I just read this interesting article from the Alban institute:
Basically the author, N. Graham Standish is arguing that the reason why a majority of churches are dying is because they have stopped listening to God. He claims that every "thriving" church he has attended are all open to the presence of God in their community. I don't know what he means by "thriving," but we'll assume it means they have more than 200 people a Sunday and really good donuts.
He claims that all of those other, apostate churches are mired in rational functionalism which is rooted in the idea, "that we can uncover the mysteries of life and the universe mainly through rational thought and disciplined investigation. It is the tendency of denominations, their congregations, and their leaders to subscribe to a view of faith and church rooted in a restrictive, logic-bound theology that ignores the possibility of spiritual experiences and miraculous events."
Sermons are basically academic papers. Churches are run like a rote institution. They are cold, vapid, and basically dead.
Those "thriving" churches are "open to God at its core." That is basically all Standish says about those "thriving" churches.
Mr. Standish (or is it Rev. Standish, or Dr. Standish?) I am calling you naked. Well, I'm not actually calling you naked but your theory naked. It is weak, hypercritical, and groundless. I think that is the nice way to put it.
It is very easy to go to almost any church and say, "well, since you are doing things that I don't like you must not be listening to God, you heathen, bastard church."
It is just as easy to say, "this church is doing well because it is doing the things that I think are exciting and important. They must be listening to God. Let the angels sing and rejoice."
Basically Standish is saying, "if you can't see what I see then you are Godless and doomed to failure." If you can't see the fine clothes on the emperor, then you must be a fool.
But I will call out the emperor's nakedness. Standish's critique and claim is nothing but putting up a false facade of spirituality and making other struggling churches feel like crap. There may be some value to the critiques he makes, but the package stinks. Thanks N. Graham Standish. Thanks a lot.