Sep 112017

Kübler-Ross and The Demise of the Church as We Know It

The demise of the Church as we know it is already taking place.  The release of the Public Religion Research Institute’s study America’s Changing Religious Landscape clearly shows the change that is taking place.  Major findings include the fact that white evangelical Protestants are in decline, right along with white mainline Protestants and Catholics. 


Additionally, the study, based upon over 101,000 respondents, shows clearly that across the board, the Church has substantially lost the rising generation, even as the “boomers” continue to fade from the scene.  When this study is paired with the Pew Survey results of last year, it is a sobering picture.  Across denominational lines clergy are aging and dying.  Seminaries, at least those that are still operating, are not producing the numbers needed to replace the clergy who are departing the scene.  Moreover, the clergy being graduated are, by a large majority, pursuing a second career in the ministry, meaning that their working life will tend to be short compared to the preceding generation of pastors and priests.

Now, we might hate the news being delivered to us by these surveys and studies but, as someone once said, “facts are stubborn things”. 

As I have shared this information in articles and private correspondence, I have been fascinated by the responses that I (and others) have received from a broad cross-section of readers and friends.  These readers and friends are evangelicals and Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists and Anglicans, Lutherans and independents.  I must say, I have found their responses to the surveys almost as interesting as the studies themselves.  As I read through threads and emails, I began to see a pattern emerge – one that seemed familiar, although I could not name what the pattern was or exactly how it related to the varied responses.  Then it came to me… these studies were heralding the demise of the Church as we know it and our reaction to the news is the same as if we heard that a beloved friend or family member had been diagnosed with what appeared to be a terminal condition.  We were entering the five stages of grief as put forward by Kübler-Ross.

Denial – The first reaction is denial. In this stage individuals believe the diagnosis is somehow mistaken, and cling to a false, preferable reality which, of course, is not accurate and runs counter to the diagnosis. In spite of the evidence, the response is, “It’s not true”.

Anger – When the individuals recognize that denial cannot continue, they become frustrated, especially at proximate individuals. Often, they attack the messenger who has offered the diagnosis.  Certain psychological responses of people undergoing this phase are: “How can this happen to us?”; or even more often, “Who is to blame?”. 

Bargaining – The third stage involves the hope that the individuals can avoid what is inevitable. Usually, the negotiation to avoid the inevitable is made in exchange for the promise of a reformed lifestyle.  Sometimes it takes the form of negotiating a compromise. “If only we do this, or that, everything will be fine”.

Depression –  During the fourth stage, the individuals despair at the recognition of their institution’s mortality. In this state, individuals may become silent, refuse interaction with others and spend much of the time being sullen. “It’s going to happen, so why bother with anything?”.

Acceptance – In this last stage, individuals embrace the inevitable future. This typically comes with a calm, retrospective view for the individuals, and a stable condition of emotions. There is a pivot point at which individuals say,  “We can’t fight it; we may as well prepare for it.”

Now, I would like to suggest that we break out of the of the five stages of grief, and perhaps we have a reason to do so.  Firstly, we must understand that while most institutions have an entrenched leadership who tend to be reluctant to change, the institution itself is made up of people… people like you and me.  This is true of structures ranging from a Bible Study, to the smallest country church, to the largest denomination.  Moreover, you have a voice and the power of action – even if that action is limited to welcoming a visitor in your church, speaking to your pastor about your concerns or even writing a letter to your denominational or association leadership.  Too often we speak blithely about being “members of the Body of Christ” without recognizing that each part of the Body can perform a function which benefits all in the Body.  While the current “demise of the Church as we know it” seems inevitable, we can, with prayer and faithful action, help to chart a course for the Church that will emerge as old structures and attitudes fall away.

In practical terms, let’s turn back to the grief model of Kübler-Ross and do what the Church does best… let’s talk about redemption.

Denial – Truth is of consequence to Christians, or at least it should be.  Denying the facts or saying something is “fake news” because we don’t want to hear it accomplishes nothing.  The facts and figures are there.  The key question is, “What are we now going to do with what we know to be true”.

Anger – Being angry with the messenger, or trying to denigrate the message will accomplish nothing.  Additionally, adopting a “bunker mentality” (something believers often do) or lashing out at “who’s to blame”, currently or in the past, is self-defeating.  It may be of academic interest to a few, but the vast majority of believers have little interest in the battles of yesterday, especially when the future is at stake. We all have a tendency to look backward when, in reality, we should be looking forward.

Bargaining – Trying to enter into negotiations with God seldom has a happy outcome. Think of Lot, or Jacob wrestling the angel, or even the rich young ruler (“all these things have I done”).  Undeserved and boundless grace leaves little room for bargaining. The renewal of the Church will not come from us being “super Christians”.  It may, however, happen if we can rediscover within ourselves as individuals, and as churches, that central and vital Grace of God that will allow us to reach outside of ourselves and our prejudices to “all sorts and conditions” of men and women for whom Christ died.

Depression – I tend not to embrace the so-called Benedict Option for one reason – the end result is withdrawal from a society that desperately needs to hear the message of Christ’s redemption.  A symptom of clinical depression is isolation.  We are far too isolated as it is.  I may offend some here, but it has to be said… again and again… a blog site, posts on threads, or a Facebook group does not constitute a church. In such digital encounters we do not confess the Creeds together, sacraments are not offered, absolution is not given.  Often, our life online may even increase our isolation.  You cannot stay behind your screen.  Like it or not, church is about other people and the forming of relationships.  Some relationships will be great.  Others, not so much… Regardless, that is where you will find Christ in the midst.

