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Posts Tagged ‘Church Growth’

(revised 03/08/14)

Update: Keith Drury‘s son, David Drury, has become increasingly postmodern. And it seems to me that Keith has become resigned to that fact, tolerating his son’s teachings. Nonetheless, Keith’s speech back in 1995 provides many insights about the theological decline of Wesleyan Holiness denominations.
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Most evangelical denominations have gone through major theological changes in recent decades – for the worse. Among these are the “mainstream” Wesleyan Holiness denominations (Church of the Nazarene, Evangelical Friends, The Wesleyan Church,  etc.)

Following are excerpts from “The Holiness Movement is Dead“, by Keith Drury (1995, with updated footnotes added in 2004). Drury does not say much about today’s heretical Spiritual Formation/ Contemplative prayer, postmodern (Emerging/Emergent) teachings, or ecumenism. However, he addresses many other issues destroying our Christian faith.

I have emphasized certain points by bolding and [bracketing]:

The Holiness Movement is Dead
Originally delivered as an address to the Presidential Breakfast of the Christian Holiness Association

… the holiness movement — as a movement — is dead. Yes, I recognize that there are many wonderful holiness people around. And people are still getting entirely sanctified here and there. But as a movement, I think we need to admit we are dead…

We have a holiness heritage. We have holiness denominations. We have holiness organizations. We have holiness doctrines. We even have holiness colleges, but we no longer have a holiness movement [5]…

I wish to suggest eight factors, which contributed to the death of the holiness movement.

1. We wanted to be respectable.

Holiness people got tired of being different and looked on as “holy rollers.”…  We shuddered at the thought of being a “peculiar people.” We determined to fit in.

Pastors in holiness churches now tell visiting speakers, “My people here are quality people.” What they mean by “quality people” is that their church is populated with sharp, up-scale, white-collar professionals. “Quality people.” Respectable people. And we have become respectable. There is not a whole lot of difference now. Presbyterians, Baptists, Lutherans move into our churches from their former denominations with ease. They don’t see that much difference, because there isn’t much difference. We have succeeded in becoming average Christians.

… It is hard to be a holiness movement when we don’t want to be different than the average Christian. [6]

2. We have plunged into the evangelical mainstream.

Over time we quit calling ourselves “holiness people” or “holiness churches” or “holiness colleges” or “holiness denominations,” (except, of course, to each other). We began to introduce ourselves as “Evangelicals.” We started becoming more at home with NAE than CHA. Local churches repositioned themselves as “evangelical” in their communities. We built respectable churches on busy highways. We quit painting “Holiness unto the Lord” on the front wall. And gradually were assimilated into the evangelical mainstream. [7]

All this, of course, was quite easy for us. Mainstream evangelical media kings like James Dobson, Charles Colson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Robert Schuller and Bill Hybels melted away our differences.[8] Few holiness kingpins are to be found. And even those who have a holiness background are not known as holiness leaders, so much as evangelical leaders… It’s hard to have a holiness movement when our people are really a part of the evangelical movement, not the holiness movement.

3. We failed to convince the younger generation.

We must admit to each other that we have generally failed to convince the generation in their 40s and 30s of the importance of entire sanctification. A few preach it regularly. But many preach it only occasionally, and even then with little urgency or passion… [9]

4. We quit making holiness the main issue.

…There aren’t a lot of excesses in the holiness movement today. We’re pretty safe. Holiness is our stated belief. But in most places we don’t make it the main thing. Preachers in the old holiness movement used to say, “Preach holiness and everything else will take care of itself.” Who says this today? Today’s trend is uplifting, cheery, help-for-Monday sermons, not holiness sermons. Where holiness is not the main thing there will be no holiness movement…

5. We lost the lay people.

A real movement is not made up of professionals but is lay-dominated. While holiness preachers and writers ignited and led the laymen in the old holiness movement, the laymen provided the real dynamic…

We no longer have a force of lay foot soldiers. We have generals without armies. Strategy, but no soldiers. It’s hard to have a holiness movement without the laymen. [11]

6. We over-reacted against the abuses of the past.

I am not yearning for the past. I believe the holiness movement, in many cases, had an abusive past. But in trying to correct these abuses, we overreacted.

