Revolution or evolution? Considering the impact of 'emerging church' conversations on the mission and ecclesiology of established churches - Dr Dion Forster http://www.dionforster.com
Outcomes: By the end of this session you should be able to: Share a basic understanding of the doctrine of the Church Explain the mission of the Church. Identify and understand some of the deficiencies in contemporary Church structure and practice that detract from God’s mission for the Church. Engage critically with a variety of perspectives on Church to bring renewed effectiveness and faithfulness to your ministry in the Church.
1. Prolegomenon – the Church Questions for group discussion (6 mins + 4 mins feedback). What is the Church? (Theology!) What is God’s mission for the Church? Can you please list some practical examples of things that Churches should do to fulfill God’s mission in the world?
1.a. What is the Church? • ekklesia – c.f. Matt 16:18 – literally an ‘assembly, group of people’ >> Denotes ‘a people’, a ‘set aside’ group of people. • The early Church Acts 2:42-47. • Met in homes / the marketplace • Gathered around ‘discipleship’, not ‘discipline’ • The word Church refers to two entities: • The Church (capital ‘C’) – the Church Universal • The churches (small ‘c’) – denominations, congregations, cell groups… • Which Church do you think God sees as God looks at a city?
1.a. What is the Church? Cont… • How can you identify ‘the Church’? The marks of the Church are: • One / Holy / Catholic / Apostolic • The word ‘Church’ is an English form of the Greek kuriakē, meaning "of the Lord” (The Church is most likely a shortening of kuriakē oikia ‘house of the Lord’) >> denotes ‘a place’ (no longer ‘a people’) • The Church as a ‘place’ and ‘institution’ only came into being after the conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine in the 4th century.
1.b. What is God’s mission and purpose for the Church? • The missio dei ‘God’s mission’ (please refer to Forster 2008a:71ff. ‘What is Christian Mission?’) • ‘He sent his Son for this purpose and He sends the Church into the world… for the same purpose’ (van Sanders in Forster 2008:71) • What was Jesus’ mission? • cf. Lk 4:43, 4:18-19 - The Kingdom of God! • Is 11:6-9, Rev 21:3-5a. God’s eternal shalom a ‘peace that passes all understanding’
1.b. What is God’s mission and purpose for the Church? Cont… • The Church’s mission is to fulfill Jesus’ mission! • ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you’ Jn 20:21 • …to “proclaim the Gospel of Christ for healing and transformation”, and to work towards a “Christ healed Africa for the healing of the nations”. • Where we miss the boat… • Saviour AND Lord (salvation AND discipleship) cf. Matt 28:19-20
1.b. What is God’s mission and purpose for the Church? Cont… • Ask yourself a few questions: • What constitutes most of the activity and preaching in your Church? • Does your Church do the same kind of things that Jesus did? • Do you find the kind of people that Jesus welcomed in your Church (i.e., people on the margins of society)? • When you listen to the people in your Church, or your minister’s sermons, do they sound like the kind of things that Jesus would say? • Is your Church actively establishing God’s Kingdom in your community? • Are we ‘One’, ‘Holy’, ‘Catholic’, and ‘Apostolic’?
1.b. What is God’s mission and purpose for the Church? Cont… Brian McLaren… What are the ‘big issues’ in No wonder the world is giving up on the Church…
1.b. What is God’s mission and purpose for the Church? Cont… I believe that Jesus Christ started the New Testament Church… He started it as a community of men and women with a mission, a new purpose for their lives. He gathered them, invested in them, and then commissioned them to go and live what he had lived among them. If we think of the Church as a celebration service that only happens in a building on Sundays, then Jesus doesn’t fit the model. We certainly won’t be able to call him ‘Pastor Jesus’…. If the Church is more dynamic than that; if indeed living like Jesus is how we should be and do Church, then thinking of Jesus and his band of followers as a Church community helps us have a more dynamic concept of what Church is all about. Floyd McClung in reference to his book ‘You see bones, I see an army: Changing the way we do Church’ (2008, Struik Christian publishers: Cape Town).
Recap on the Church… • The Church is not just an institution – rather, it is a gathering of faithful disciples. • The Church refers to: • The Church Universal • The churches / denominations / congregations • The character, or marks of the Church are: • One • Holy • Catholic • Apostolic • The Church has a mission: • God’s mission – missio dei • Jesus mission – to establish God’s Kingdom • We need to relate to Jesus as Saviour AND Lord
The question is…. ‘A Christ healed Africa for the healing of the nations…’ How well is the Methodist Church of Southern Africa doing in achieving God’s mission? What are some of the struggles / difficulties / problems that we face as a Church? How could your discipleship help to change this situation? What can you learn and gain from your time here at SMMS in order to renew the mission of our denomination?
