March 4, 2008

the church in the u.s.

I've had conversations with denominational leaders in San Diego from a wide spectrum the last couple of weeks. A few things seem to pop up with everyone whether they're mainline, Roman Catholic, evangelical... I've tried to sum it up below but I'm really curious as to whether you're hearing, sensing the sames thing... or maybe you completely disagree. For some, this may seem like a "duh" factor... but still I'd love some feedback.

Missional (or the lack thereof): Seems like everyone is concerned about the absence of younger people, churches are dying faster than new churches can get to a self-sustaining place, all in all this seems to be observed as the result of a disconnect with the surrounding culture... stated in various ways. It seems the Church is struggling to determine how to address this.

Discipleship (or the lack thereof): In short, spiritual formation and community life are just not what they used to be. Same as above, it seems the Church is struggling to determine how to address this.

Economic Sustainability (or the lack thereof): This gets at what I'm really curious about... In the conversations I had this last week, almost every denominational leader confided that they weren't sure if their association, conference, whatever-you-call-it would be around in 10 years. The issues above seem to be associated with the lack of sustainability but while these are current "hot topics" they cannot be addressed without some practical correlations to money. The lack of doing so is one of the big problems. People thought the church growth principles would bring back sustainability to denominations but this doesn't seem to be the result in most cases. Instead it just creates bigger models of church that require more and more resources to self-maintain. In other words, they typically have lacked the ability to feed back into denominations and other churches whether new or old.

Can all three of these issues be addressed at the same time?
Am I oversimplifying?
Am I missing something?

What do you say?


Jason Coker said...

I've been hanging out around here for a while, figured I should finally say something.

In my opinion discipleship is the bridge between the other two points. The church has a disconnect with the world because it's functionally irrelevant to the practical lives of most people (and I'm not talking about "relevance" in the worship-style/media tastes of a new generation sense). The church has simply failed to equip most (though not all) of it's people to deal with real life.

Personally I think there are a myriad of reasons for that failure, but the ultimate result is the collapse of the institution. Hence, the lack of economic sustainability. We've largely capitulated to the cultural pressure to turn church into a business and worship into a product...and the business is now going bankrupt for lack of clientele because they're not buying it.

Reminds me of something Paul Tillich said: "The new in history always comes when people least believe in it. But, certainly, it comes only in the moment when the old becomes visible as old and tragic and dying, and when no way out is seen. We live in such a moment; such a moment is our situation."

Of course, Tillich had something else entirely in mind at a different point in our history, but it's still a cool quote. : )

Jason Evans said...

Great words, Jason! Thanks for chiming in. I agree, nice Tillich quote.

Jason Coker said...

Hey man, let me know if you'd be willing to talk sometime. My wife and I will be making the move to the San Diego area this summer to, among other things, start a discipleship community. I can use all the wisdom and perspective I can get.

My e-mail address is accessible via my blogger profile.

Duke said...

Peace be with those who read this message.
Take courage, the time has come, the harvest is ripe. Soon the curse will be removed. Time to get into your life boat,
the Titanic is sinking.

The Ffaithful Witness

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