Some (perhaps most) in the old holiness movement were legalistic and judgmental. So we became behavioral libertarians.

Some were so ingrown as to never touch the world. So we became assimilated into the world and seldom touched God.

Some were radically emotional, running the aisles, shouting, and “getting blessed.” So we became orderly and respectable, and we labeled all such emotion as “leaning charismatic.”

Some were judgmental and rejecting of anyone who got divorced or had marriage problems. We became so accepting of divorce that it is quickly becoming a non-issue for all but the clergy—and even that is eroding.

They preached a fearsome, vengeful God. Now we have a soft, easygoing Mister Rogers in the sky, “who loves you just the way you are.”… [12]

7. We adopted church-growth thinking without theological thinking.

We discovered that in America, numerical success is the doorway to respect. We wanted to be accepted into the mainstream and we found that church growth gave us the chance. When the church-growth movement first came along, holiness people were wary. [It seems I was in good company. I wrote a seminary paper, decades ago, criticizing the church growth movement. Yet, my seminary professor questioned my opposition.]

We were nervous about too much accommodation to the world in order to win the world. But evangelism has always been a twin passion with holiness. So, many holiness churches—at least the growing ones—suppressed their natural reticence and adopted church-growth thinking in a wholesale way. Pastors became CEOs. Ministers became managers. Shepherds promoted themselves to ranchers. Sermons became talks. Sinners were renamed “seekers.” “Twelve steps” became the new way to get deliverance, instead of at the altar. Growth itself became the great tie-breaking issue. Everything else was made to serve growth.

… is there anyone who would argue that the church-growth movement is in any sense a holiness movement? In fact, much of the movement is quite openly anti-holiness, instructing us that “perfecting the saints” is an unfinishable task which should be given secondary importance to the primary task of initial disciple-making…

[Pastors] traded in the rusting, old holiness movement for a bright, shiny new church-growth movement. [13]

(As a side point, one wonders, now that the church-growth movement is crumbling[14],  where these pastors will go next.

8. We did not notice when the battle line moved.

Many of us believe we are in danger of losing the doctrine and experience of “second-blessing holiness”—an experience through the Holy Ghost which cleanses the heart of its inclination to rebel and enables the believer to live above intentional sin, producing a life in obedience to the known will of God.

We believe that we should stand our ground for the holiness message. That holiness is the “front line” of battle, if we use military terms. But while we have been meeting and talking to each other about holiness… the battle line moved on us.

Many of our people do not need to be sanctified—they need to be saved! The doctrine at risk in many holiness churches is not entire sanctification but “transformational conversion.” We may need to stand at Luther’s side awhile before we can rejoin Wesley.[15]

Few will admit it knowingly, but many of our churches have replaced “transformational conversion” with a softer, user-friendlier style of building the local church. “Membership assimilation” or “assimilation evangelism” or “faith development” models seem so much more attractive today than the old sin-repentance-conversion-restitution models of the past.

The notion that people can repent of their sins in a single moment and be transformed instantaneously into new creatures with a radically changed lives, is increasingly at risk, even in holiness churches. Modernity teaches us that nothing can be done in less than twelve steps!

These popular assimilation models turn the gospel into something else. It is more sociology than theology. People ooze into churches without ever becoming saved. Repentance is replaced by “accepting Christ.” Christ is “added on” to achieve a balanced life. Sinner is traded in for “seeker,” absolutes for options, and theology for therapy.

And people do come into the church. And growth—even great growth—results from these “nonconversion” conversion models of church growth. But it is hard to have a holiness movement dedicated to the possibility of “instantaneous sanctification,” when many folk do not even have an experience of “instantaneous salvation.” It’s hard to have a holiness movement when many of our own church members are not even saved, let alone sanctified

Spiritual shallowness is rampant. Sin among believers is commonplace. Christians boldly advertise on their bumper stickers, “I’m not perfect—just forgiven.” What was once an eroding morality in the world is now an eroding morality in the church.

