For some time now, what appears to be happening is that people are treating their search for a church home the way they look for a new mattress or car. Besides the usual criteria– proximity to their homes, the vitality of various groups like adult education or youth activity, the personality of the pastor(s), whether or not they feel welcomed and plugged in, and even what’s offered in terms of on-site amenities– they base their decision on ROI, a return on investment of their time and, who knows, maybe their offerings as well.
Theology and doctrine seem to matter only to the extent that people hear what they want to hear and find support for their world view (heaven forbid our consciences should be pricked and our assumptions challenged). Otherwise these things don’t appear to be much of a consideration, even though they inform to a great extent what is seen and heard on a Sunday morning, and how a congregation views, behaves in, and interacts with the surrounding culture and world.
Maybe this is the direction in which the church needs to be headed. Not the whole consumer attitude, but the movement away from strict adherence to doctrine. And the deadly mantra of “we’ve always done it that way.”
Having said that, I believe no matter how unified the church becomes, there will be certain doctrinal stances that are going to be difficult to part with. Worst case scenario is a watered-down version of ourselves, which will not serve anyone. So we can’t lose justification by grace through faith. We can’t ignore Paul’s vision of a day when there will no longer be male or female, slave or free…
We can’t turn our backs on Christ crucified and risen. People of faith do have roots. We’ve come from somewhere, and it goes back way beyond local piety and traditions. If we are indeed searching for the heart of God, we need look no further than Jesus, who loved everyone and wasn’t afraid to get under peoples’ skin.