, DeYoung says the church in 2017 is "replete with division" and fractures that "run so deep that we aren’t even sure if ‘evangelical’ is a word many people want to use any more.”

3. ‘Evangelical’ Identity Crisis

In fact, we're not even sure what "evangelical" truly means anymore. Is it a theological foundation or a political voter base? Noting the church's preference for political sacred cows over foundations of the faith, Collin Hansen suggested in The Washington Post that "you could preach almost any Trinitarian heresy and not one person is going to notice it. If you touch on the political things they care about like gun control or racism, they’ll have your head.”

4. Poorly Formed Christians

The evangelical identity crisis is rooted in the formation of the modern Christian, whom TGC laments is "largely cut off from history, biblically illiterate, and catechized more by cable news than by the creeds...shaped more by the ideological zeitgeist than by theological orthodoxy."

5. Extremes of Pietism and Partisanship

Keller notes two tendencies among modern evangelicals which pull them in different, yet equally unhealthy directions. "One is pietism, which is a 'completely inward' Christianity oriented toward 'Jesus just wants you to be happy' prosperity. The other extreme is partisanship which errs by politicizing the gospel according to rigid partisan criteria that demand “package deal alignment: you cannot be a true Christian conservative or progressive unless you tow the party line on every issue."

Opportunities

1. Evangelism

"The urgency and ubiquity of sin demands, as ever, that the gospel be preached and shared," the article explains. "That’s why we at TGC are committing ourselves anew to evangelism and the Great Commission." TGC carefully clarifies that a renewed focus on evangelism should not come with watering down Scripture, calling Christians to greater biblical literacy, or "robust discipleship". On the contrary, “if the Christian life is shaped and guided by Scripture, then evangelism is about relaying what the Bible really teaches,” TGC executive director Ben Peays said.

2. Unity and Fellowship

A crippling lack of unity has been a challenge for the church since its creation. TGC is “trying to stay true to the Reformation, but in an interdenominational sort of way,” and will continue to "enact unity and fellowship is through conferences and events, where diverse gatherings of men and women come together to fellowship, connect and, most importantly, worship God together."

3. Biblical Literacy

TGC notes that it's hardly a surprise that politics have eclipsed theology in the life of the modern evangelical: "politics is everywhere in our lives—in our social media feeds, on TV, radio, even on the football field—while our Bibles collect dust." With goals such as "healthier churches, transformed lives and communities, new vigor in evangelism, stronger defenses against the errant philosophies of our day, and ultimately new converts," TGC will fight to promote biblical literacy in 2018.

4. Training and Formation

"To combat the crisis in formation plaguing the Western church," the article continues, "TGC is committed to providing biblically sound resources and training to help Christians—both adults and children—become more like Jesus and less like the world." Through an immense number of online resources, books, training courses, and more, TGC seeks to train up Christians for God's kingdom in 2018.

5. Prophetic from the Center

"Christianity speaks prophetically to every age insofar as it speaks from unchanging gospel," the article concludes. "This gospel brings healing and hope in a world of fear. It also confronts every idol and calls everyone to costly discipleship...Our own happiness is not the center. Political power and cultural relevance is not our center. The gospel is our center."



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