Comments on the book "Death of the Church"

by Mike Regele (with Mark Schulz)

April 27, 1996

Doug Goins, Pastor
Peninsula Bible Church
3505 Middlefield Rd.
Palo Alto, CA 942606

Hi Doug,

Thanks for telling me about Mike Regele's book. I thought it outstanding. Surely this is *must* reading for leaders, pastors, elders? As a sociological analysis of our times I thought his models and illustrations were very good and enlightening, and probably fairly accurate.

The book does not pretend to be a theological study of what God is doing. That's OK. He has enough in this book as it is.

There are other aspects of change that *could* be thrown in:

Eschatological change: God is taking history rapidly to consummation in the coming again of the Lord. All by itself the population explosion is evidence that an enormous crisis for the whole world is fast overtaking us. (In this I think Paul Ehrlich is right).

The church has, I believe, moved in 2000 years through the epochs of the Seven Churches of Rev. 2-3 and is now for the most part Laodicean. There is no fix for this church that will get it back on the right track, evidently.

The false, or harlot, church of the last seven years is shaping up fast and waiting in the wings for her Day of prominence in history.

The encouragements given to each of the seven churches of Rev. 2-3 are not to the various churches as a whole but to the minority in each church, the "overcomers" who are really following Jesus day by day. This may well be a small fraction of the members in many churches.

What churches (large or small) does God look down on and take pleasure in? These may not be churches on any sociologist's list.

The parables of Mat. 13, (which Ray treats so well in "Beyond History"), suggest that bland mediocrity and decadence will characterize the entire world-wide church at the end of the age:
"The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." He told them another parable. "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened."

Earlier materialism in this century has given way to new age spirituality which is full of deception. Mediocre Christianity doesn't stand out well against this new synchronistic religious ground swell. Salt without savor, and lamps hidden under baskets. "The Twentieth Century is more like the First than any other" (Ray quoting Blaiklock).

Evil Must have its Day: This age is characterized by God letting evil run its full course culminating in the appearance of the man of sin.

The end of the age is said to be characterized by a great apostasy. I once asked Ray when he really thought the Lord would *really* come for his church and Ray said, "When the pressures on us all will be so great none of us would stand if the Lord delayed a minute longer." ("When the son of Man returns will be find [the] faith on the earth?")

The tribulation will bring unprecedented persecution (martyrdom) to all who convert to Jesus through the 144,000. Why should not increasing persecution set in at the end of the church age?

Mature Christians need to be men and women "for all seasons"---able to relate to all generational subgroups, "to the Jew I became as a Jew, to the Greek I became as a Greek..." The church needs to be building men and women who can cope with a pluralistic, multicultural society, and not get into ghetto mentalities.

Mike nails the religious right very nicely. This kind of Christian can bring trouble on the rest of us and discredit the character and name of God a good deal of the time, because of their cultural naivete. More harm than good sometimes.

Frances Schaeffer said things 20 years ago about "modern-modern man" not being able to hear truth as conventionally presented, and how we had to find the "point of tension" with our hearers in order to get people to perceive the eternal message we wanted them to receive.

I like the way Mike slips in Ray's model for the church according to Ephesians 4, and the way he clarifies what servant authority is.

While great cycles do sweep through societies, in a way I get the impression from Mike that the church is tossed to and fro helplessly on these waves of change. Biblically, the true church is, as Ray says, "the Secret Government of Planet Earth" and ought to be setting the pace. This comes back to what Mike clearly enunciates as our enormous lack of vision.

The real saints and real pacesetters are probably relatively unknown in their generation and can be seen only in hindsight. This is because God does His greatest works with a very low profile.

God is sovereign and He *does* revive His church and could do so at any time--- radically changing everything. History is not being driven along by "natural" cycles of change at all, but by God who "works all things according to the counsel of his own will." His overarching purpose is to sum up all things into Christ---"For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth."

If we could see history from God's viewpoint (as a continuation of the Book of Acts down to the present) I think we would be very surprised to see what it is that God has *actually* been doing around the world while we have quietly painted ourselves into a small corner. I am very interested in following up on your comment about the "lost history" of the church in Asia you mentioned at breakfast. Understanding the church in America tells us little about what God is actually doing elsewhere in the world. In many ways I think we are in the backwaters.

Christians are not passive bystanders on a lifeboat but "in training" to rule with Christ in the millennium as kings and priests. We underestimate how the prayers of a few are used by God to do great things. "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of." (Tennyson).

Mike certainly depicts most churches as safe, cozy clubs and "bomb-proof" shelters from the world, designed to make sub-groups of the culture feel comfy. He is surely right about our resistance to change. I don't think most churches will actually change (i.e., "die" to old ways by choice) as Mike hopes for, but that the majority will succumb by default.

My personal feeling is that the institutional church, as we know it now, will largely disappear in the next decade. Home churches, cell groups, and perhaps an underground church will perhaps be the new mode of community building, evangelism, support and Biblical instruction. We could face some strong persecution.

I'd like to get in touch with Mike. I wonder if he gives seminars. If he came here, who would attend?

Thanks again. This was one of the most helpful and provocative books I've read in the past year.


Related Paper: The Church at the End of the Age.

April 30, 1996.