Role of the Church in Society?

So then, who is the laggard and who is the leader? The answer is obvious. The church is living in the past and is repressing the inherent rights of the citizen” (Johnny)

I couldn’t agree more. The wonderful church that holds itself as ‘good news’ and an ‘ethical leader’ is becoming neither. It makes me wonder what is the actual role of the church in society when it is lagging in morality compared to societies it exists in? It’s no wonder why churches are becoming more and more empty – they play no role in society anymore…something needs to change.

What is the role of the church in society? I have been wondering this for some time now…how important is the institution of the church in a society? Has it become self-serving like any other business out there?

I think the church has a serious PR problem right now. What exact issues of our time is the church actually addressing and seeking progressive change in? Climate change? No. Gay rights? No. The food industry? No. War? No. Corporate greed? No. I am actually struggling to figure out an area they actually have something relevant to weigh in on (outside of poverty – and even then they do less than Red Cross for example).

There is a church in every single neighborhood in the West…what is it they are doing exactly? Of course they address spirituality – but even then it’s pretty self-serving. In fact, if you check the record for the last 20 to 30 years – the Conservative side of Christianity has come up ‘thumbs down’ on most issues on the planet. And in some ways the Christian faith has become the opposite of it’s goal – it’s actually harbored more problems than help to their communities.

One just needs to pick up a paper to read about a horrific scandal in the Catholic church concerning children. Evangelicals stand opposed to climate change and the science thereof. Catholics refuse people in Africa condoms…in an AIDS epidemic. Evangelicals oppose gay rights. This list could go on and on.

Is the role of the church self-serving – seeking to keep some status quo for the sake of the institution? Or is actually a progressive institution that seeks ethical change for the ‘good’ in society? I mean, I think of Jesus and at least the story reads good news of him…he was healing people, helping the poor, etc. Is the church truly on par with it’s inspiration? 

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35 thoughts on “Role of the Church in Society?

  1. “Is the role of the church self-serving ” svs

    Its sad that in our society the church is a huge money racket. Charities raise money and they give to hospitals, welfare programs and other poverty organizations (African famine relief, etc..) But who does the church give to? Their leaders and only their leaders. I have never heard of a church giving money to help to a member or to another organization to help sick kids, poverty or anything. The church does give something back: tax slips. That’s its only function. Which the Gov’t reimburses the giver for. So the church fails there to.

    I guess someone can make an argument that the church provides community. But it doesn’t give community to everyone. You have believe what they they believe to receive the community. There are a few churches in my area which do nothing for the actual community around them. They have a bake sale or garage sale every now and then, to raise money for the church and not the community.

  2. Today’s Christian church has become a “business”. It has become a refuge for conservatives who see the world as a place they “generally” want to avoid (when they feel guilty about being a part of “the world”). The church, for cnoservative fundamentalists is a place where they meet others of like belief and feel comfortable saying the things they really wish to say “out in the world”, but were afraid to voice.You have given adequate reasons why the church is losing its role in society. That’s why I haven’t participated in the institution in over three years.

  3. “I’m at the point that I’m not sure I can call myself a Christian.” (Chris)

    I hear ya Chris, I reached that crux some year ago or so. I invented a new term to satisfy my thoughts – aChristian. Not exactly Christian, leaving many of the tenets behind, but still following the concepts and teachings of Jesus.

  4. “I have never heard of a church giving money to help to a member or to another organization to help sick kids, poverty or anything” (Wolf)

    Thats a tad unfair, I do know of many Christian orgnaizations that still help the poor – like in Katrina and even Haiti. However, I do agree with the sentiments.

    I was thinking that many Christian churches have started many organizations that are now run by mainstream society – including hospitals and schools. However, that was then and this is now…even food shelters are being run less and less by Christian churches (at least not always in some direct way).

    A change occured and the church lost it’s mission on this planet, in the West anyways.

