By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor
The jury is still out on whether or not mainline Protestantism will adjust to the influence of social media and the speed at which change occurs these days. The institutional church normally likes to take change slowly and in small doses. There is today a cultural war for the hearts and souls of Protestant denominationalism. People are drifting away from the two most centrist denominations, the Presbyterian Church [U.S.A.] and the United Methodist Church. The mainline Protestant denominations are no longer evangelizing the young (some call them millennials) in this country or protecting them from the erosion of contemporary culture. The more evangelical expressions of Christianity have succeeded in creating a paraculture complete with specialized ministries aimed at high school and college students. They stress fun, sports, and mentoring relationships tied to Bible study and a personal relationship with Jesus. They provide a remedy from the isolation experienced by our young from the adult world. They also, and I genuinely applaud this, provide alternative models to the entertainment industry’s portrayal of adolescence and adulthood. The mainline Protestant denominations need to recognize the deep spiritual needs of our young and step into the breach.
Our graying mainline church has in the past, interpreted Christianity through the demands of peace and social justice agendas. And there is nothing wrong with these agendas so long as we don’t neglect the weighty needs of personal and corporate salvation and a relationship with Christ. Social justice and loving Jesus need not be in tension. Perhaps mainline Protestant churches need to initiate fresh discussions about the relation of traditional Christian beliefs to social justice issues.
Trinity Church addresses these concerns by focusing on each individual child, youth and young adult, partly out of the traditional evangelical impulse to save souls, but also out of concern for our young in today’s cultures. Our leaders here at Trinity are waking up to the real moral and spiritual forces of evil abroad that our young need our support to withstand. Every ministry at Trinity is trying to discover new ways for praise, music, and meditation to join hands with prayer – that is to say, joining the love and merciful lifestyle expressed in the Gospel with the character formation every person needs to live in the real world.
Trinity Church’s leaders believe that societal needs are changing so rapidly in ways that call for our rethinking (and re-imaging) our understanding of the Christian mission. We seek a renewed pursuit of personal salvation without undermining our corporate responsibilities of the church to society. We seek to reach more young in the McLean area and open their hearts to both the inclusivity of the Gospel and historic Christianity.
We are definitely living through a seismic shift in Christian history. That’s okay, provided we learn to keep a period of silence too, in order to discern where God is leading us.