People like Peggy Campolo call themselves “evangelical,” yet they “enthusiastically endorse . . . monogamous, loving, intimate relationships between people of the same sex.” Evangelical?

The church watched Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith succeed in becoming crossover artists… and then followed them with our crossover worship services.[17] We were delighted that our music, support groups and encouraging talks were popular with the world. We started to fit in. The world liked us! Christians are less and less different than their unsaved neighbors. They are out for the same thing. They lie, cheat and get divorced just like their unsaved neighbors. The old riddle was prophetic:

What’s the difference between the church and the world? Answer: About ten years. Perhaps even less.

Evangelicals have accommodated to divorce. “Worldliness” is seldom mentioned, and even then only in jest. Evangelicals now attend the same movies as the world does. They rent the same videos. They watch the same TV shows. Evangelicals watch things on television that they would have called “pornography” twenty years ago. Christian families are falling apart. Even sets of board members get divorced and marry each others’ spouses—all while staying on the board! And evangelical churches are filling up with people who have never had a genuine experience of transformational conversion. They oozed in through the sociological assimilation process.

Isn’t it ironic, that just as the holiness movement enters its waning years, the church at large is in its greatest need for holiness movement. What does God want? I believe He wants a holiness movement. A new holiness movement.

– A movement which will preach boldly that God is holy and does not accept sin.

– A movement which will have the integrity to tell some Christians they need to get saved.

– A movement which will preach a second work of grace which God does in the life of a believer to cleanse and empower him or her, enabling an obedient life of devotion to God.

– A movement which will call people to abandon worldliness even at the risk of losing some people to the positive, upbeat, cheery service offered down the street.

– A movement which will adopt an external mission—to recruit, persuade and mobilize other evangelicals as aggressively as the church-growth movement or the anti-abortion movements have done—to recruit them to holiness [18] …

The disturbing question is this: Will the old holiness movement be in the new holiness movement? Or will God go outside of our circle to raise up someone else to lead the new movement?…

Original address by Keith Drury, 1995. Retrospective footnotes added almost ten years later in late 2004

ENDNOTES

[5] This point of my address was largely ignored, especially by some Nazarene theologians. This paragraph is the essence of my argument — that the movement was dead though the doctrine remained…   Doctrine is the last to go.  I believed at the time (and still do) that a movement fades first, then the experience, and finally the doctrine… Face it, the United Methodist church’s statement on Christian perfection is a great statement to this day… I was arguing that the movement and experience of a second definite work of grace known as “Entire Sanctification” was gone for all practical purposes, though the doctrine-on-paper continued on the books.

[6] I have taken a beating from a number of my critics at this point…  They thus dismissed this point as sociology not theology.  Which is precisely what I was doing—practicing sociology not theology…

[7] While my paper addressed the movement sociologically this is a good point at which to cite recent doctrinal statements, mission statements and “strategic plans” produced by several of the former holiness denominations that are clearly “evangelical” and abandon any attempt to self-identify as holiness or even Wesleyan…  While the self-labeling of denominations and educational institutions does not a doctrine make, it is indicative of the shifts in the decade since this address was first given.  To identify the Free Methodists Nazarenes, or Wesleyans as an “evangelical denomination” would raise few eyebrows today. The deed is done, the labels switched.

[8] The situation is unchanged in the intervening decade since this address.  The names of the evangelical influencers change as past leaders fade away and new evangelical leaders emerge, but our influencers are exclusively “evangelicals.”  We switched movements, from the smaller more specific one to the larger more generic movement.

[9] Perhaps I erred in placing too much blame on my own generation—the “Boomers.”  In this section I was stepping outside of my own generation and speaking to the generations above us.  That is they (the older generations) had failed to convince us (the boomers) of the holiness message. I am convinced that the holiness movement was “lost” when the boomers took over.  [I agree with this 100% – I am a Boomer, and have seen my college and seminary classmates take over with this “newer and supposedly better” pastoring style – a non-Holiness message.] We boomers may be to blame for not taking it up.  But it is the preceding generations that are to blame for failing to pass it on… The church we inherited may have needed reform, but the one we bequeath need [sic] even greater reform.  However, while the boomers may have “dropped the holiness ball” the blame still falls to the previous generations who so hopelessly fumbled the handoff.

