Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pent Up Costs

I always loved Peter's proof in Acts of the Apostles 2:12-15,

"All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning."

1. The fact that he was able to stand proved that he was not falling down drunk.

2. I wonder if he meant for them to "come back later tonight" to see "serious drinking."

Today we at ECOOS had a post Pentecost meeting during which the vestry presented a brief description of the budget YTD. The good news is that heading into the summer months, we are only $500.00 short. The bad news is that attendance usually drops during the summer as does plate income. We were reminded that the budget was trimmed by $100,000 for 2009 because of a decrease in pledge income. A look back at giving trends and average Sunday attendance for the years up to and including 2007 is found here. This shows a steady rise in income despite a flat or declining Sunday attendance. There was also an interesting rise in baptised members during between 2003 and 2007 that does not jive with the Sunday attendance trend.

I don't think the nefarious and rarely attended "Not Another Episcopal Church Blog" has any thing to do with the numbers. After all, this blog started in June of 2006.

Maybe those baptised members are attending Sunday School and skipping the service. I don't think that has changed, but how is Sunday school doing? (More on that later).

Nor do I accept the rationalization that "All the mainstream denominations are in decline." The Word of God is as powerful today as it was for the Apostles at the time of the Pentecost. The "mainstream" Episcopal Church may have some hidden costs that are keeping people from coming in to hear the Word spoken, praised, and worshipped.

The late Dr. Peter Toon in "Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004" points out the changes this particular mainstream church has taken that weaken the Church's position on things such as sin, divorce, atonement, the Person of Christ, even the Holy Trinity. Many of these things lay in the current "Book of Common Prayer" which since 1979 has indoctrinated an entire generation of Sunday worshippers to a more liberal theology. One small example is the more "inclusive" language in the psalter changing the KJV "Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them." to the BCP 1979 "Happy are the people whose strength is in you! whose hearts are set on the pilgrims' way.." (Psalm 84).

Could there also be a cost to the liberal theology we sometimes hear preached such as today's quick reference during the sermon to God as mother?

Could there be a cost to the silence of the congregation when presented with the request to increase their pledge payments? Could there be a cost to the silence in response to the mention that a line of credit from the bank was considered at one point to pay the bills?

Pent up costs accumulate and some day come due with interest, especially to the disinterested.


  1. The health of every congregation depends more than anything else on the quality of its preaching ministry.

    ---- From "I Believe in Preaching" by John R.W. Stott

  2. "The Word of God is as powerful today as it was for the Apostles at the time of the Pentecost."

    And yet we find a need to "improve" it.

  3. "All the mainstream denominations are in decline."Of course, that depends upon how the term "mainstream denomination" is defined. My working definition is, "any denomination which spends its time attempting to be comfortable and accommodating to the ever-shifting mores of society.


  4. Hey Cato, another Stott quote came to me today:
    “One of the greatest needs of the contemporary church is conscientious biblical exposition from the pulpit. Ignorance of even the rudiments of the faith is widespread. Many Christian people are immature and unstable. And the major reason for this sorry state of affairs is the paucity of responsible, thorough, balanced biblical preachers.”

    H.H. Thanks for stopping by,
    Indeed, there is this attempt to make the Scripture and liturgy more "accessible" to the contempory minds. Unfortunately, contemporary minds appear to be operating at a primitive level. Rewritng the Word is not only dumbing down of the Word, it goes against the very Word itself.

    Randall, Interesting definition.
    Jesus is often portrayed as a 60's type counter-cultural rebel, and the churches have taken this a step further by striving so hard to be counter-cultural that the only place they can go is away from what was handed down to us and wander into heresy. Most heretical wanderings contain some grain of truth and are so appealing in their siren's song that those who hear it go willingly to their demise.

  5. Or this.......

    "Although there are, strictly speaking, no prophets or apostles today, I fear there are false prophets and false apostles. They speak their own words instead
    of God's Word. Their message originates in their own mind. These are men who like to ventilate their own opinions on religion, ethics, theology or politics. They may be conventional enough to introduce their sermon with a Scripture text, but the text bears little or no relation to the sermon which follows, nor is any attempt made to interpret the text in its context. It has been truly said that such a text without a context is a pretext."

    From "The Preacher's Portrait"
    by John R.W. Stott