Acceptance – Lazarus had been dead for four days.  Mary and Martha had accepted the inevitable, even though Mary was angry and looking for someone to blame – “Lord if you had been here…”  Christ did not accept the inevitable, raising Lazarus from the dead to show “the Glory of God”.  I truly believe that we do not have to accept the inevitable demise of the Church, but we cannot look to a renewal of faith in a proprietary  manner.  That is, we cannot want it to be renewed simply for our tribe, our confession, or our particular corner of the Christian world.  If it is to happen, it must be for the Glory of God alone.

So, I’ve made a resolution to myself.  I will be talking to a dear friend who is seeking to establish a new church and will go over the liturgy with him.  I will do it every week until he is comfortable with the outlines of the service.  Additionally, I am contacting certain other friends whom I know are trying to establish faith communities (not of my tribe, I might add).  I will be asking them a single question, “What can I do to be of help or service?”  It might be teaching.  It might be counseling. It might be helping in a soup kitchen or painting a wall.  It really does not matter.  All that matters, is not standing at the sidelines grieving, when there is work and ministry to be done.

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project

  121 Responses to “Kübler-Ross and The Demise of the Church As We Know It: Dr. Duane Arnold”

  1. “You cannot stay behind your screen. Like it or not, church is about other people and the forming of relationships. Some relationships will be great. Others, not so much… Regardless, that is where you will find Christ in the midst.”

    This may be the greatest challenge to overcome in this era…

  2. Michael,

    Agreed… Sometimes I have wondered how much this phenomena has to do with the decline in church life…

  3. I think it has a great deal to do with it…online you can experience a level of spirituality and fellowship without any of the mess.

    Unfortunately, it’s often in the mess that God is most at work.

    I will confess that this is a great temptation for me…

  4. Also, large numbers of people can maintain anonymity. Knowing and being known is one of the benefits/risks of church life…

  5. Duane,

    Could you clarify and expand on your #2: What do you consider “church life”?

    And when you say “decline”, do you mean less services offered throughout the week? Less Sunday School offered? Less small groups offered? Less potlucks?


  6. I like you resolution, very much.

  7. this is a good post to ponder and may lead to clearer thinking on the part of all of us who post here – am i the only pew sitters who does? seems so …. dunno, tho …
    one thing that i would clarify from my own experience… most who have left the fellowships of assorted church bodies have not done so because of the normal assorted personalities that run the spectrum in any gathering or family…
    Satan has crept into the churches with the results you’ve described so well… maybe his greatest damage has been in producing very exclusionary atmospheres – not in the sense of protecting sound doctrine, but rather a clubby approach that has no room for anyone “not like us;” much like teenagers… arrested development? within a group of forgiven sinners? you bet! even in churches that seem to be working hard to do God’s work…
    long years ago my husband and i were involved in a work that found us at gatherings that were comprised totally of pastors in the city as they looked for resources to address the Evolution crisis – not the one based in Southern California…
    as the irrelevant wife in the group, i could sit and observe these “go-getter” men as they interacted… their conversations were all about the numbers (known around here as butts in the pews)… it seemed to me that they were attempting to do God’s work without much concern for what that work was supposed to be…
    i think we’re seeing the results of that Madison Avenue approach – it skates very close to the condition of Israel’s leaders at the time of our Lord’s incarnation and crucifixion

    if it takes a formal and formulaic use of sound doctrine to restore the Church to its correct stand, then i’m all for it … God speed

  8. #5 Jean

    All of the above and maybe more!

    A RC friend of mine in LA responded to me privately on this piece. On the “Denial” point, he said people base denial on immediate personal experience – “What are you talking about, we’re packed at the 11.00 am Mass”… forgetting that just a few years ago there were three services and all were packed.

    So we end up with “less” of everything, but it happens slowly enough that we don’t take it in until it is too late…

  9. This article is pre-loaded so that any objection will fall into a Kubler -Ross category.

    I am of the opinion that in former days, churches were full of nominal and cultural Christians.* It was considered a “good thing” to belong to and attend a church, whether you were a follower of Christ or not. Now, it is no longer fashionable to be associated with the Savior. Fake Christians are now culturally free to stay home on Sunday morning. Genuine Christians will still attend church.

    This may be a good thing in the long run. Soon it may actually cost us something to be identified with Christ.

    Two examples: All my North Carolina relatives (except for the 2 Lutheran converts) are Southern Baptists. I have never seen much to convince me that a lot of them are Christians, though. In fact, much to the contrary.

    We have a Greek festival every year here, put on by the local Greek church. All these baptized Greeks come out of the woodwork, singing and dancing and slinging ouzo. They would all claim to be Orthodox Christians but they only show up for Christmas and Easter and even then don’t know what’s going on. They never receive the sacraments.

    I am sure every group has their nominals. I wouldn’t mind culling these people from the flock. Let them experience true conversions to Christ and then we will gladly count them among our number.


    All to say, I think the true church is thriving and the fake church is fading away and good riddance.

    Our job is to live our lives in Christ and be fishers of men. And some of these fish are the same people who used to fill the pews (for those of you with pews 🙂 ) but now go out for a latte and a chocolate croissant on Sunday mornings rather then attending church. And to be honest, some of the organizations that are calling them church are not worth making the effort.

  10. One other thought in all this and it corresponds to the observation that there is a preponderance of church goers who don’t want to take Christ seriously …
    (we used to call such church goers the “nod to God” crowd 🙂 )

    the really sorrowing fact is that most people on the planet don’t want to be Christians with accountability to God impacting their daily lives… they cling to their dying flesh and look for ways to preserve it as long as possible…
    well … i guess we all tend to do that, but…
    it should not be our reason for living, eh?

  11. #9 Xenia

    I would agree with much of what your write, but only to an extent. The decline is also among self-professed evangelicals who, may fit into the “nominal” category as well, but I think there is a difference. In other church bodies, especially RCs, there are almost continual complaints concerning lack of pastoral care, tribalism, etc.