2. A few facts about Church membership and attendance. The two most common narratives for the modern Church are decline or split… (blog post on the mainline Church). I don’t mind Jesus, but I don’t trust his wife [bride]… (comment by a skeptical friend). I no longer go to Church… It just doesn’t seem to meet my needs anymore. The pastor knows nothing about my life and work, and the Church seems to do so little to actually change society. I’m tired of programs and courses. I need something different! I still serve the Lord, but I now belong to a Christian group at work (a Christian who no longer attends Church). 60% of all Churches in America will die out by 2050 (Peter Brierley in Gibbs & Coffey 2005:20)
A decline in Church attendance Church attendance in Britain is declining so fast that the number of regular churchgoers will be fewer than those attending mosques within a generation…. Ruth Gledhill’s report on Church attendance in the UK (2008).
What are some of the effects of Church decline? A diminished capacity to transform society and influence change (we’re loosing our saltiness, and dimming our light) A loss of credibility (we’re loosing our ‘voice’ – in England, Australia and most of Europe the Church’s narrative has almost no place in mainstream society) Diminishing financial resources to fund mission The declining Church adopts a ‘lager’ mentality (defensive of it’s position, combative of other positive contributions from secular or other religious institutions etc.)
The church is in a general decline (BUT, the same can NOT be said of the Christian Faith!)(Graphs from Prof. Jurgens Hendricks,) Stellenbosch Enough about the rest of the world… What about South Africa?
YET, the reality in South Africa does NOT reflect the Kingdom of God! Only12% - committed… attendance is only about 3% - 5%... Let’s be honest, most of us plan to fail.
Something is wrong with this picture! 79% say they’re Christian, but somehow the churches are not helping them to BE Church… All is NOT lost! If they SAY that they are Christian, we should help them to become what they say they are! The Gospel, and the Christ of the Gospel, have NOT lost their power! BUT, we need a ‘new kind’ of Church to do this… Our current models are not working… Here’s some data on our decline.
Whites Coloureds Church membership in population groups 1911-2001
Pent/Charismatic Christian Marketshare AIC, Pentecostal, Other 1911-2001
What makes the AIC and American style ‘Pentecostal / Charismatic’ Churches so popular? • They are evangelical (even if their gospel is not entirely good news). • They offer hope (particularly in addressing the most serious FELT needs of people): • Prosperity doctrine offers hope in poverty • Healing miracles and ministry offer hope in sickness • They have a strong entrepreneurial leadership… (see the sigmoid curve) whereas we face significant pressure to maintain our ‘culture’ (e.g., uniforms, orders of service, hierarchies) • They are ‘market oriented’ (changing in accordance with needs and pressures from outside), we are internally regulated (not responding to outside pressures and needs).
What’s wrong? We can be sure that it is NOT the Gospel that has lost its effectiveness (the MESSAGE, and PERSON of Christ remain valid and effective) However, we can be sure that the delivery, engagement, and support mechanisms have lost their impact. So what we need is to find a way of engaging the world in an ‘incarnational’ manner (addressing the needs of the world, from the perspective of the world), not in a transcendent manner (pressing the concerns and needs of the Church onto the world). We need a new ‘narrative’ for the Gospel. The existing still has value, but only for those ‘in the system’ (it would seem), we need a narrative that engages those outside of the system..
