The future of the church!

"The Future Church" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“The Future Church” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

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This doesn’t have to happen. Or, should I say, “This didn’t have to happen!”

Is it too late? I look at my own children. I wonder about my own culpability.

BUT…

The way people gather is changing. Radically!

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15 Responses

  1. Sabine Mueller says:

    I like your culpability … but I don’t agree on the future point. The church will “survive” – not because of you or me, but because of the faithfulness of it’s founder 🙂 (btw. that’s our only hope anyway …)

  2. Caryn LeMur says:

    The culture has changed. The church must change or face becoming empty.

    I recall a web page posted by the Vineyard in Woodbridge.

    It was filled with a few ‘Amens’ and “Good preaching last Sunday”…. and then, there were also a very few thoughts or questions posted…. but these were ignored.

    The key to understanding their web page is that it was an extension of ‘current methods’ of the church. It was simply an additional ‘microphone’ or ‘library of sermons’ for those that missed Sunday morning’s attempt at community.

    They could not understand that the purpose of a web page was online dialog with respect, that would ultimately become the core of their Mon through Fri community experience.

    The shift in perspective was too great. Those that raised thoughts, or asked questions, were ignored. In time, they left. Only a few ‘Amens’ showed up (with some announcements).

    The web page was closed … it was too much work, when a simple library of down-load sermons was all that they ‘needed’.

    It is not the shift in technology that they church must adopt.

    It is the shift in culture.

  3. I agree Sabine that the “church” will continue in some form. And I appreciate your predictions Caryn.

  4. Adam Julians says:

    I think so.

    I wonder, hasn’t it always been that church in it’s truest sense is about a gathering of people.

    Maybe what’s happening is a return to that whether it be in a building on a Sunday, on a ski resort, motorcycling together, serving the homeless together or even hanging out in a comedy club?

    Sounds not too bad to me 😉

  5. Brigitte says:

    1. Built on the Rock the Church doth stand,
    Even when steeples are falling;
    Crumbled have spires in every land,
    Bells still are chiming and calling,
    Calling the young and old to rest,
    But above all the soul distrest,
    Longing for rest everlasting.

    2. Surely in temples made with hands,
    God, the Most High, is not dwelling;
    High above earth His temple stands,
    All earthly temples excelling.
    Yet He whom heavens cannot contain
    Chose to abide on earth with men,
    Built in our bodies His temple.

    3. We are God’s house of living stones,
    Builded for His habitation;
    He through baptismal grace us owns
    Heirs of His wondrous salvation.
    Were we but two His name to tell,
    Yet He would deign with us to dwell,
    With all His grace and His favor.

    … and a few more verses. Fabulous melody. Da da da daaa, da daaa da daaa.

  6. Brigitte says:

    What Caryn says above, I have thought about, too. Some of it is about living in North America, talking about my own contexts. There are so many different groups and people drive so far for their services. In Europe and other places, you walk to church, you even meet your neighbors on the way. You used to run into people in the bake shop, the butchers, the candle-stick maker, the church narthex and the women’s relief society… So there were plenty of opportunities to discuss all manner of things and to share life, seasons, festivals, deaths… Modern life, suburbia, commuting, everyone working at all hours… has killed much of this face to face life and contact in so many spheres, depending on where you live. The internet has given us many things, too, and robbed us of others. On a church website, you don’t really want to air all the laundry, questions and difficulties for the whole world to see (forever; the internet does not forgive and forget; God does). This is what we had the confessional for, the home bible studies, the coffee klatsches, you name it. Now we go to yoga class, for our community outing, or shopping at Walmart, etc. At least, at Walmart, there is the McDonald’s and you do run into people there, relaxing and talking. Yoga is great, too, but it is not for debating and discussing… In fact, you are supposed to put all debate, aside, and just breathe. I think this is really the problem with the church today, it has become less organic, because people don’t live in vicinity of it, and because people do not make it a priority to have time to learn in depth, or are indeed way to swamped with activities (but that is often a matter of priorities.)

    And speaking of McDonalds’ and such, over here, people do that by drive-through. They pick up their order without getting out of the car. In some ways, we can say, people have always find ways to maintain their privacy. Some seek out the discussion and some avoid it like the plague….

    Online community is a completely different thing and needs further analysis, in some ways. Is it contributing to the alienation and privatization of our physical lives? Are we sharing or are we hiding? Some of each? Can you minister, when you are only talking to one person in the constellation? Or is it simply counselling? What is the difference between being a minister of the gospel and being a counselor? A minister of the gospel proclaims forgiveness to you with authority. Can you do that over the internet? Obviously, not in the same way, as in confession and absolution, laying on of hands, such acts, or with physical elements as in the sacraments…

  7. Kristin says:

    Brigitte you may find “Sabbath” by Wayne Muller of interest. He talks about how our busyness is stealing our sense of peace, and what the drivers might be. He touches on the things you mention. I found much of benefit in his questions. Although written from a Christian perspective he talks about people of all faiths and none. It is primarily about engaging with genuine quiet space in our lives, where we may indeed encounter the still small voice, and a sense of restoration.
    Online community can be an incredibly helpful and real thing in our lives. It also has its limitations in my experience. Never being able to meet anyone from it in real life can be one of them.

