By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor
There is today a cultural war for the hearts and souls of Protestant denominations. People are drifting away from the two most centrist denominations, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Methodist Church. These mainline Protestant denominations are not successfully engaging with the young in this country or protecting them from the erosion of contemporary culture. We need to stress wholesome fun, sports, warm mentoring relationships tied to Bible study and a personal relationship with Jesus. We need to provide a remedy from the isolation experienced by our young from the adult world and provide alternative models to the entertainment industry’s portrayal of adolescence, adulthood and family.
The mainline Protestant denominations must renew our focus on the needs of our young. Our graying mainline churches have, 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 a personal salvation and relationship with Christ. Social justice and loving Jesus do not have to 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 beginning to focus on the individual child, partly out of the traditional evangelical impulse to save souls, but also out of concern for children in today’s culture. 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 to join hands with prayer book – that is to say, joining the love and merciful lifestyle expressed in the Gospel with the character formation our young need to live in the real world.
Trinity Church’s leaders believe that societal needs are changing rapidly, and in ways that call for our rethinking (and re-imaging) our understanding of the Christian mission. The Christian Church has undergone a reformation every 500 years. The spiritual reformation of the 21st century is underway. So what we do at Trinity now will make all the difference to our future. We seek a renewed pursuit of personal salvation without undermining our corporate responsibilities of the church to society. We seek to reach more young people in the McLean area and open their hearts to both the inclusivity of the Gospel and historic Christianity.
Perhaps we are 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 God’s leading.
Shalom, Jim Sprouse