    I agree that we are headed towards a smaller church, but it does not mitigate the fact that many of the support systems are also going by the board – mission support, seminaries, etc. As the “nominals” make their way out, it seems certain that much will go with them. I’m hoping that we don’t come to “throwing the baby out with the bath water”. Amazingly, there seems not to be a great deal of discussion about the infrastructures that are disappearing.

  12. In the Byzantine Empire after the legalization and encouragement of Christianity, nominalism was rife and this caused certain pious men and women to flee to the desert and monasticism was born, which has been an enormous blessing to the Church. Maybe something similar will arise from the current situation.

  13. #11 Addendum

    As we think of “nominals” leaving, I’m also reminded of our responsibility to those who retain a modicum of faith… “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench…”

  14. So is it the idea that there is a large group of dissatisfied people who call themselves Christians who hold organized religion in disdain, never partake of the sacraments and hold to whatever theological positions strike their fancies? What is left but a vague belief in some kind of Trinitarian God who agrees with my every whim? Is this really Christianity at all?

  15. #14 Xenia

    I’m not willing to quite that harsh, but I think there are a large number of people who have not been taught (or catechized). Additionally, with the emergence of the mega-church phenomena (and its cousins in some denominations), many who might have had a chance to grow in faith have, in many instances, been reduced to mere spectators. Perhaps we need a return to the idea that church is about more than simply “showing up”. That being said, those who are just “showing up” should be a part of our work of evangelism and teaching.

  16. I am coming from the position that says this is God’s Church and He knows what He’s doing.

    In America, we are going through a very silly stage where religious organizations cater to culture of the unbeliever rather than to the soul of the believer. It was a bad idea from the beginning and it is starting to crumble. This is good news. The Catholic Church is also going through a silly stage and they are seeing the fruit of that experiment.

    The best outcome will be Christians fleeing these circuses and seeking out more serious places of worship. The pendulum has gone very far in the direction of foolishness and it will swing back. People are still responding to the Gospel message. It cannot be squelched. It is supernatural.

  17. Xenia’s question raises a fundamental question.
    How do we define what the church is?

  18. Xenia’s comment at the top of #9 is my thought on this. I am not one who worships the god of nickels and noses as many do – the numbers mean nothing. The idea that ‘if we don’t straighten out things, then we won’t be able to afford… is pretty rank.

    Last week I used the example of the Northeastern Episcopal churches of the 40s and 50s as being what Xenia describe – a “good thing” to belong to and attend a church, whether you were a follower of Christ or not. I was shouted down.

    I spent a good time describing the issue of those who wanted to hang on to the name Christian while denying scripture in the Lutheran church in the 60s & 70 (and a similar incident in the SBC)- I was shouted down.

    I wonder what the poll results would have been when the “church demographics” changed after all the Ivy League schools gave up their Christian roots over 100 years ago. How about the fact that almost all hospitals at one time had Christian foundings and moorings and now practically none do, Where did ‘christian’ go in the YMCA?

    I wonder what the pollsters would have reported after the events of John 6 when Jesus preached tough and 95% of the followers bailed on “organized religion”?

  19. Back in the day when Christianity was turning the world upside down, unbelievers weren’t even permitted to remain in the church after a certain point.

    I am not saying we should return to that practice (Catechumans depart! Let all who be catechumans depart!) but churches need to get away from the idea that unbelievers can be entertained into the Kingdom. This brings the service down to the lowest common denominator and starves the Christian soul.

  20. Michael, that is what I always ask you when you talk about “the church.”

    I know where the Church is. I am not prepared to say where it isn’t.

  21. To piggy back off of MLDs #18, the percentage of those who followed Jesus in John is more like .24%, if I use the 5000 who got fed and divide it by 12 disciples who stuck around.

    My math may be off, but the point is still the same: Not many will follow Jesus when the all the smoke and mirrors are gone.

    And yes, that is sad.

  22. #19 Xenia

    I almost used the catechumens dismissal in an earlier reply to you!

    “…churches need to get away from the idea that unbelievers can be entertained into the Kingdom.” I absolutely agree!

    The more fundamental question is Michael’s…”How do we define what the church is?” Only I would remove the article. “The Church” is that which Christ founded and holds lordship over. How is that expressed in “church”… the one on the corner, the one in a living room, etc.

  23. #21 Papias

    Agreed, but I also find Augustine preaching about the very same issue of nominal believers in his time…

  24. Good stuff. Excellent in fact. Needed.
    On a related note, “But we might do well to SHUT-UP & listen to those on the outside who are watching us scrambling around like panicked ants.

    What insights might our atheist and secular humanist friends offer us?

    They’d remind us that Christianity isn’t the only religion in the world & we don’t have a monopoly on God. They’d remind us that if there is a God, He or She is likely bigger than our vehicle can contain. They’d say that all of the world’s religions are like wells, and if you go deep enough into any of them, you hit the same source. (p. 185, “Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity)”


  25. … we don’t have a monopoly on God. <<<

    Yes, we do.

  26. Great article and great discussion! I resonate with Xenia’s idea about the departure of the nominal being a healthy thing. But in so many cases, at least in my experience, the nominal Christians I know aren’t the ones who are leaving Christianity. They keep identifying with nominal churches that are so comfortable that there is no reason to ever leave. Nominal churches are still experiencing “growth.” The people I’m concerned about are the true believers. These are the ones who fully buy in to the Gospel, participate actively in church ministry, study diligently to be approved by God, then fall away. The old eternal security rap just dismissed these apostates as “never really saved” but so many of these people were just as saved as anyone else I know. I can’t just sweep them under the rug of Perseverance of the Saints. Theology can result in denial when it comes to how many of our best and brightest are falling by the wayside. The fact that seminary enrollment is down, and the ages of typical seminarians is up, both concern me. I love the ideas Duane has proposed concerning encouraging church planters, but if we are moving toward smaller churches and house churches I wonder where all the pastors and church planters will come from? But thanks for the Kübler-Ross tie-in and paradigm. It is quite helpful for a perspective.