    “I guess someone can make an argument that the church provides community. But it doesn’t give community to everyone” (Wolf)

    True, but it is available to everyone…to some limited degree. I am not sure I have a problem with them helping their own that attend, since how can one know who to help if not the people in their midst? That being said, they barely even do that.

  5. “Today’s Christian church has become a “business”. It has become a refuge for conservatives who see the world as a place they “generally” want to avoid…” (Don)

    Good sociological point. As soon as I read that a light went off in my head saying ‘so true’. I get the business part – it’s in a capitalistic society – only makes sense they would confrom to the world around them to some degree. I also get the aversion point – don’t want to be too much like the outside world, might taint having some impact on society. The business side is winning.

  6. at it’s worse, the church is as you describe and lines up with Johnny’s critique. anytime there is traditionalism (dead faith of the living) and a ton of rules where one can’t be fully human, then it is of no earthly good.

    yet church can be a launch pad, a communal re-charging station and think-tank, a place of life-giving vitality. here tradition (that is the living faith of the dead) adapts and changes and guides people into better living in the here and now and fosters true relationships.

    if it doesn’t do that, then it’s for not.

    • Well said and well meant……but give me a list of the churches that are actively doing what you describe while at the same time still concerned about human justice issues and social progression exclusively through their faith and not through a separate political movement.

      Do these churches actively incorporate the rule of the law, the democratic values of the society, and the progression of the masses toward a higher level of societal acceptance/debate regarding topical and even controversial issues (i.e., homosexuality, abortion, sexual health, scientific advancements, etc.)?

      Whose “community” are you talking about? The faith community or another community deemed untouchable? Let’s be honest here, if you (or I) were openly homosexual and still a theistic believer would the community of Christian churches, and even like-minded believers, accept you as an equal? But the truth is that you probably do not deviate from the norm and thus you can escape the judgements, but not everybody is so lucky. Does your community accept them and give them a place of value or will that take another hundred years of debate and political progression?

      • I can only give you those I have experienced:

        Emmaus UCC, Vienna VA
        New Vision UCC, Canton, OH
        Trinity Reformed UCC, Mountville, PA
        Disciples of Christ UCC, Lancaster, PA
        Sylvania UCC, Sylvania, OH
        Inner Metro Green Church of the Brethren, Lancaster, PA

        all of these churches are ONA (open and affirming) this doesn’t mention the Unitarian Universalist churches nor the Church of the Metaphysic that i have attended but most want to label them “non-Christian” or at the very least, not church due to their views and the fact that “they let anyone in.” (like that’s a bad thing).

        The majority at TRUCC in mountville where I served as intern were LGBTQ members, and i just got back from a Kenya dinner hosted by some great ladies who went over there and saw what was up. We deviate plenty, Johnny, this is what i’ve been trying to tell you each time we have spoken.

  7. “here tradition (that is the living faith of the dead) adapts and changes and guides people into better living in the here and now and fosters true relationships.” (Luke)

    I think this is where I actually do agree about the usefullness of the church – in changing one’s personal outlook and situation. I can attest to this on a personal level and how it helps individuals move from one place in society towards another more fulfilling goal(s).

    “Do these churches actively incorporate the rule of the law, the democratic values of the society, and the progression of the masses toward a higher level of societal acceptance/debate regarding topical and even controversial issues (i.e., homosexuality, abortion, sexual health, scientific advancements, etc.)?” (Johnny)

    On a more communal level, within the church, this statement also holds some weight. Churches seem to not want to move for advancement in society (in general I mean) nor for things that speak of justice and peace in the world. This seems to me a huge problem in the church – they don’t know what it is they should fight for – morally?

    For example, war is a common thing to many countries in the West (and globally). I am not sure Christianity’s stance concerning war – it’s rather confusing from Catholics to Evangelicals to Orthodox to other Christian denoms. They range from the outside groups holding to complete non-violence to those who support wars for the West (but never for the Middle East or any other country). Morally, the stance is ever changing.

