Tuesday, June 05, 2007


I thought I would include the introduction to my DMin paper as one of my posts. The title of the essay is "The End of the World As We Know It'" and in it I basically describe the shift in our society that is spelling the end of our culture's reliance on Christianity as a guide. So here goes ...

The church has been in decline in the West for a number of generations. The question is “Why?” We have the theological training centers in place to train new leaders. We have the communication technology in place to transmit the Gospel. We have creative thinkers who have suggested ways of transforming the church. We have the research tools to carefully monitor our progress. We have examples of highly successful churches that touch thousands every week. We have a variety of programs that clearly explain Christianity to those seeking God. We see examples of the church thriving in many other parts of the world. But the fact remains that the church in North America is not growing and her influence on the culture is waning.

In this paper, a number of resources are reviewed to gather insight into why this is happening here and now. One fundamental reason for the church’s ineffectiveness is the shift of our culture towards Postmodernity and its inherent questioning of the Christian metanarrative (indeed all metanarratives).

[A word of explanation for the readers of the blog: A metanarrative is literally a "big story" and it refers to the idea that most cultures rely on a story (a system or a worldview) to explain how the world works and how we can make sense of it. Our culture (Western culture) is based on the Christian Worldview - the Story of Jesus and his death and resurrection. Others might call it Judeo-Christian values.]

The traditional foundation of our society is also weakening. The Christendom model has lost its appeal and its force. Western culture is no longer Christian in almost any sense of the word. These are not necessarily bad things. They open the way for a radical rethinking of Christian mission and of our entire ecclesiastical structure. These events may force Christians to reexamine many cherished, but biblically suspect and often deeply entrenched, traditions, structures and doctrines.

There are new models of church being tried out and lived out in the Western world. Many fly under the radar and many can be grouped under the banner of Emerging Church. Some are short-lived. That is to be expected. Others may have more staying power. The general trend of this movement is to simplify church and reduce it to its most basic and irreducible form. Some try to get to the point where, if one more thing were removed, it will no longer be the church.

This deconstruction attempts to limit functions and forms not consistent with the first century church in order to recover its dynamic, subversive success. The other trend is to be intensely and intentionally “missional.” And missional means: “a community of God’s people that defines itself, and organizes its life around its real purpose of being an agent of God’s mission to the world.”

There are groups who call themselves a church where only two or three gather together. There are house churches whose primary missional activity is hospitality. There are new monastic communities experimenting with communal living among the poor. There are groups of churches acting in unity attempting to change the spiritual climate of a city or region. There are churches that adopt the music and style of the club culture, or the street culture, or of the urban artistic communities. Each is an experiment in the way church ought to be.

Granted, the critiques of our current church situation are easier to produce than the solutions. So, in order to see Christianity become effective again, we must be bold enough to experiment – even if some of the experiments fail, even if some of the experiments land outside the traditional boundaries of Evangelicalism and even if we don’t see stunning results. Our current situation is not producing many stunning results either.

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