  27. Dave,

    Well said…

  28. Duane # 23.

    I think it goes back to NT church. Which seems ironic when people speak of their church “being like the church in Acts.”

    Jesus didn’t mince words when he said that the Sower “some fell into good soil”, after sowing in the roadway, rocks, and thorns.

    When asked what it meant He said “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”

    “All we need is just a little patience..”

  29. Xenia – ” churches need to get away from the idea that unbelievers can be entertained into the Kingdom. This brings the service down to the lowest common denominator and starves the Christian soul.”

    now that is the crux of the conundrum – this was where the rot began … ahh, but the numbers grew and we were reaching more people for Christ… well, reaching more people for Christ is not the same as bringing people INTO Christ, is it?

    i have a dear cousin, very active in YWAM for decades and now his sweet daughter is serving the Lord (loves the Lord, no doubt) by being a praise leader? Lord, how i wish she were a teacher of the Faith instead of a tub thumper…

    but i do agree, as has been noted here, that there is definitely a shift in the wind and the Lord will not lose any of His own…

    and i will declare with some adamancy that He’ll not depend upon the partaking of the sacraments-so-called to keep His flock… He may use those tools, as He has by testimony here, but He’ll keep His own with or without them

  30. I welcome the coming changes. The Church will never ‘die’ but the institutional structure will certainly change. I think it is indicative of our entire culture. Every institution in our culture is failing and ‘dying’ at one rate or another. Government, Education, and the Church are all becoming increasingly dysfunctional as time goes by. They are institutionally top heavy, plagued by bureaucracy, careerism, and needing large amounts of capital to cover overhead. They become self serving, and are diverted from their primary function and focus in their struggle to maintain relevancy. In my own denomination, the LCMS, our congregations are dying out with the Baby Boomers. Older ministers are reluctant to retire, and our (very expensive) seminaries are pumping out debt laden Pastors forced to take on dual or triple parishes, as more and more shrinking congregations are unable to afford a full time Pastor. There are some interesting times ahead, but I am confident that the Church will survive. It will just look a lot different and be much less money and career centric.

  31. #26 Dave

    “…but if we are moving toward smaller churches and house churches I wonder where all the pastors and church planters will come from?”

    Exactly. Already in UMC circles there are areas in many conferences in which clergy are simply not there. They then appoint lay elders who have only a bit of training. In the RC church the figures 1 priest for every 1600 attendees… and that priest is more often than not in their 60s. In a decade it will be 1 priest for 2800 attendees. The Episcopal Church will simply run out of clergy in the next decade with the retirement curve.

    Then you check on seminaries in which there are only 2 or 3 full-time professors with all the rest being adjunct (no salary, no benefits, no tenure). What happens to the important one on one discussions, mentoring, etc.

    All this is to say, the paradigm we have used and trusted in over the last 100-150 years is in the midst of a huge shift.

  32. A monopoly on God?

    yes, all will certainly get to God, but not in this life and it’s a place you don’t want to find yourself without Christ – there is no other name under heaven given by which one can be saved… yes, God knows the hearts of those who have never heard of the cross… but He also knows the hearts of those who have heard of the cross and rejected the redemption there… not a good place to be when your time comes to face your Creator

  33. I just have to wonder what it takes for a formerly devout Christian to turn away from the faith to the point of denying Christ by becoming an atheist or an agnostic. When does a person feel comfortable with saying “I no longer believe in Christ.”

    It has to be something more serious than being annoyed with the worship music or being offended by the pastor. Christ is real. A Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. There is something supernatural going on.

    I would say it would have to be a gradual year by year journey of saying “no” to God and saying “yes” to oneself, a long down-hill trend of coming to believe one knows better than God knows. Imperceptible at first but resulting in spiritual tragedy.

    Or lousy teaching which tells people God wants them to be happy. When God seemingly disappoints, He’s easy to cast off.

  34. #30 Patrick

    “…but I am confident that the Church will survive. It will just look a lot different and be much less money and career centric.”

    I believe the Church will survive as well. The process of negotiating what the Church will look like, how it will function, how clergy will be developed, etc, in the future, is another set of fundamental questions that we need to be asking…

  35. #33 Xenia

    I know that it is an extreme example, but in talking with victims of clergy sexual abuse, there is a real struggle to hold onto faith… any faith. The ones that manage to retain their faith in God despite their experience are remarkable people…

    I would imagine that there are others who go through similar, albeit not such extreme experiences, who struggle as well.

  36. It’s written in the Declaration of Independence that we Americans have a God-given right to pursue happiness.

    That’s not in the Bible, though. The Scriptures tell us to expect persecution. The EO Church tells us to be prepared for martyrdom.

    Maybe Americanism and Christianity are not all that compatible.

  37. “Maybe Americanism and Christianity are not all that compatible.”


  38. #36/37 Xenia and Michael

    “Maybe Americanism and Christianity are not all that compatible.”

