Received an email last night from the course discussion group, in response to reading “The Shaping Of Things To Come” (one of our prescribed texts) which prompted a little bit of thinking.
I don’t know what to think about the concept of: The age of Christendom is over!
They’re suggesting that we need to get over it too and move on to a new form of church as in Missional Groups going out and living and ministering into our communities. No longer can we expect people to come to us. We need to go to them. What do you think?
It’s a funny concept. I would find it difficult to argue with the some of the statement, and difficult to agree with other parts. I have little doubt that we cannot expect to survive by having “people come to us”. But then, I’m pretty sure that few church planting types would expect to grow a ministry by putting up a flag and saying “here we are, come to us”. Maybe I’ve been spoilt in the Vineyard, but I’ve always been pretty confident that churches are built up by relationships, by individual points of contact. People come along to churches because they know people that are in churches, or they’ve had specific experiences with a church. Am I wrong in thinking that this is self-evident?
Where I’m less confident, is in the notion that it isn’t possible for people to have that “missional” quality about them, in the form of the traditional, “gathered” church. It seems to me that the idea of “missional groups going out and living and ministering in our communities” should be a part of any healthy church, whether they are meeting in a cathedral or meeting in a pub. And it seems to me the trigger for becoming “missional” and inspired about getting into the community and living “incarnationally” is not necessarily a change in form, but must come from a change of heart.
There are people who are living this stuff out in tiny little country Anglican churches just as much as the people who are creating these missional communities in cities. And while I think that form does have to change to fit into the context of cultural change, and we absolutely do need to find a way to be relevant in today’s culture, which might mean leaving “Christendom” behind, I’m pretty certain that if we put all our energy into ensuring that we “do church” in the most cutting edge, happening way, without the heart-transformation, in 15 years time we’ll be looking back on the Emerging church in the same way as we look back on the dot-com boom now.