THE CRISIS IN OUR churches today, say the authors, and the challenge that must be overcome if the church is to survive and thrive into the 21st century, is that we have emphasized separate aspects but not the whole counsel of God.
Some sectors of the church are content to announce the Gospel in terms separating faith from social concern. This is an appeal to “love God and neighbour” together.
Canada’s non Roman Catholic churches began this century “on a confident footing of social consensus and shared mission.” These denominations of the time – Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist – were the shaping institutions of English-speaking Canada. But as the century unfolded, and in spite of growing ecumenical cooperation, they were unprepared for the accelerated changes during the period of the two great wars. A boom in church participation occurred during the ’50s, but a rift appeared as conservative evangelicalism challenged the mainline on its tendencies to be socially relevant at the expense of nurturing personal faith.
Since the ’60s, that fissure had widened with evangelical emphases making considerable gains over evolving mainline priorities, while the church in general lost its former moral authority.
Without embracing both sides of the gospel equation – what the authors call “soul care” and “social care” – churches and their leaders have tended to focus on one at the expense of the other. To reverse the downward slide of the church and help it regain its moral authority the return to a former balance is prescribed.
Reconnecting with the Power of the Gospel for the 21st Century.
by Don Posterski and Gary Nelson
ISBN 1-551-450-984 Subsequent chapters zero in on the soul of future churches and their leaders, strategies for effective leadership and for energizing churches, and non-negotiables for Christians to prepare for what lies ahead.
The authors are to be commended for bringing together such a wide range of Canadian church experience set within this century. The studies emphasize strengths and weaknesses of evangelical and mainline traditions and prescribe common cause; Canada’s ability to accommodate creative compromise is probably better the United States.
Unlike the US, more than half Canada’s population is Roman Catholic and a strong Franco-phone presence exists in that church. As well, not all Canadian churches fall neatly into the format suggested, nor should mainline or evangelical groups be so easily stereotyped. Elements of both sides of the gospel equation have always existed in each.
The authors’ attempts to make sharp distinctions for effect may sometimes compromise the facts. That said, they make a solid point about where faith and action are connected, where dynamic personal faith and active social concern are integral to each other, and where soul care and social care are fused together.
Dr. Wayne A. Holst is a lecturer and research assistant at the Arctic Institute of North America, Cal-gary. A Lutheran pastor, missionary and church executive for 25 years, he now works on the comparative spirituality of indigenous peoples.