    Oh my goodness… you folk are getting pretty radical 🙂

  39. I think a very devout, dedicated, very involved Christian can fall away – and it does not need to be overly dramatic. It may be something as simple as the pastor or a close trusted friend in trying to be open saying “you don’t need to go to church to be a Christian. Some years later when Sunday soccer comes up, the believer says – “what can it hurt to not go to church today and take little Billy to his soccer game? Once in a while turns into a regular even. “Hey doesn’t God want me to spend time with the family at soccer, doesn’t he like us to go to IHOP for pancakes after the game? (the answer is no if anyone is still wondering)

    What would I miss at church? I have heard it all over the past 20 yrs and hey, I can always slip a preaching tape in my car cassette player. We after week, he missed meeting God where Jesus has said he would meet us – with other believers around his word and the sacraments. Next thing you know, it’s 5 yrs later and he is gone – he can’t remember the last time he had a God thought, he can’t remember the last time he had the body and blood of Christ poured down his throat. He is gone and he rationalizes away his departure – “I can get just as much God playing golf on Sundays.

    Oh, by the way, this is the story of most people who used to associate with the local church (fake or real) – they just left to persue other interests. —- GONE!!!

  40. MLD, yep.

  41. A question for any and all here…

    On a practical level – in an ideal world, what sort of education or training should clergy have before ordination?

    In the past, pastoral work has been considered both a calling and a profession, with the ideal being 4 years of undergraduate work and 3 years of seminary (similar to lawyers, etc.). Is it time to re-evaluate that expectation?

    If that education is still valid, how should it be financed?

  42. Potential clergy should go to seminary and the cost should be subsidized by the archdiocese for worthy candidates without financial means.

  43. Seminarians don’t need 7 years of education though.

  44. I know perfectly good EO priests who never went tp seminary but received on the job training as a deacon for many years. I know another who had a masters in a secular subject and did seminary through a correspondence course. I think my own priest went to seminary right out of high school and was there for 3 or 4 years.

  45. There is a good alternative – don’t go to seminary, watch the movie instead. 😉

  46. Duane @41…

    I think about this question probably more than I should…because I had little formal theological education.
    In my opinion there is no way to overstate the importance of theological education,both as a baseline and as an ongoing endeavor.
    A great many of the issues we deal with here are the result of untrained clergy having no background in church history, philosophy, and other components of a well rounded theological education.
    You can’t teach what you don’t know yourself.
    I have this dream of an online seminary staffed with volunteers (perhaps retired professors and clergy who have advanced degrees) who could do a program for those like myself who found themselves in the ministry, but quite ignorant of many things I needed to know.

    The question again comes down to money…and it’s in short supply in much of the kingdom…

  47. better yet, MLD, see it & live it, if you dare

  48. #47 Michael

    I range somewhere between you and Xenia! The problem is, for a good theological education (seminary) you need to have some sort of a background in history, philosophy… and perhaps even the dreaded Statistics 101 – as it provides a tool for evaluation and judging relative values.

    In my own thinking on seminary, I’m moving towards a model of on-line, some residential time and a specific mentor (or mentors) to provide the contact that is so needed.

    Do we go to an older model that if a congregation believes a person has a “call”, they put the person forward and seek to provide the financial support and possibly provide the first job after seminary?

    I’m still thinking this one through…

  49. I wanted to go to seminary but could not afford it. Guess I wasn’t called in the first place? Went to SOM but that doesn’t really prepare you for ministry – not without others supporting you.

    The SBC I attend has pastoral interns from the local seminary. They may even support some of the students, but I don’t know that for sure.

  50. #50 Papias

    You see, I think that is tragic. You had the interest and, from what I can tell from your contributions here, the ability… There should be a way to make such things work.

  51. ( |o )====::: — I remember when reading the Bible and being challenged to live it was the standard. Wow! you are really upping the game.

  52. reading everyone’s thoughts here, learning, thinking, agreeing and … not agreeing a bit…
    FWIW… i think a great many answers could be found in pondering the 2nd and 3rd chapters of the book Revelation…

    Gman’s input reminds me that our Faith is productive, not esoteric or destructive… it is the nature of life in Christ
    yet, i know that wonderful works of kindness and helps similarly come from folk who wouldn’t give the Christian God the time of day…
    and that circles back to MLD’s assertion that we have to have Christ ingested – literally poured down our throats to live it…
    and i think of the words in Isa 28: “…..And the Lord said:“Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,…..” and, even tho O.T., it skates a little too close to what today can become relying on ceremony with no heart in it
    living in Christ is very positive, overcoming evil and very powerful… but the old man does get in the way of the life and, thus, relying on rituals – not that the host, the baptism, and confession are meaningless, not by any means – still relying on ritual can be deadening and i’ve seen it play out in too many church goers, just as deadening as relying on today’s popular praise and worship ritual

    we need teachers, we need to study to be workmen, and i guess we need to hunger and thirst after righteousness… lots to think on on this thread

  53. Em,
    “and that circles back to MLD’s assertion that we have to have Christ ingested – literally poured down our throats to live it…”

    not at all – sanctification is not overcoming – it is being kept in.

  54. #49 Duane,

    We have an online seminary just like you are describing and it’s the one the priest I mentioned upstream “attended.” The Chicago School. It is very strenuous, from what I’ve heard.

    I myself am finishing up my last term with Saints Cyril and Athanasius Institute for Orthodox Studies, which is not a seminary but still pretty strenuous. (I have to write my Big Paper this fall. I am still floundering around trying to think up a thesis.) My mentor/teacher/hero is (now) Bishop Irenei, Oxford PhD in patristics. (Interesting that Michael and I both have Oxford PhD’s [DPhil’s] in patristics as our mentors.)

  55. Good post, Em.

    My church does kick in some of the cost of my Seminary. Most will be student loans. Add in the fact that due to my current conviction, I will probably always be bi-vocational and it really is a struggle. But I want to be as prepared as possible, and I want to serve the people God send me to with excellence. Just the nature of the call, I suppose.

  56. #55 Xenia

    Love the name of the school… but you would expect that!

