Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BSac 126:503 (Jul 69) p. 247
“Why People Are Leaving The Churches,” Donald G. Bloesch, Religion In Life, Spring, 1969, pp. 92-101.
Some people may still be blissfully ignorant of the fact that people are leaving the churches. Such ignorance is due to the still booming business in the construction of church plants and the general financial prosperity of the churches. But all is not well, as this author points out. “Church membership is no longer keeping pace with the population growth, and church attendance is beginning to fall. Several of the larger denominations are actually suffering an annual loss in membership that runs into the tens of thousands. Sunday school enrollment is slowly but surely decreasing even in some of the more conservative church bodies” (p. 92).
It is important to observe that the title of this article is not stated as a question, but purports to give the answer to the question. This is usually what the author has in mind even when he states his title as a question, but Bloesch does not resort to that rhetorical device. He is convinced of the cause of the declining church affiliation and attendance, and he speaks out plainly. “It is my thesis,” he writes, “that the deeper cause of dissatisfaction in churches today is that people are not hearing the Word of God” (p. 92).
Tle author rightly points out that today we are seeing the transformation of the sermon from the historical Protestant concept of “a human explication of the Word of God in Scripture” (p. 93) to “moral and sometimes political lectures” which “take the form of a dialogue between the preacher and the congregation” (p. 94). We are seeing today what the author calls “the final abdication of the ministry of the Word” when “the clergy are now acknowledging that they have nothing to offer but their own opinions” (p. 94).
The author calls for the church today “to recover its spiritual mission” which he says “is to call men to personal repentance, and not to build a new social order” (p. 96). Later he declares: “If we would retain the sheep that we are called to minister to, then we as the church must recover the scriptural truth that our primary task is not to build a new social order, but rather to uphold and proclaim the Word of God” (p. 99). He does not ignore the social impact of the gospel and the Christian faith, but he stresses: “What we need today
BSac 126:503 (Jul 69) p. 248
are not more blueprints of a new kind of society, but new men. The plight of man can only be resolved by conversion, regeneration by the power of the Holy Spirit. What men yearn for is spiritual communion with the Living God” (p. 99).
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