3. So, how do we turn this around? Face the facts! Denial will not serve the cause of God’s mission. Do our best to understand God’s mission for OUR context. Gain insights and expertise to help us in retooling the DNA of the Church for the churches. Have the COURAGE to make some changes (for the sake of the Gospel!) Make the most of your time here…
The SAME mission in an ever CHANGING world "The gospel must be constantly forwarded to a new address because the recipient is always changing his place of residence.” Graham Gray, Bishop of York
The emergent conversation [The emergent movement is working towards] …rediscovering contextual and experimental mission in the western church. Forms of church that are not restrained by institutional expectations. Open to change and God wanting to do a new thing. Use of the key word ..."and". Whereas the heady polarities of our day seek to divide us into an either-or camp, the mark of the emerging Church will be its emphasis on both-and. For generations we have divided ourselves into camps: Protestants and Catholics, high church and low, clergy and laity, social activists and personal piety, liberals and conservatives, sacred and secular, instructional and underground. It will bring together the most helpful of the old and best of the new, blending the dynamic of a personal Gospel with the compassion of social concern. It will find its ministry being expressed by a whole people, wherein the distinction between clergy and laity will be that of function, not of status or hierarchical division. In the emerging Church, due emphasis will be placed on both theological rootage and contemporary experience, on celebration in worship and involvement in social concerns, on faith and feeling, reason and prayer, conversion and continuity, the personal and the conceptual. (Ian Mobsby)
The emergent conversation • Defining the emerging Church / emerging conversation • Most [emergent communities] are too new and too fluid to clarify... There is no consensus yet about what language to use: 'new ways of being church'; 'emerging church'; 'fresh expressions of church'; 'future church'; 'church next'; or 'the coming church'. The terminology used here contrasts 'inherited' and 'emerging' churches… (Dr Stuart Murray)
The emergent conversation • Characteristics of the emergent conversation (movement). • Question the assumptions (Barna ‘Pagan Christianity’, Mclaren ‘A generous orthodoxy’) • Longs for fresh expressions of community • Wants to restore a strong balance on a realised eschatology • Emphasis on ‘works of mercy’ (What Wesley called ‘social holiness) • Holds evangelical zeal and social concern in balance (sometimes referred to as ‘liberal evangelicals), thus theologically pragmatic
The emergent conversation • Strengths • Radically incarnational • Fresh expressions • Recaptured a balance between creative non-propositional evangelism and tangible social action • Diverse (not a ‘Mediclinic’ (lots of niche specialities), but rather a ‘home visit’ (bring the gospel to you, to meet your needs)). • Weaknesses • Pragmatism can come at the cost of both orthodoxy and orthopraxy e.g., Loss of our roots (theology, liturgy, success stories and models) • Loss of Christian identity • Imprisoned in a ‘Cell’ and ‘emerging’ into the status quo (stagnation and stuck of success…) • A Church without a Mission / a Mission without a Church • The sympton masquerading as ‘the cause’ (conferences, constant change, schism, contentious issues etc.) • Examples of emergent Christian movements • Marketplace ministries • Special interest groups (prayer, outreach, age groups, social needs, sports etc.) • Home Church
The hermeneutic circle – theological reflection (an affirmative action…)
3. So, how do we turn this around? We must change from: Living in the past to engaging with the present Market driven to mission-oriented Bureaucratic hierarchies to apostolic networks Schooling ‘professionals’ to mentoring servant leaders Following celebrities to encountering saints Dead orthodoxy to living faith (orthopraxy) Attracting the crowd to seeking the lost Belonging to believing Generic congregations to incarnational communities. NB! NB! NB! Please read Church Next by Eddie Gibbs, and Reimagining Church by Frank Viola
What can we do in the MCSA? • Revolution OR Evolution!? • Revolution: • Develop radically new models of being Church. • Encourage fresh expressions of full time ministry. • Challenge oppressive and non-missional forms of leadership (for SAKE OF THE GOSPEL!) • Change our focus from the institution of the Church to the needs of the world! • Move from ‘models of Church’ to ‘principles of mission’ • Evolution: • Renew the structure and life of the local Church • Give new impetus and missional energy to thriving organizations • Capitalize on our ‘brand’ in Southern Africa • Rediscover and inculturate our rich Wesleyan heritage (see Forster in Forster & Bentley 2008a:70-99) • Recapture our evangelical zeal (Wesleyan Evangelicalism – the WHOLE Gospel!
Questions, input and discussion Please share one thing that has challenged you, perhaps something you’ve learned today, a new insight, or something you’ve resolved to do. Please affirm one thing that our Church is doing well! Please highlight one thing that you would like to help change in our Church during your ministry. Any other inputs?
Some suggested reading Forster, DA, 2007 An uncommon spiritual path. The quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity. AcadSA publishers. Kempton Park. Forster, DA & Bentley, W (eds) 2008a Methodism in Southern Africa. A celebration of Welsyan mission. AcadSA publishers. Kempton Park. Forster, DA & Bentley, W (eds) 2008b What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society by Southern African Methodists. Gibbs, E & Coffey, I 2005. Church next: Quantum changes in Christian ministry. Inter Varsity Press. Leicester, UK. Barna, G & Viola, F. 20** Pagan Christianity. ****. *** Viola, F 2008 Reimagining Church: Pursuing the dream of organic Christianity. David Cook Publishers. Colorado Brian McLaren ‘Everything must change’, Rob Bell ‘Velvet Elvis’, ‘Sex God’, Floyd McClung