Olson: America’s heresy

Roger Olson writes that the most pernicious heresy in American Christianity is the desire to be respectable.

In my opinion, the main way is that we expect our pastors (and other Christian leaders) to comfort, encourage and support us and never seriously challenge us to the core of who we are. Most pastors know very well that if they do that, their job will be in jeopardy.

Another way is the influence of money and power in church life. Churches usually choose successful businessmen to be their lay leaders and they are not always the most spiritually-minded people of the congregation.

Yet another way is “professionalism” in worship. Many churches hire people, whether Christians or not, to sing in their choirs, play their organs, etc. Appearance and polished performance become more important than real Christian community (participation) and spirituality. Ordinary people of little beauty or talent are rarely, if ever, asked to participate “up front.” How far we have wandered away from 1 Corinthians 14:26!

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3 thoughts on “Olson: America’s heresy

  1. Critiques of Methodism’s shift away from an evangelical ethos to a ‘mainline’ ethos, such as in Methodism: Empire of the Spirit and Kisker’s Mainline or Methodist say that it was when Methodism became “respectable” in the mid-to-late 1800s that it started to lose its prophetic edge.

  2. Riley Case’s book “Evangelical & Methodist” traces how American Methodists have largely traveled down ‘the road to respectability’ and the consequences that have ensued. It’s a read on this exact topic:


    Evangelical and Methodist: Riley B. Case: 9780687044443: Amazon.com: Books

    “In this volume, Riley Case tells the story of the “populist” branch of the Methodist movement in America. Drawing on a variety of sources, and focusing particularly on the twentieth century, he paints a portrait of Methodism more interested in holiness than respectability, more concerned with winning souls than building institutions, more insistent on scriptural truth than cultural relevance.”

  3. Now we are not only looking for lay leaders who are respectable “business men”, but we are creating a “culture of call” to encourage them and recruit them to become ordained pastor/CEO’s. Something is seriously wrong with this.

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