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.


Verge 2010

I wasn’t able to go to Verge 2010 last week, but I watched quite a bit of the streaming video. It was some amazing stuff. Many of the thoughts and beliefs with which I have been struggling for the last seven years were echoed from the stage. just amazing.

In particular, two things that I heard have been rattling around my brain all week.

The first was in a breakout session on church structure. the question is whether we are structured for addition or multiplication? we say that we want and expect growth by multiplication, but our structures can’t accommodate anything other than addition. Think about it. If 100 people came to Christ this week in your church, then it would be an exceptionally great week that would be remembered for a long time, but nothing would really have to change. But if 1000 came, then we would have a problem. We might have to add another service more child care more parking etc. If 3000 or 5000 came, then we would be completely overwhelmed.

Our structures cannot accommodate the growth that occurred on the day of Pentecost when Peter preached or the the growth that occurred after the healing of the lame man from the Beautiful Gate.

The second thing was a throwaway comment by Hugh Halter. He mentioned Acts 8:1 and the fact that Luke was probably having a little joke when he wrote it. It says that the believers were scattered because of persecution, “except the apostles.” the word apostolos means “messengers, sent ones”. Thus it says the believers were scattered except the sent ones.

I have been thinking about us. We have been sent and yet we continue to stand congregated together. Makes me wonder how long God will forestall persecution so that we get “scattered”. Why can’t we self scatter?

age segregation

interesting story from Mollie Hemingway about voluntary age segregation in churches and its unforeseen effects. number one on the list; no funerals.

“Cool! Your church has funerals,” a friend recently said after I told him about attending one for a fellow parishioner at my church.

My friend attends one of those churches that meet in a Cineplex. Ever since he first told me about his theater church, I had wondered about the logistics of baptisms, weddings, and funerals.

It turns out that the entire membership of his congregation ranges in age from late teens to late 20s. Baptisms are rare and handled at other venues. As far as he knows, they’ve never had a funeral. And when people get married, they rent out traditional churches for the occasion.

why do you love the church?

if you love the church, why? (the “if you don’t, why not”? is a whole ‘nother post)

Josh Harris lists some wrong reasons why people sometimes love their church. what do you think?  Here are a couple to get you started, then go read the rest of his post including the reason we should love the church:

  • Don’t love the church because of what it does for you. Because sooner or later it won’t do enough.
  • Don’t love the church because of a leader. Because human leaders are fallible and will let you down.
  • Body metaphor

    Randy Alcorn posts an excerpt from Philip D. Kenneson’s Life On The Vine: Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit in Christian Community (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999). I agree that we should probably all spend some time thinking a bit about what Kenneson says here:

    This [the church as a body] is only one important lesson that reflecting on the metaphor of the church as the body of Christ might teach us. Given the rampant individualism that pervades much congregational life, the contemporary church in this country would do well to reflect seriously on this metaphor. For example:

    Bodies are wrongly understood if their parts are considered to be in some way more fundamental than the body itself. The parts exist to serve the well-being of the entire body, a well-being in which each part participates and facilitates to the extent that it looks beyond its own immediate welfare.

    Bodies are wrongly understood if they are regarded as conglomerates of parts that have their own integrity apart from the body. No one would mistake a severed finger on the sidewalk for a body. Such a condition is not only a problem for the part but a problem for the entire body.

    Bodies are wrongly understood if their parts are considered to have unmediated access to the head. Each body part facilitates and participates in vital connections to the head, yet none can sustain this connection to the head alone.

    a bold move

    the Episcopalian church in the U.S. has made a bold move and declared itself to be committed to the full normalization of non-celibate homosexuals within the leadership of its communion.

    here is the New York Times write up and here is the Los Angeles Times.

    Dr. Mohler also discusses the votes on his blog today.

    As reported in The Los Angeles Times, even some who support moves toward the normalization of homosexuality and homosexual relationships saw these votes as extreme.  “I am afraid we are becoming a church of a fundamentalist left,” said the Rev. Kate Moorehead of St. James Episcopal Church in Wichita, Kansas.

    Even more pointedly, one of the church’s most insightful observers declared a virtual end to conservative and orthodox influence within the denomination. “It’s a clean sweep for the liberal agenda in the Episcopal Church,” said David Virtue. “The orthodox are finished.”

    what will be interesting to keep an eye on as we go forward is whether or not David Virtue’s words are prophetic or not. Are the Orthodox finished?

    the church through history

    Ed Marcelle on the Resurgence Blog is doing a quick series on how people have “done church” over time in different eras. The fourth installment is about the church during the Industrial Revolution period that is ending. then there is this little teaser for what comes next:

    The world had changed. The Industrial Revolution had brought with it precision and control. There was a top-to-bottom pyramid structure that would be, by its nature, successful everywhere it could touch, where its power could be diurnally felt. It would be this very strength that would be its undoing, as the world became electronic and limitless, and to have influence meant never even having to touch when things became high-tech.

    That change would be a great shift, and just as the Industrial Revolution made those who were separated from their Agrarian forefathers very different, it was even more so with those who were born on the other side of the Information Age. They found a brave and new world, and with it new ways of incarnating church. These ways would ultimately invert the previous ways. Control would no longer be the virtue, but would become the very anchor that would not allow progress.

    If the Industrial Revolution was about standardization, localization, and control, the Information Age was about to demand the exact opposite, and the church would need to understand how it would shift accordingly.