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Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Church as a Redemptive Community

By Jay Haug
Special to Virtueonline
January 20, 2011

Survey after survey confirms what most of us already know. Jesus Christ remains an extremely popular and engaging figure to most of the world, but his church is too often considered corrupt, old-fashioned and out of touch. When conversing outside committed evangelicalism, I often hear people lamenting the state of "organized religion," spoken as if the person had recently received food poisoning at a restaurant and vows never to return.

The secular media has an entire genre of cataloging church scandals, and exposing financial hucksters operating under religious auspices. Elmer Gantry has many modern versions that too often obscure talented and courageous clergy ministering faithfully through the years.

Years ago when Saturday Night Live was still funny, the "church lady" was a hilarious character played by Dana Carvey, conveyed with prim demeanor and just enough judgmental and erratic behavior to strike a chord with the audience.

But clearly, America's religious landscape is changing. In fact, it has already changed. A friend of mine who is serving a dying Episcopal congregation in the Northeast tells me that no less than four Roman Catholic churches in his smallish city are in the process of closing. Clergy talk there focuses on the rise of non-denominational mega-churches emerging to take the place of hundred and fifty year old congregations on the point of extinction.

Does it matter that many committed Christians lament the state of the church? And is it important that the church is in such disrepute in the culture? Some might consider it a badge of honor. But if so, what kind of churches should we be building?

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