    If you want some thoughts for the “big paper” let me know. Your spirituality seems to bend to St. Antony of the Desert…

  57. #56 Josh

    OK, this is terrible, but I have to ask… Is there anything that we can do to be of help to you as you are in this process?

  58. Duane, I don’t think that is terrible at all! Very nice! You guys have contributed plenty. Encouragement, different viewpoints, etc. I certainly would not be headed in the direction that I am without my time on the Phoenix Preacher. Over the 10+ years it has changed my mind and changed my course. That is wonderful!

    You in particular have been very helpful with book recommendations and answering questions that I bring up here. All of those, at least indirectly, have gone into my studies, many of them directly.

    So other than that, I really appreciate the question, but I am covered. God is working out the finances in his mysterious ways, and a wannabe rockstar is working towards pastoring some dying 200 year old church, somewhere in the backwoods of obscurity. A sounding board and a place to exchange ideas is all that I can ask.

    Also, I know that if a specific need did arise, I could feel comfortable contacting you. And I am thankful.

  59. “( |o )====::: — I remember when reading the Bible and being challenged to live it was the standard. Wow! you are really upping the game.”

    MLD, you are such a self-centered & shameless troll who obviously has nothing better to do than try to play the, “‘Meee! Meee! Look at meee!’ game.

    Once the PhxP community here experiences the movie All Saints, based on a true story, you can feel free to take on the rest of us who are moved to see and hear the biblical narrative lived out in an inspiring way and are affirmed to not merely talk and critique our non-Lutheran theologies but actually act to make people’s lives enriched by the living of the Gospel.

    I welcome your soul-refreshening life change should you actually deign to partake of the film.

  60. Duane,

    If you want some thoughts for the “big paper” let me know.<<<

    I was hoping you might say that….

  61. Guitar man, I will try to find this movie and watch it. It looks worthwhile for sure.

  62. G,
    You don’t get it – you made the claim I do not live out the Bible – that is a breaking of the 8th commandment (the 9th for some) – not very nice on your part.

    #48 “better yet, MLD, see it & live it, if you dare”

  63. I’ve heard lots of good things about this movie. Great to see that it’s based on a true story, in the real world.

  64. #59 Josh

    You should know, you are an inspiration… and you help to give me hope for the future. Anything I can ever do, just let me know.

  65. #61 Xenia

    When I started my studies on Athanasius, I was originally going to do something on the Life of St. Antony (still have his icon in the “beautiful corner”), but I took on the story of Athanasius himself. It is the very first biography ever written in the ancient world. It deals with both events and the psychology of Antony. Moreover, he is the founder of the monastic tradition – East and West. Some aspect of his biography would make a worthy subject. I believe I still have some materials that I could send you. Just a thought…

  66. #60 Guitar Man

    Look forward to some inspiration from the film…
    BTW, what kind of guitar do you play?

  67. Hi Duane, my thoughts are leaning more towards the pre-schism Irish and Anglo-Saxon saints, esp. Sts. Chad, Cuthbert and Frideswide. How to turn this into a thesis, that’s the problem. Maybe some tension between the Irish monastic style and tne Roman style.

    I’ve read with joy St Athanasius’ bio of St. Anthony. I am one who enjoys history more than theology and would rather read the Life of the Saint over the sayings of the Saint.

    I am happy you have a “beautiful corner.” 🙂

  68. #68 Xenia

    When I lived in Durham, Cuthbert was my next door neighbor… his shrine (now grave) was 500 feet from my front door. Chad and Frideswide are difficult owing to a lack of primary sources (my college was St. Chad’s, so I know a bit about this..). Now the interesting thing is that in the burial of Cuthbert, his vestments, stole, maniple, etc., came from the East. There is almost a Coptic feel about them in terms of iconography. Additionally, as I’ve mentioned before, the Celtic Cross (so-called) seems to have had its origin as a martyr’s cross bedecked with a laurel wreath in Egypt (according to my late friend, Prof. Pamela Bright). Something on the Eastern influence in the north of England could be of interest…

  69. ( |o )====:::

    Wow, I FINALLY realized why they call you G-man/Guitar Man!

    Musta been all that tropical wind and rain today clogging my comprehension…


  70. G-man…I’m interested too in what kinda guitar you play and what kind of music…

    I play too…the pointy, plug-in kinds…


    Sorry, that’s my best attempt at my Ibanez.

  71. Obviously it didn’t pan out correct…oh well…

    Made it through Irma here in west Georgia.

  72. #72 Dan

    What model Ibanez?

  73. Duane, thanks. For a lot of this stuff, Bede is my friend.

  74. #74 Xenia

    My other neighbor in the old days 🙂

  75. I’m so thankful that the church will live on- even if it isn’t “the church as we know it”. This is not about the latest fad or obsession with youth culture, but that His movement will look different as He reaches those who aren’t being reached now. The unnoticed and unappreciated will bring their own culture to the faith, be it because they come from a different country, a different socio-economic group, or from a different social circle.

    The Holy Spirit engages. He convicts and woos. I’m so thankful He does. It isn’t really my job to diagnose the ills of the universal church, but I should do my part to encourage health in the little corner of the church where He has me.

    In a thousand years from now, should the Lord tarry, the local church will still be here. The USA empire might be rubble by then (like the Roman Empire, the Mongol Empire and so many others) and denominations may have changed or splintered or faded away, but His body will still be thriving. That is why investing our time in the local church is so worthwhile.

    It could be we’re facing the demise of the church, but only the demise of the church “as we know it”. No need for an obituary; the bride will be there to greet the groom when He returns. Although she might not look exactly as we expected, she will still be beautiful!

  76. #76 EricL

    Beautifully stated…

  77. Duane (73)…got a white JEM model…Steve Vai model.

  78. Oh, and Duane, I also have an OLD Ibanez black Roadstart 2. Similar to what you see Michael J. Fox play during his band audition scene in Back To The Future.

