Filing down the edges of our faith
Holy Trinity Brompton is an evangelical powerhouse in Great Brittan. What is more, through their well known Alpha Course, HTB is a world-wide presence. There is much to admire and appreciate about HTB and the Alpha Course. But, in my mind, the things to be concerned about are significant.
In a helpful article, Alastair Roberts offers keen insight into the nature of the big tent, low church evangelicalism being spread by HTB.
Having served a non-denominational church in the northeast I can tell you that Mr. Roberts' analysis is spot on.
The Christian is now the religious consumer, to whom the Church must cater. The Alpha Course (whose approach has been imitated by many others) is a polished and franchised showcasing of Christian faith in a manner that minimizes the creative involvement of the local church. It provides a technique of evangelism and discipleship along with a vision of Christianity in which the distinct voice and authority of the local church are downplayed in favour of a predictable, uniform, and airbrushed product. The danger is that evangelism becomes the implementation of a standard series of marketing scripts, rather than the practice of a distinct voice of local witness.
When the marketplace becomes the implicit metaphor framing the relationship between the Church and society, notions such as Church membership and authority will become more problematic. As this occurs, the weight of Christian affiliation and identity will tend to shift away from the local church, where we are subject to pastoral leadership, towards the parachurch, where we have freedom to connect and explore without coming under any institutional authority. Christianity comes to be experienced as a brand that we buy into. In the marketplace, the customer is king and accommodation to the consumer will often be the order of the day. The marketplace framing will also tend to sit uncomfortably alongside the various biblical frames that highlight antitheses or antagonisms between the Church and the world.
Among the most significant signs of a church more adapted to the marketplace will be a careful chamfering of the hard edges of the faith, a studied inoffensiveness, and a desire to avoid positions that might polarize its core market. For a consumer-driven church doctrinal vagueness is a feature, not a bug. An intentional degree of doctrinal vagueness or lack of specificity has the benefit of allowing many different parties to see in you what they would like to see (I have previously discussed the way that advertising can shape the presentation of Christian faith here). This lack of specificity will also tend to involve a downplaying of the particularity of our churches' histories.
Read the entire article HERE.