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Number of Pages: 200
Vendor: Abingdon Press
|Publication Date: 2018|
In 1990 Tex Sample US Lifestyles and the Mainline Church intended to help Protestant churches become more relevant to cultural diversity, but it did much more than that. It revealed the growing crack between established churches of all kinds and the changing, fracturing, multiplying societies around them. Sideline Church is a second installment, so to speak, almost thirty years later. The crack revealed in 1990 has now widened into a chasm. Most churches, regardless of their tradition, are now on the sidelines. They observe cultural change, but dont care to participate in it.
Like spectators at a ball game, these churches watch. They may sing songs or shout encouragement, or they may shout criticisms and lament mistakes. Occasionally churches will leave their seats to get a hot dog with their friends or quarrel with their enemies. Occasionally there is a "wave" as sections of the Christendom stadium rise to their feet to celebrate their particular denomination or tradition. Often today there are angry confrontations as liberals and conservatives shout insults at one another across the stadium. Churches become so preoccupied with what is going on in the stands that they pay less and less attention to the game. The cheer and boo as some churches leave their seats and change sides. They project their own hopes and fears on individual players who become proxy representatives for a particular cause or policy.
If we were to reverse the metaphor and pretend that the spectators were actually players, we might see the game descend into chaos and become a brawl. Even more obvious, however, would be the empty stands. Fewer and fewer people are watching. The very spectacle of Christians brawling with each other has lost appeal. Nobody will buy tickets. The media wont bother to cover the game.
Even megachurches are not immune. Their membership is remarkably homogeneous by race, age, income, family status, marital status, language, etc. The membership city does not even come close to mirroring the demographic and lifestyle diversity of the city itself. Typically, its location on the beltway suggests a church on the sidelines of the city, their penetration into demographic diversity limited to offsite outreach away from the "home" campus.
Many churches will never be able to cross that chasm between churches and culture. When push comes to shove, privilege measures risk, many churches dont want to try anyway. When it comes to change, they will always worry more about members they might lose than strangers they might bless. Some churches can and will cross that chasm. Those that do will discover that the key is empathy. It is empathy of the most intimate and profound kind. It is a true "heart burst" for someone other than yourself.