  79. Roadstar 2

  80. #78 Dan

    Sweet… With the inlayed vine on the fretboard?
    I mess around with an old natural Epiphone Casino with a trapeze tailpiece that I’ve sanded and modded to Lennon’s in ’69…

  81. #74 Xenia

    You might find a book of papers delivered in Durham in around 1987 of interest. One of the editors, the late Gerald Bonner, was a very fine patristics scholar and a friend.

  82. Back in my “pro” musician days I had a huge arsenal, but I’ve sold it down to the bare bones now.
    a German upright bass
    Custom Shop Fender P-Bass
    P-Bass I made myself. Looks amazing. Sounds..ehhh.
    Schecter bass
    Custom shop Conklin fretless bass

    Epiphone SG — 62 reissue
    Cheap Fender Acoustic guitar, which I have grown to love.

    Those are all the basses and guitars I can think of. There’s a ton of other odds and ends in my studio. Drives my wife crazy.

  83. Thank you Duane, I appreciate it!

  84. #83 Josh

    Confession time (do Baptists offer absolution?)
    For the last album I acquired a Hofner H500/1 that I modded to ’62 specs…
    I thought you would forgive me faster than my wife!

  85. Oh yeah, I’ll forgive that 🙂

  86. Hi, you who are interested in my guitars & outboard gear,

    Martin 000M
    Taylor DDX
    Yamaha SLG100S
    Arts & Luthiere CW Cedar Black
    All tuned down a full step to DGCFAD
    Often using a Shubb Partial Capo at the 2nd or 4th fret
    Depending on the set I will sometimes have a guitar tuned to DADGAD

    Boss GT-6 Effects processor for Yamaha SLG100S & Martin 000M
    Boss RC-20 Loop Station or Boss RC-300 Loop Station depending on the set

    TC Helicon Play Acoustic (has onboard looper) for Taylor DDX & Arts & Luthiere CW Cedar Black

  87. #87 GMan

    Are you a Keaggy fan? He uses a partial capo a good bit these days. Our current dream is a harp guitar… but we really loved Michael Hedges.

  88. Duane,
    Keaggy is my guitar hero! We recently saw him locally at a small venue. His soundscapes are amazing and he builds a song like few others. He knows how to not let the looper dominate but, rather, be a tool for the overall performance. The guy is talent + passion + hard work = genius.

    Salvation Army Band

    I regularly play Michael Hedges recordings to be inspired,

    I Carry Your Heart

    A harp guitar is an interesting idea, I’d have to try it as an homage to Michael Hedges.
    I fancied a sitar until I actually sat down with one cradled in my lap and tried it out, yikes, nothing like a guitar. I think the harp guitar would end up the same for me.

  89. Duane, yes that is the one (with the tree of life fretboard inlay).. played one at Guitar Center here in GA) and a few years later purchased it online. Plays great!

    Josh, been eyeing a fretless bass for myself recently but seems like guitar players sometimes struggle with trying to play it like a guitar.

  90. Dan – yeah, I fell in love with the bass first. I can spot a guitarist trying to play bass a mile away 🙂

  91. Josh, too funny!

  92. Hi Michael,
    I have a comment awaiting moderation, probably due to 2 video YouTube links to musicians performing.


  93. #89 GMan

    I’ve known Phil for 40 years! He’s actually all over our albums. If you want a treat, go to our site and scroll down to the music. When you hit “Martyrs Prayers”, go to the song ‘Carpus’. On ‘Carpus’ go to 3.32… I had Phil do a three and a half minute solo. It sounds a lot like Keaggy meets Jeff Beck! I can point you to some other treats later…

  94. Thanks Duane!

  95. A woman is accused of beating her husband half to death with his guitar collection.
    The judge looks down at her and asks, “First offender?”

    The woman replies, “nope, first a Martin, then a Gibson, then a Fender.”

  96. #89 GMan

    BTW, on the harp guitar, we tried a “poor man’s” version. We have a double neck Ovation – we restrung and tuned the 12 string to harp tuning (octave and a half), the six sting to standard. It’s not quite the same, but we could manage harp passages and drone on the 12 and do melody on the six string. Not sure what to do with it yet!

  97. #96

    I’ll share that with Mrs. Arnold over drinks tonight… problem is, she might not laugh!!!

  98. Ah, guitars. I’ve got five. My cherished 2003 Gibson Historic 1959 reissue. Fender American Deluxe Telecaster (2003), Fender MIJ Pink Paisley Telecaster (2016), PRS SE Tremonti (2016), and a Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster (2015).

    Played in bar bands from 1980 to 1987. I played everything from Blues, to Rock, to Country. I made a little money, and learned to hate dive bars.

    Q – What’s the difference between a banjo and a trampoline?
    A – You have to take off your boots to jump on a trampoline.

  99. I ment to say 2003 Gibson Historic Les Paul 1959 reissue.

  100. #100 David

    Did you go sunburst or gold top on the Les Paul?

  101. Duane – Cherry Sunburst. I can pretend I’m Jimmy Page, or Billy Gibbons. It has a nice fat neck. I installed custom wound pickups, and electronics.

  102. I guess it all kinda depends on where you are looking and what churches are counted in the Pew Research. They must have skipped the very alive and growing-like-crazy independent churches of Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington and more. Church is alive and well, in attendance, growth, giving, out reaching, social participation in community and mission out reaches, local and global…. small group studies in coffee shops are flourishing and souls are being saved and strengthened. Prayer groups, dinner fellowships and other daily stuff like helping people move or paint their homes is happening every day in the church circles I am thrilled to participate in. Book of Acts IS still happening.

    btw, #96 G….hahahahaha

  103. #103 Paige

    I wish that it was like that all over the country, but apparently it is not. I know that Michael is in southern Oregon, but I’m not sure that he is seeing what you are describing.