[11] I now wish I had developed this point further.  I have a hunch it is far more important than it seems here… it is a rare lay person today that amasses a serious collection of works on holiness…

[12] I was attempting here to allow for an abusive legalistic past while pointing out that we had ridden the pendulum too far in reaction…

[13] A decade of reflection since this address has convinced me more than ever that if I had to pick a single executioner of  the holiness movement it would be the church growth movement

[14] While this address is best known as discussing the death of the holiness movement perhaps the most shocking statement here was this one pronouncing the demise of the church growth movement when it was at its zenith of power.  Ironically many holiness people abandoned a movement measured in centuries to join one that did not survive two decades!

[15] Ten years later I realize that this claim (which was largely ignored in later analysis) should have been the headline of my address.  Instantaneous sanctification is not the primary matter before us now—it is instantaneous conversion.  Year after year in my surveys of youth from our “holiness-now-evangelical” churches I discover that an instantaneous conversion experience is increasingly becoming the minority experience.  Some are still saved in a datable moment, but an increasing number claim a series of experiences in their “faith journey” and more than half  believe that “there never was a day in my life when I would have gone to hell.” …

[16] I continue to believe that confessing our movement’s death was the right thing to do… On one end folk used the address to show that holiness was indeed dead in the so-called “mainline holiness churches” and the holiness people still in those churches should come out and join the true holiness people in the independent or separated churches. On the other end were some denominational officials (and many pastors of larger churches) who gleefully used the address to usher in a new post-holiness era in the denomination…

[17] At the time I did not see how the dying church growth movement would be temporarily replaced by Promise Keepers but only for a short time.  The next real movement would be the worship movement and the church’s attention would  largely abandon any interest in discipleship, spiritual transformation, the spiritual disciplines [Hmm, I don’t like the author’s use of the  phrase “spiritual disciplines” – does he favor Spiritual Formation? Nonetheless, he does make a number of good points on other issues.],  Christian Education or life change as we became absorbed in praise as if praise itself would sanctify the church causing the chains of sin to fall away.  As I write this retrospective almost five years after the turn of the millennium I see the worship movement losing steam like these other movements did.  What will sweep in next?  Could it be a new holiness movement in some sort of disguise?  We hope so, but cannot say…

[18] My call for “a new holiness movement” turned out to be nothing more than an empty call.  The movement’s remains spent the next decade quibbling over their life or death, CHA gradually sunk into oblivion, the holiness denominations drifted into becoming mainline evangelicals [also called “progressive evangelicals”], and nobody rose to lead the re-invention of the holiness movement…

[19] In a basically pessimistic analysis of how the movement died I offered two glimpses of hope. First, that God might raise up a new movement outside the holiness movement. Second, that God might resurrect the holiness movement itself and bring a new movement though it.  I still hope for both but have more hope for the first than the second. [I also agree that the first is now the more likely. I can’t think of a single Holiness denomination that is not being sucked into Spiritual Formation and Emerging/Emergent church teachings. On the bright side, families are fleeing these churches in droves. Hopefully these now-churchless Christian families will band together and form new gatherings, true to the gospel.]

[20] Though I knew I was “bearding the Lion” in this original address I was not prepared for the earthquake of a response to it.  The proclamation that the “emperor had no clothes” was not taken lightly by many.  Most denominational officials condemned the address as excessive…  In a later address at Indiana Wesleyan University titled “Hope for the Holiness movement” I expanded what I saw as signs that could turn into a new movement. I am mostly disappointed with the later history…  Yet I am hopeful today… I care little for the “remnant mindset” of some remaining holiness people.  Why?  Because I believe God’s great concern is for the shallowness and sinfulness of his entire church—more than a billion of them around the world…

FOR FURTHER READING

Drury responds to Richard Taylor, Kenneth Collins and Wallace Thornton

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