By Bishop Robert (Bob) Biermann
Other church bodies, in an effort to seem relevant, have adopted a methodology and presentation that is often hard to distinguish from a rock concert, night club, or pep-rally. While I appreciate what they are trying to do -- and their rapid growth is often explosive -- I have found that many of their members are often not very deep in their faith, and (from direct personal experience with many) tend to place their feelings, desires, and emotions above their commitment to Christ. Sadly, they value the (entertainment) "experience" over the Saviour. Worship is often a one-way street where it what they get, not what we should give of ourselves to Christ, that matters.
The new "shiny thing" on the block in North American Anglican circles is the ACNA. In what I'm about to say, I am not attempting to be disparaging or mocking, I am simply aware that the ACNA is essentially the Episcopal Church (in many ways) prior to V. Gene Robinson in 2003. They have not honestly dealt with Women's Ordination (as seen in the picture on right), and much of the "meism" and watered down theology found in the 1979 BCP.
I am certain because they have momentum, size, and resources they will continue to grow for a season. However, at some point, the unresolved issues will begin to boil under the surface, and will most likely cause a split.
Here are the sobering realities. This week between 250 and 350 churches will close their doors forever in the United States. In some cases, it will be because they embarked on a social gospel path 20 or more years ago that sounded good at the time, but offered nothing of real spiritual substance to the community. In other cases, the congregation eventually aged out and did nothing to evangelize the lost generation. There was no one to fill their shoes as they aged out and died.
I recently read of a traditional Anglican church that closed in western North Carolina. Below is a couple of pictures from their Website. This church was started about 6 or 7 years ago. Because of its small size, it was always classified as just a mission. They were fortunate to get a clergyman that was able to serve them during all that time. They had services each and every week.
The clergyman finally came to the point that he needed to retire from both his secular work and church work. He moved hundreds of miles away. Without a clergyman, and no hopes of ever getting one -- as their community is not very large and they had no resources to pay anything to help a clergyman, they decided to simply close their doors forever.
In their 6+ years, with a very nice place to meet which they owned, a fine altar, pews, Pulpit, Prayerbooks, Hymnals Vestments parchments and organ, they had only grown to about 10 people each Sunday and were virtually unknown in their community. I have a name for that type of church. I call them the "1928 Prayerbook Burial Society." Their only community outreach was a tiny advertisement in the local newspaper with ONLY the church name, meeting location and the words "1928 BCP-1940 Hymnal." To a community in western North Carolina, what would that advertisement mean? Not much. Both their FaceBook™ page and website were extremely out of date, and very limited.
So why this long and depressing dissertation? It is to first remind us of the reality of the world in which God has called us to proclaim His Holy Name. Second, for us, all to (re)commit our efforts following a realistic, impactful, and biblical methodology. In our efforts, we must be wise but also seeking what God would have us to do. I am working on a basic mission plan that can be the foundation of planting churches. Third, to get your input from your own personal experiences in ministry. In putting this together there is no "magic bullet" that will make churches just pop out of the ground, but we need to take that first step to identify how to share our Ancient Faith in this 21st Century World.