    Which is kind of weird to be honest – since all these Christians claim to follow a person with the title ‘Prince of Peace’. He is not the ‘prince of justice or prince of the sword’ but of ‘peace’. I almost think the standard should be ‘peace – by non-violent means – always and forever’. It’s an east addendum to add to a statement of faith. But one does not find this in any current statement of faith – almost as if war is not a problem on this planet we should concern ourselves with.

    It’s these kinds of things that makes me wonder where the churches mind is actually at. War has and always will be a pressing issue for the people involved in it – or called to support it. Faith has no stance on this issue – it’s a makeshift doctrine at best from church to church.

    Then we could get into pollution, homosexuality, abortion, food concerns, etc. But even then, they will always be makeshift doctrines until a church denom decides these are important issues that need standards and a place of serious discussion. The best example of this process is happening on blogs…keeping more people out of church and pushing them to venues that support their freedom of speech.

    Kind of unfortunate.

      • “yet the doctrine of sin states the need for war if all nonviolent means fail. “turn the other cheek” doesn’t mean hit me again.” (Luke)

        Sin pretty much entails there will be problems…but at what point is violence okay and not okay…this is the problem with allowing even the thought of violent retribution a chance (a little leaven can ruin the whole lump of dough).

        I was thinking about non-violence last night – and what Jesus may or may not have taught on this issue. I think Jesus falls solidly on the side of non-violence – peace by any means. It’s not just that ‘turn the other cheek scripture’ that makes the case. His core ideas are about the treatment of others – as you would like to be treated…I think we all hate being ‘hit’? Jesus also allows the rule of law of the land to take place…and not become a violent aggressor, even though he was falsely tried and put to ‘death’.

        In ommission, Jesus never teaches about how to use one’s violence as a means for the kingdom of God. Jesus never hits anyone (the healer likely shouldnt). In the case of the ‘turn the other cheek’ teaching – there is nothing stating any violent means at all (if pushed too far). Jesus never backed war – even if there were factions amongst his own group that did (zealots and in one incidence James and John wanted to call fire down on people – killing them).

        I find it hard to use this man, Jesus, to back anything ‘war like’ or ‘violent’. Sin or no sin.

      • Jesus was nonviolent, but was NOT peace by any means. He was about humanitarianism; a recognition of the shared humanity, not dehumanizing and “othering” the opponent.

        while Jesus wasn’t a zealot, he did have their sympathies as he was engaged in a creative, nonviolent resistance movement. he was not about war physically, but spiritually yes. he was fighting, we can’t mistake that. his means however, are what we should focus on. however, there is always the Temple scene, the Legion and pigs incident, and the withering of the fig tree.

        Just War is not about using violence as a means of the kingdom. war goes away once the kingdom arrives. however, when faced with an aggressor that will not back down and will not negotiate and will not recognize your humanity, that is where the tradition (save for the Brethren and Quakers) goes defensive. Reinhold Neihbur is my man here. i really enjoy his writing. Moral Man and Immoral Society is a great read and really covers it. this has morphed into the “Just Peace” movement found in my denom. here is a link to the website.

  8. Isnt the fact that Luke is probably going to stop his blog, or at least change its direction a direct reflection of what the “church” really is?
    Though I have been wrong on occasion. 🙂

    • or it could be that i really like wordpress and am looking to change things up. having to re-educate everyone that there are a variety of Christians out there and not just Catholics or Evangelicals gets boring after awhile.

      plus i need a new creative outlet. we shall see… we shall see. Yael changes blogs every 3 weeks 😉

  9. “Isnt the fact that Luke is probably going to stop his blog, or at least change its direction a direct reflection of what the “church” really is?”

    Well, I will certainly applaud anyone that examines their faith and their communal organization (church) and tries to make it a more accepting place; good on you for it. I have been in that scenario (openly questioning and reacting to corruption) and regardless of what anyone says in the church it is a great place to be. A good democracy needs dissenting voices and people that are willing to debate the tough issues.

