Thursday, June 01, 2006

Epic Churches for Epic Times


The paradox is this: the pursuit of individualism has led us to this place of hunger for connectedness, for communities not of blood or nation but communities of choice. The very prevalence of the word community itself—is there any sector of society that isn’t a ‘community’?”

-Leonard Sweet, “Post-Modern Pilgrims,” page 109-110.

Postmoderns have had it with religion. They’re sick and tired of religion. They’re convinced the world needs less of religion, not more. They want no part of obedience to sets of propositions and rules required by some ‘officialdom’ somewhere. Postmoderns want participation in a deeply personal but at the same time communal experience of the divine and transformation of life that issues from that identification with God.”

-Leonard Sweet, “Post-Modern Pilgrims,” page 112.

The church needs to reinvent the concept of ‘connection’ and ‘connectedness’ to fit a postmodern context. It is not just the extensiveness of connection that counts but the diversity of connections that make a difference.”

-Leonard Sweet, “Post-Modern Pilgrims,” page 119.

The second upgraded avenue of ministry concerns, like everything else in postmodern culture, the need for the church to be decentralized and complexified.”

-Leonard Sweet, “Post-Modern Pilgrims,” page 120.

It is my belief that the Presbyterian Church has ceased being a “connectional” church—at all levels of the church! At the national level there is a disconnect between the local church and the national church. Local church doesn’t trust the national church and the national church appears to forget that the local church is the “front line” of ministry. Presbyteries ordain who they want, when they want and are disconnected from the local churches. Local churches have become “independent” in how they allocate dollars, support mission and select educational curriculum. One current example of this “brokenness” is how we serve the Lord’s Supper. The VAST MAJORITY of congregations invite anyone who loves the Lord Jesus Christ to participate in the Lord’s Supper. The “rules” of the denomination state that only those who have been baptized can participate. The national committee that advises on our “rules” refused to endorse modifying the “rules” to reflect what the vast majority of our churches are doing. The national church… disconnected from the local church and the local church disconnected from the national church.

Right now, the PCUSA cannot provide a connected experience to a postmodern culture. Additionally, the ways in which we “try” to connect with each other don’t excite those in a postmodern world. Our idea of connected is to go to a Presbytery meeting.

Our first step in connectedness should be confession. We need to confess that the “boomer” drive for individual pleasure has broken families, provided the culture for STD epidemics and is financially bankrupting our country and world due to credit card debt. The “me” generation needs to ask for forgiveness.

The second thing we need to do is move away from “religion” and move back to experiencing the biblical, risen Jesus. Our faith needs to be the center point of our life and existence. Our kids (and grandkids) know if we are “Sunday Christians.” We must connect with Jesus before we can begin connecting with postmoderns.

Third, we need to learn new ways of connection. I agree with Sweet ideas of having our connections become decentralized and more complex. But what does that mean and how can it be accomplished? To be honest, I’m not sure but I am going to try and find out.

The church I serve is currently VERY disconnected—but don’t tell anyone! Long-time members think we are the friendliest church in the world. Visitors find it difficult—almost impossible—to get to know long-time members. New people befriend new people. Long-time members want to be connected with new people provided that it happens when and how it is comfortable with the long-time folks! Connections. Connections?

It is time for a paradigm shift. We need to keep some of the “past ways” of connecting so that our older members/attenders don’t feel left behind AND we need to create new ways of connecting that will resonate with emerging cultures. My guess is that the “church” that develops will look significantly different than what the church has looked like in the past.

If Evergreen Presbyterian Church was to be starting from scratch today and I was the organizing pastor it would not look anything like it currently does. We would not buy land and have a permanent building. We would rent space and have a decentralized ministry. Bible studies would meet in homes or coffee shops. We would have multiple worship “venues” and styles to reach different cultures and population groupings. We would have a MySpace presence for high school students and a Face Book presence for college students. We would have a HUGE web presence. Daily podcasts. Streaming video of our worship services. We would require every person who regularly attends to be involved in “hands-on” mission through our church. We would be a “high expectation” church. We would connect. Connect! Connect!!

What can my church do? What can your church do? I really don’t know! Can new wine go in old wineskins without bursting the wineskins? I am tempted to become a ministry schizophrenic—one part of my focus seeking to build connectedness within the context of what is and one part of my focus starting new wineskin ministries that are geared to the postmodern culture.

What should I do?

What are you going to do?


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