    As to the PRRI study, it was the most extensive in the country and involved 101,438 telephone interview over the course of a year with about 60% of the calls going to cell phones so as to insure overall age participation and accuracy. While my state of Indiana is considered part of the “Bible belt”, we are very much seeing that the survey described in such detail.

  104. Duane, perhaps one needs to look in the dark corners of perverse communities to find places of Refuge and Revival and New Life. PDX is a very dark place, yet the out pouring of the Holy Spirit in so many lives is all around. Makes me think of Genesis 1 and the Spirit of God ‘hovering’ over the chaos…

  105. we spent some time in a Local Church fellowship – the men met every Saturday morning for breakfast and then as a group spent the rest of the day doing chores for those, mostly within the church, who needed help, from painting a house or patching a roof to weeding an elderly person’s yard – anything that needed doing that the person physically or financially couldn’t do themselves, they took care of it for them… it escapes my reason that any church should not be filled with such helpers

    needless to say this gathering was in an older part of the city, it was not in the suburbs … maybe it’s time to shake up the burbs … i think – dunno – that God must hate the sanitized “butts in pews and checks in offering” church – if there is one sick person or overworked single mom in the congregation and the women of the church aren’t there with love to see that person has a clean home (sorry if that’s antifeminist) and the men aren’t there to do the heavy lifting chores that pile up or, if the church needs painting, flowers planted, lawn mowed and it isn’t done because they can’t find the money to hire someone – what’s that about anyway? come to think of it, why should a church take money that should be used to help the poor to hire someone to paint the church in the first place? … well, i guess that wouldn’t work too well down at Olsteen’s digs… but i’m not sure that that is a church – is it?

    didn’t mean to get so wordy, but i’m not erasing it now 🙂

  106. #105 – i think Paige is onto something…

  107. Phil Keaggy is not only a master musician, he’s a genuinely nice person, which isn’t oftened found in people with that level of talent.

    His music had a profound influence on me as new Christian in 1975 at the age of 17. I was shocked to discover that their were Christians who could bend the strings like that 😉

    His live performance with 2nd Chapter of Acts, “How The West Was One”, from the 70’s is a classic.

    His guitar work on the song “Time” off that same album was outstanding.

  108. #102 David

    When I was about 13 or 14, I was given my first money for a job. Went to Boston Mills, near Cleveland to hear the James Gang – almost a house band. After the show I was given $5 by Joe Walsh to help the band load up their equipment. One of the pieces of gear I carried out was No. 1 – the Les Paul later sold to Jimmy Page – closest to fame I’ll ever get… but I touched it!

  109. Duane, thanks for the link. I’ve seen that one.

    The live version is a stand alone. It’s almost like trying to compare Frampton’s studio version of his classic, “Do you feel like I do” with his live performance at Winterland in San Francisco. The studio version isn’t close.

    There’s something about the sound and flow these pros create in a live setting.

    I’ve only recently discovered (3 years or so) Joe Bonamassa. Some of the live stuff he does is amazing. Not too mention he surrounds himself with some pretty darn good accompanying musicians. His live recording at Royal Albert Hall and Red Rock are excellent. If you like “secular” music 2 of my favorites of his (live) are, Sloe Gin & The Ballad of John Henry. Pretty melancholy, but that’s what the blues are 😉

    I probably shouldn’t talk about this stuff on this thread though 😉

  110. #111 Scooter

    “I probably shouldn’t talk about this stuff on this thread though”

    I disagree. There’s a basic lesson here that relates to us as Christians and relates to the articles above. The best of these musicians, when they play live, are extraordinarily gracious to the other players on stage. They bring the best of who they are and work to bring out the best in each other. (Note how gracious Phil is to the second guitarist who, while good, is nowhere as good as Phil.) Each has their own style, proficiency, sound, instrument… but they’re playing the same song. The result is a thing of beauty. The Church could learn learn much about excellence, cooperation and mutual respect from a great band. It’s a synergy where the sum is greater than the parts.

  111. Duane, alright then, I can sign off on your analogy so long as you can fit Jerry Lee Lewis’ version of “Whole Lotta’ Shakin’ Goin’ On” into the equation.

    I don’t want Michael to feel left out 😉

  112. and bands like churches break up – have bad break ups – pissing and moaning, pointing fingers and blaming each other. Band members sleeping with other band members’ partners is not rare either etc. Hmmm, just like churches.

    People are probably the common denominator.

  113. #114 MLD

    “The best of these musicians, when they play live, are extraordinarily gracious to the other players on stage. They bring the best of who they are and work to bring out the best in each other.”

    MLD, don’t join a band…

  114. Duane , I won’t – I am a worse musician than I am a Christian. 🙂

  115. “The Church could learn learn much about excellence, cooperation and mutual respect from a great band. It’s a synergy where the sum is greater than the parts.”
    i think i heard a chorus of amens coming down from heaven on that observation… 🙂

    for me, it’s the miracle of a symphony orchestra or one of the great swing bands from my parent’s era… too bad Christians can’t learn to dance together, too… makes one wonder if some of us even hear the music… ( i kind of like that line from “This Is My Father’s World:” “all nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres…” 🙂 )

  116. #117 Em

    Your comment reminds me of Larry Norman’s “The Tune”
    “Once upon a time we all knew the tune…”

  117. One of the joys in my guitar playing life is jamming with friends.

  118. “MLD, don’t join a band…”

    I don’t agree, MLD would make a great roadie, or is rowdy? 😉

  119. #120 Scooter

    Indeed… I’ve known roadies like him…

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