    I do not know what a “church” really is and I probably do not really care as much as I used to, but that is the progression of life and it leads me not to be an expert in any regard. I will say that the majority of the Christian “body” is still wildly non-progressive and that is why this blog exists (at least as I have viewed it).

    • “I will say that the majority of the Christian “body” is still wildly non-progressive and that is why this blog exists (at least as I have viewed it).”

      perceptions are not reality. although we must be aware of it… i would say that the majority of media on the market is geared conservative and that’s why that perception is out there. the truth is the large part of the faith are moderate to liberal. i wrote a post on it back in January if you’re so inclined. but the church isn’t really your focal point, so take it or leave it. i see your desire for progress, change, and doing so ethically. i can’t really complain too much. orthopraxy over orthodox (practice over belief). RAWK out dude!

  10. What exact issues of our time is the church actually addressing and seeking progressive change in? Climate change? No. Gay rights? No. The food industry? No. War? No. Corporate greed? No. I am actually struggling to figure out an area they actually have something relevant to weigh in on (outside of poverty – and even then they do less than Red Cross for example).

    In some of these cases, for example gay rights and war, I’d say at least part of “the church” actually works against progressive change. I suspect that many churches would respond to objections of irrelevancy by emphasizing the importance of spiritual matters, but the distinction between orthodoxy and orthopraxy seems relevant.

  11. The role and the influence of some churches are diminishing, some of them becomes more of a business than a holy place, less supportive in their society (they are self-centered, they think more of themselves than the people around them ), tolerating the things that they are not supposed to tolerate (for e.g in some pass churches that I use to attend..there was some incidents with teenage girls fighting over man..n it keep on happening..and to I find that there those be a lot of gossiping in the church). An other point that does get me vex, I could understand the church forgiving a church member of a sin they committed and accepting them back into the church, but telling them to sin to cover a sin..-.-”..I am talking bout when a person fornicates and gets pregnant and the church is telling her she have to abort the baby..this is so wrong!!

  12. Correct me if I am wrong but the church is the body of believers right? Therefore if something is wrong in the church we need to check ourselves right? We the church have missed the mark we are crying and complaining about out church leaders when we are suppose to pray for them as well as our government officials. Yes we have all lost our way at some point but there is a way to get back on track. I have found personal observation that when we are so critical of the church we need look no further than ourselves for the solution of what is wrong with the church. We need a personal revival truly repent seek the face of God and prayer. Our pastors could be a whole lot healthier spiritually if we would pray for them. Prayer not only changes things but it also changes our heart. God will show us the error of our ways (the beam that is in our eye) and put us as pillars in his church to show others the way. The maligning of our church leaders would stop with us when someone decides to share some unsolicited piece of information. We would become change agents in the church as we come along side another brother or sister and teach them the true biblical way of living for Christ. Then our living a Christian life would not be in vain if we can show somebody the error of their way in love.

    If we could change our focus this exchange of thoughts could be use for a greater good we need to prayer for our men serious pray around the clock. For them to become the priest that God said they are and to no longer align ourselves with that which the devil is saying about them. Our fathers, brothers, sons, nephews and every single male even the homosexual male are priest that is what God say they are. We are losing to many of our men it is high time that someone take a stand and take the fight to the accuser. Thereby releasing our men from prisons, mental institutions, life of crime, porn, womanizing, prostitution, adultery, low living, drugs, alcohol, gambling, gaming, homosexuality, gangs and any other shackles including the thoughts of the mind that render them passive and seemingly useless. Over all we want change in our churches and change in our society at large. Therefore let us start at the beginning a tall order I know let us pray for our men the head of the household as God has ordained it. Join me in earnest prayer for men and watch what God would do for his great name. I do not think this word of wisdom was simply for Job, Job 22:21-22 Agree with God and be at peace, thereby good will come to you. Receive instruction from his mouth and lay up his words in your heart. Job 23: 14 For he would complete what he appoints for me and many such things are in his mind.

