the Holy Crap must go

Walter Russell Meade lays down his marker. its a good read. I especially like this bit, but the whole thing is good:

The Christian churches in the United States are in trouble for all the usual reasons — human sinfulness and selfishness, the temptations of life in an affluent society, doctrinal and moral controversies and uncertainties and on and on and on — but also and to a surprisingly large degree they are in trouble because they are trying to address the problems of the twenty first century with a business model and a set of tools that date from the middle of the twentieth.  The mainline churches in particular are organized like General Motors was organized in the 1950s: they have cost structures and operating procedures that simply don’t work today.  They are organized around what I’ve been calling the blue social model, built by rules that don’t work anymore, and oriented to a set of ideas that are well past their sell-by date.

Without even questioning it, most churchgoers assume that a successful church has its own building and a full-time staff including one or more professionally trained leaders (ordained or not depending on the denomination).  Perhaps no more than half of all congregations across the country can afford this at all; most manage only by neglecting maintenance on their buildings or otherwise by cutting corners.  And even when they manage to make the payroll and keep the roof in repair, congregations spend most of their energy just keeping the show going from year to year.  The life of the community centers around the attempt to maintain a model of congregational life that doesn’t work, can’t work, won’t work no matter how hard they try.  People who don’t like futile tasks have a tendency to wander off and do other things and little by little the life and vitality (and the rising generations) drift away.

As I like to put it, there is too much time and effort required to simply “feed the beast.” How do we create a structure that can accommodate growth by massive multiplication? Bigger structures can’t be the answer or any part of the answer.

HT to Joe Carter at First Things.

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3 Responses

  1. This is a good article. Maybe I say that because it supports my feeling of dismay for the current condition of the American church – dysfunctional and outdated. Can’t get much more blunt than that. Sort of reminds me of the US auto industry (howevere, if I were the church I would not be expecting a bail out anytime soon).

    As far back as I can remember the Pastors have been preaching that the “church” is not the building yet continue to pour resources into it like it is the one and only thing that makes us legitimate. And yet these same buildings often repel the very people that the church is trying to attract.

    This piece is obviously more than just about the church building. It appears there needs to be a wholesale change to our American church. As a whole we are lethargic and ineffective in carrying out the great commission. The church is dysfunctional, congregations are comfortable and the non-Christian world no longer takes us seriously.

    One of the lines Mr. Meade uses really stuck out for me, “the churches should be a source of innovation and creativity, not the last lingering bastion of a dying way of life.” This could not be more accurate and yet we as congregations, elders and leaders continue to hold on to the past – holding on to an outdated and quite frankly not that impressive model if compared to the church of Acts. I’m not comfortable with the notion that God is going to let this continue to fade gently into the sunset. Something radical will happen whether the church is ready for it or not. It’s always better to be leading the change than scrambling to adapt to it.

    Thanks for sharing Keith! As I read this essay I could not help but think that Walter Russell Meade should have been speaking at the Verge Conference 2 weeks ago.

  2. Amen Ty. I was wondering if Meade was listening in on the Verge 2010 livecast. But then I thought of Francis Chan’s talk Thursday night and realized the Holy Spirit is spreading the same message across the church.

  3. you could even say that we are on the Verge.

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