  8. Brigitte says:

    Thanks, Kristin. I have made the journey to meet three people in the United States, whom I have first met on the internet. Sometimes, this can happen, too… Restoration through quiet time and reflection is certainly part of what we need.

    My husband and I have a different kind of devotional life, this year. He is reading his stuff in his corner and reflects on it, and I sit in my corner with my stuff and think; we may end up commenting on it or not. I find it a good wind-down for the day, and he does not bring up all the problems in the world just before bed. We just say: time for devotion; and settle somewhere in the same room. It’s a change. This sort of thing can evolve. I suppose, right there we have the church of the two, that they hymn talks about. Can’t eradicate it.

  9. Adam Julians says:

    Briggite,

    As I read your post the thing that came to my mind was community. I hear what you say about walking to church, greeting neighbours etc. The contrast between the kind of “church” we have and that of other parts of the world hit home to me with my time with the Massai in Kenya. In church, everyone shaked hands with everyone else and with few if any having watches, it could be n all morning thing so could take hours to even get stated. What happens in those hours? You hang out with people and community happens as you say organically.

    What I think we see in church is a reflection of wider society. In our individualistic worlds it i possible to have community but we have to be proactive in seeking it for it to happen. When I go to church the community I get the “fellowship” happens for few minutes before that start of a sermon and with chats over a cup of tea after it. I find it in the Christian meditation group I go to. I regard our chats here as community in fact anywhere where two or three are gathered centred on Christ.

    I guess like you share of times with your husband our western way lends itself more to being individually catered whereas for example the individual might get lost in conformity with the Massai – the pastor there makes decisions and the whole community go with it. So costs and benefits to both.

    More importantly than cultural differences I think or what might be the “face” of the church int terms of its veneer, how it appears is the security, love, empowerment and approval form God, that unites in something that can be beautiful as Sabine put it with hope in and faithfulness of its founder.

  10. Tom Wilson says:

    I hope institutional church is dying. I personally believe it is. What has been known as Church since the time of Constantine is not the Ecclesia Christ is building it is the bastard child of Constantine. It in know way reflects Christ, because Christ is not its head.

  11. Brigitte says:

    I don’t even know what an institutional church is. Maybe something like the state church in Germany. Here, we have little free churches, owned and operated by the local people. My congregation is very small and in the country. We sit around for coffee forever, afterward and chew the cud about everything. The people are farmers, teachers, cattle ranchers, school principals, secretaries… mostly farmers. All of them have opinions on everything. We often say we should be a consulting body for the local government. But I fear we are nearly died out there. Everyone is getting old or moving into town or somewhere else. We stay because we could not stand to be without those people. (And I am on the organ roster. We have a wonderful pipe organ, but one key is a bit out of tune and annoyingly shrill. Maybe Constantine could organize and pay to have it fixed. 🙂 )

  12. Adam Julians says:

    Brigitte,

    That sounds great with what you have shared about sitting around and chewing the cud about everything. The best times I had at theological college were doing that either in the student common room or post grad seminars. I get a little of that with the meditation group I go to every week with chats there.

    Of course with friends say on car journeys to the local ski resort or general chat in a local cafe. Though not everyone at these times has Christ central so this couldn’t be called “church”.

    Having some musical background I can identify with what you say about the shrill key. Next time you are chewing the cud – maybe a fundraising idea for getting it fixed could be thrown into the mix ;).

    Perhaps talking about the “institutionalsed church” is about not being one of “them”? With the “spirit of the age” it can be popular to be though of as “spiritual but not religious” with a negative disposition to organised religion.

    All of us find it pleasant to be approved of, to belong and it can be difficult when not experiencing that.

  13. Brigitte says:

    Adam, how does your meditation group work?

    Yes, the after church coffee hour is not Christ-centered, per se, but as Christians in the world we are also citizens. We can’t split ourselves in half. There are many who don’t want Christians commenting on anything that’s going on in the world. This does not work because we are citizens as much as anyone else, pay taxes, go to work, run businesses, enroll in police, firefighting and army, build houses, farms, raise families, support our neighbors and receive support from them. When we come to church, we do not come to monastery. The word and the church is always incarnational, enfleshed, real, co-operative. At the same time, we become one, neither male, female, slave, free, boss, employee, and at the same time, we go out to fulfill the roles that we have in a Christian spirit…

    “Institutional” church is not part of my lingo, but what I do worry about, when people rally against the organized church is, that dictators of all stripes have not so much supported it, as they have, instead, tried to control it or kill it. When communism came along, it first tried to break up all the usual ways people gather freely to be fraternal and to discuss ideas, and organize. First of all the church has to heel or die. The media needs to be controlled, of course. Also, various fraternities, the pigeon-breeding club, the the shooting range, or whatever, they all need suppression. In its places, come things that are instituted by the dictator, and if you don’t agree to go, you will be made to go, and free speech is out the window.

  14. Adam Julians says:

    Hey Brigitte,

    If you look at wccm.org you will find information about the meditation there. 🙂

  15. Brigitte says:

    Ok. I’ll have a look, later. Thanks, Adam.

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