The “Problem” of the Middle-Class Church

In Schaeffer’s book The God Who Is There, he writes in his appendices (Appendix B) of the problem of the middle-class church. The problem is not that a middle class exists, but that its large existence has and will cause the church to overlook other classes, namely the intellectual class, and the rudimentary laborers. Young people from Christian homes would also be included in this because we often assume they will adopt their parents thinking and class when, in fact, we rarely address them because of our assumptions. In short, intellectuals, workers, and our young people rarely receive the church’s attention. If we fail in this area, the consequences are dire and can already be seen. Our young people, who we have not reached effectively, go off to colleges on which we have all but given up. The bad combination is that these unreached professors do interact effectively with our unreached young people. Over time the next generation becomes powerful, and the working class just follows their lead. To this situation, Schaeffer writes,
“As we seek to meet the problems there are two things which we must strenuously seek to avoid, whether we are engaged in teaching, missionary work or in some aspect of the life of the local church.
First: settling down and accepting the present situation simply because of the inertia caused by those who speak of the problem of the churches’ young people and speak much of missions, but who simply do not want to question the familiar because it is painful to do so. The problem is that the evangelical, orthodox churches, institutions and programs are today often under the control of those who are in this category. This control is both organizational and financial. Thus, there is a tendency not to “rock the boat.” This responsibility cannot be met by the young people themselves nor by the young ministers and young missionaries alone.
Mature Christians, and Christians in places of responsibility, must summon the courage to distinguish, under the Holy Spirit, between unchangeable biblical truth and the things which have merely become comfortable for us. Often one hears people speak of “the simple gospel only,” when in reality they do not really care enough for those outside the churches, or their own children for that matter, to be willing to face what preaching the simple gospel may mean in a changing and complex situation.
Second: the development of an intellectual and cultural snobbishness or elitism. This can easily come about unless we help one another not to fall into it. Such an attitude grieves the Holy Spirit, destroys rather than builds and is as offensively ugly as anything can be.
We will make mistakes, but by God’s grace we must strive to avoid either of these two errors or a choice between them.”

I would hope that we would pay attention to these words in our efforts to reach our communities (everyone that is in them) and especially our next generation which is at the very heart of my area of ministry.


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