In recent conversations with my seminary classmates, we've
been lamenting the state of Christian education. In many churches it is evident
that the average member hasn't grown in religious or biblical knowledge since he
or she heard moralistic tales of Noah, Esther or Daniel as a child. Some even resist
pastoral attempts to expand their Christian knowledge, and they simply refuse
to learn about other
religions. As seminarians, we are struggling with how to respond to this.
Our local ministerial association met recently to flesh out
the details of the annual community Thanksgiving service. The meeting is always
a riot, but it deals with some tense theological questions too.
I grew up attending Bible and Baptist
churches; now I generally identify with the emerging church. So I've had quite
a learning curve at the Episcopal seminary where I'm studying. Between
balancing prayer books and hymnals and crash courses in chanting, I've frequently
felt like a stranger in a strange land.
Rivonte Moore, 17, doesn't think of himself as a theologian. But he raised his hand in a class at Atlanta's Candler School of Theology last summer to debate the meaning of the term "sentimental nihilism" as used by Cornel West in Democracy Matters.
Youth are not the future of the church—they already are the church." That claim is often made by those with a heart for youth ministry. People who work with youth resist the idea that their ministry is a training ground for future ministers, because they know it is more than that: it's the real deal.
Construction of religious buildings is at its lowest level since record keeping began in 1967. Declining participation and financial funding and a shift away from megachurches are cited as reasons for the decline. Congregations are also deciding to put more money into ministry rather than structures. The building of religious structures peaked in 2002 and has been decreasing ever since, though there are signs that it may have bottomed out in 2013. Mormons and Muslims, both with growing populations, are exceptions to this trend (Wall Street Journal, December 4).