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Doing Church in the U.S. in 2009

April 6, 2009

vintage-faith1I’m completely fascinated with the body of Christ, in the west, in our time. We’re in the middle of such a fundamental transition that is completely overwhelming to swim through, but also completely exciting if you can pry yourself out of it and get a “big picture” view for a moment.

Technology is changing our relationships and our relationships are changing our society and our society is changing its worldview, which is changing how we use technology … and in the midst of all of it, the gospel is still Truth and is still relevant and is still what people need more than anything.

Two days a week I get to focus on ministry, student ministry specifically (in theory), and try to make it happen. Three days a week I get to look on as other ministry leaders try to make it work, gather info on how others are making it work (or not), glean wisdom, disseminate information and ideas, and work on puzzling the thing out.

Two years later I’m convinced we still have no idea what’s going on.

I’m aware that Christians are the “Church” (with a big “C”). I know we’re the body and all that, but we still meet weekly in buildings and try to work together to share the gospel with people in our towns who don’t know what we know. For that purpose, how we “do church” is changing and it’s becoming increasingly complicated.

Technology is moving forward faster than anyone can really keep up with, especially not-for-profit organizations with no R&D budget. Doors are flying open all around us, and a lot of local churches are sitting in the middle of the hallway with their proverbial heads spinning.

Technology is also increasing the frequency and the depth of generation gaps. When else in church history did we have so many church “models” competing for attention in one sanctuary? There are the traditional people who like hymns and organs and robes. There are contemporary people who like rock band-style worship and flashy presentations and entertainment. And more and more, there are post-modern people who like spiritual worship and accessible lessons and a world-changing cause to rally around in a practical way.

A local church needs to move forward, but how far and how fast? A generation is about to leave the Church behind, but the Church needs to be careful not to leave anyone behind in her pursuit of the former.

Just a couple decades ago you had one church with one congregation in one building (probably during one service). Now one church has any number of congregations meeting at any number of different times in any number of different places. Some minsitries plant churches;  some plant campuses/venues.

It’s messy and disjointed and awkward and sometimes amusing to watch, but it’s completely enthralling at the same time: watching the Church in the U.S. in 2009 trying to figure out how to be in the world but not of the world when the world doesn’t even know what it is anymore.

What do you think? Have you noticed the tension in your church? What is your church doing about it? What’s working? When this transition is over and we’re looking back on it – like we look back on the Reformation or the first televangelist – what will we see? What will church look like 50 years from now?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 7, 2009 1:00 pm

    you put a picher up of me. yer so cuuute.

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