  13. “when we are so critical of the church we need look no further than ourselves for the solution of what is wrong with the church” (Carolyn)

    Nice in theory and I would normally agree with it (and partially do – we need to be the change we want to see). However, in the case of the church is dictatorship, which i am going to call the ‘Jesus syndrome’…in that most Evangelical leaders, and Catholics, take the role of a Jesus figure to their congregation. In this sense, their teachings become untouchable and unchangeable…until they are removed as the problem blocking change. They play leader in the new gospel story – played out in each church.

    “Our pastors could be a whole lot healthier spiritually if we would pray for them” (Carolyn)

    They won’t be because even in most their humility their position doesn’t allow them to change. I can see some of the pastor conundrum, not only do they let the power get to their ‘ego’s’ but the parishioners allow it and want (IE: a sense of security and safety in that leader). The problem is we can pray for them, but to what end…isn’t some of our hopes in that they are stable and do not change?

    • What you are saying is true but you are putting all the impetus to change on the leadership, instead I put it where it really belongs on God. God changes people, things and place that is what he does as creator God. Now if we are praying and still condemning of course we will see no change. When we pray Joshua 7:9 God what would you do for your great name? We would look with expectancy for change. I have faith enough to believe do you? I have personally seen change in my leadership at church and in my very home.

      • I like the faith in God, I really do…but in the end God leaves those decisions up to the leaders in the churches (from what I can see). The impetus to change and become relevant in society is on the people that say they ‘speak for God’…and not God.

  14. “let us start at the beginning a tall order I know let us pray for our men the head of the household as God has ordained it…” (Carolyn)

    Are men really the problem with the church’s stubbornness to be meaningful? yes and no.

    Yes – in that men run and rule the church – they are the PR people for God. Almost all of the issues and problems with the church are started by men…since they are in power.

    No – men have always been men and the new problem in society is what type of man ‘is a man’? Even woman are confused by what this means. They want the deep emotional man but at the same time the ‘brut’.

    The problem is the assumption ‘men are the heads of the household’…from what i can tell they are not. They are heads of everything else but the home is female dominated and should be….men are right out of their zone in this scenario (most of the time).

    • I also agree with you but this is the point of our prayers that this scenario will be turn around. It is not an assumption men are the head of the home it is as God has ordained it the fact that they are not functioning in that capacity is a sad reality. However we need to pray that men would have an unreserved approach to God with freedom and without fear to active their role in the home the church and by extension in society. Men have a fear of inadequacy regarding a whole host of things and instead of embrace the fear to overcome it they let it render them powerless. This then fear manifest itself into retreating into a whole host of unhealthy behaviors. I as a woman have come to understand that fear given my role as a woman of God, a mother and wife. I am keenly aware that we as women have a great influence in the life of our men and we need to use that influence for good and not for evil as Jezebel did with Ahab. Remember David’s encounter with Abigail 1 Samuel 25:25-35 this is a great example of a woman of influence and the Proverbs 31:10-31 I wish to God that we have more women like these women. The destruction that David was about to embark upon was turn around by one prudent woman. Just imagine what we women could do. And as many men that are turned away from evil and they in turn help another brother or son what a phenomenal sight to behold. Believe with me for change pray with expectation.

      • When you say ‘men are the head of the household’ – what do you mean by that? In that, how do you see men’s role as ‘heads of the household’? Sounds misogynistic to me.

  15. I have said my piece and I leave it there. May God bless you and keep you, may His face always shine upon you, may He lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace both now and ever more. Amen

    • I’m juss saying is all. Everytime I hear that term used it always leads to men keeping more power than women – and making the relationship unequal. So I really am not sure how you are using that term.

  16. I was raised catholic. I hate it. The church i went to only raised loot so they can get a shiny new roof and a good old furnace, while us farmers in the area suffered hard times and yet the church grows richer. Hell, one minister just wound up in jail for, you guessed it, sexual relations with a child. I refuse to donate a penny to those self serving arrogant aristocrats.

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