Boy oh boy, do we need a revolution in the institutional church! God is moving fiercely across the world right now. Thousands of churches are engaging culture, seeking to love the world without condition, and living on the front lines of mission. These churches are creatively “doing church” in new and unique ways. They are conversing daily about what the culture around them needs. They are the “new conspirators,” the “mustard seeds,” the “great emergence,” and they dispel the “myths of a christian religion.” They understand that culture is rapidly evolving. They understand we are in the midst of a communication revolution, an economic disparity, and a Post-Christendom and postmodern world. Most importantly, they seek to follow the Revolutionary Jesus, not the Jesus of religion, tradition, or Sunday School.
Are you one of them? Are we one of them?
Recently, I’ve read “The New Conspirators” by Tom Sine, “The Great Emergence” by Phyllis Tickle, “Global Pentecostalism” by Donald E. Miller, “The Myth of a Christian Religion” by Greg Boyd, “Youth Ministry 3.0” by MarkO, and “Emerging Churches” by Ryan Bolger and Eddie Gibbs.
It’s hard to summarize the depth and insight of these authors, but they are all attempting to say the same things. The world is now postmodern. The institutionalized church remains modern. Those practices no LONGER WORK! If you want to reach people, and not just the Boomer population that was raised in modernity, you must make a shift in heart, mind, and matter.
Here’s the problem: “The mainline church is stuck in a time warp.” Have you ever seen Saved By the Bell when Zach freezes time? The modern, institutionalized church (97% of Lutheran churches), are stuck in a time warp. We continually “do church” the way we’ve always done it (which is modern, linear, word-based, etc.). There is ZERO arguing about the fact the world is now postmodern. The only argument is whether the church is going to catch up or not.
Every 500 years, the “Church” goes through a major transformation. Around 500, we enter the “Dark Ages” at the fall of the Roman Empire. Around 1000, we saw the “Great Schism” where people argued whether “Church” should be done in Latin or Greek. In 1500, we saw “The Great Reformation,” where Luther and others protested against the Catholic Church. And now, 500 years later, we are in the midst of another MAJOR church shift.
Tickle argues that nearly 9-13% of every major denomination seek to revolt against the change. 60% are a part of the emergence, and the other 30% are simply bystanders uncaring what happens. My question: What part of it are we?
Working in and being a part of a major institutional church has its advantages, to be sure. I love — LOVE — the community at Community Lutheran Church in Las Vegas. In fact, in many ways, we are the top 1% of all Lutheran churches who are seeking to engage and be relevant to the culture. However, there is still way more conversation that needs to be had. If we are to truly engage the world and reach this postmodern generation, we will need to make more drastic changes.
Are you stuck in a time-warp, trying to do church as you’ve always done it? Are you actively seeking Jesus and Scripture to give you fresh eyes?
Another question: Are you a benchwarmer or an active player?
At our recent youth bible study, we are reading through the book of Mark. Many kids are actively reaching out to Scripture with fresh eyes. However, some continue to flat-out tell me they won’t read their bibles during the week. Those kids, as much as I love them, represent the “modern, institutionalized” church. They just do the things they’ve always done. We need to continually push this generation to present fresh ways to DO church and BE THE CHURCH! Maybe because I interact with youth every day, I’m seeing this occur on a large scale. I’m witnessing youth longing for new ways to be taught about the stories of the Bible. I see kids revolting against tradition. Most importantly, I see what these books talk about right in front of me.
May God give the churches stuck in a “time warp” or “on the bench” a convicting of the Spirit to change and engage in a relevant conversation with the culture and the world!