Monday, October 10, 2005

a revolution?????

Just got my regular Barna update over email and it was an interesting read. Barna has another book coming out called Revolution which is about about how there are Revolutionary Christians in U.S. choosing to BE the church instead of GO to church. here are some highlights:

By 2025 the local church will lose roughly half of its current market share and that alternative forms of faith experience and expression will pick up the slack... millions of committed born again Christians are choosing to advance their relationship with God by finding avenues of growth and service apart from a local church...

These people initially become dissatisfied with their local church experience, then attempt to change things so their faith walk can be more fruitful. The result is that they undergo heightened frustration over the inability to introduce positive change, which leads them to drop out of the local church altogether, often in anger. But because this entire adventure was instigated by their love for God and their desire to honor Him more fully, they finally transcend their frustration and anger by creating a series of connections that allow them to stay close to God and other believers without involvement in a local church....

The defining attribute of a Revolutionary is not whether they attend church, but whether they place God first in their lives and are willing to do whatever it takes to facilitate a deeper and growing relationship with Him and other believers. [They realize] their spiritual depth is not the responsibility of a local church; it is their own responsibility. In essence, these are people who have stopped going to church so they can be the Church....

The explosion of Revolutionaries in the U.S., raises new challenges for people involved in ministry. This new movement of God demands that there be new forms of leadership to appropriately guide people in their faith journey, Barna said. It requires new ways of measuring how well the Church at-large is doing, getting beyond attendance figures as the indicator of health. And it demands that new tools and resources be accessible to a growing contingent of people who are seeking to introduce their faith into every dimension of their life.

hmmm... a few questions...

  1. is this a false dichotomy of structure/going to church vs. organic/being the church? (see Alan Roxburgh)
  2. what does this mean for the way we do church planting?
  3. how does one mesure the success or faithfulness of "church" if it cannot depend on numbers?
  4. what is the role and purpose of worship in this new wave of missional revolutionaries?
  5. can't you have vibrant contemplative worship gatherings that propel and catalyze people into radical missional vocation?
  6. can these so-called revolutionaries provide passageways for the lukewarm pew-sitter to get involved in radical mission?
  7. how is my community (the open door) spurring on, supporting and encouraging this kind of revolutionary missional activity?

Please pipe in!


SFTS discussion said...

what Barna is expressing is what alot of people in mainline denominations don't understand. Soon, I think the large mega-churches will begin to experience this as well. people don't want to be a member of an institution. they want a lifestyle. one that is sustainable, uplifting, and has values that match those of the kingdon of God. The church's values often look like those of a corporation; we want growth, we want to expand...when church feels like another place to do business, people get disenfranchised.
I especillay resonate with the third paragraph. people who enter a church and want to make positive change get burned out when things don't change. they believe in God and no longer believe in church.
This isn't a revolution. It is a rediscovery of the basic human longing for community. Community doesn't happen best in the pews surrounded by 200 other people. It happens at the table. In the living room. In a restaurant, at a bar, wherever small groups can gather and be authentic and vulnerable.
The future, as I see it, is multi-racial, multi-ethnic,networked house churches led by tentmaking shepherds. Its not an easy job, but I'm up for it.

Anonymous said...

My good friend Johnathan Tagg said,

I think hype is when we try and manipulate reality to create a market spot. I think many movements of pop-Christianity fit into this exchange of goods and services – think how quickly (within 6 months!) they come and go. There influence lasts about as long as the newcomers classes.

I think Barna is, in this sense, actually following the Hegelian dialectic of what culture is doing. In this instance I believe he is accurate and correct in his predictions (the decentralization of the church) though his numbers I’d hold with an open hand.

The demise and breakdown of Christendom within other “Western” nations (like UK where 3% go to church, Europe at 5%, etc) all stand in favor that we’re headed in the same direction.

dms said...

People "go to church." But why? What is the purpose for going to church? The most common answer is worship? But worship is something we do all the time (Rom.12:1-2). I think this poor interpretation of what it means to "go to church" contributes to dillemas we currently have. People will be disatisfied and reluctant to "belong" to a church that doesn't exist for God's purposes. I would suggest that the gathering of Christians corporately is primarily for encouragement...encouraging each other in our ongoing worship of Christ in our daily lives. Consider the author of Hebrews words:

Hebrews 10:19-25 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Drawing near to the Holy One is not limited to a "going to church" experience, but is indeed a 24/7 reality. Therefore, getting together for church really ought to be centered around encouraging others in their vocation of mission and worship at work, school, in families, etc.

I would argue this trend of not wanting to be a part of the "church" at a formal level is understandable, yet unbiblical. We have to meet. We are the body. But it is the loss of understanding of WHY we meet that has and is harmful and painful to those seeking true Christian fellowship. Perhaps if we met to communally to stir one another to do good works and to encourage each other...perhaps then we could recapture the true meaning of what it means to go to church. It's not revolutionary, it's God's design.

Check out this book to see more than just statistics!
Engaging With God: A Biblical Theology of Worship

terry said...

the front of my favorite well worn t-shirt states, "don't go to church" - while the back proclaims, "be the church."

many americans equate church with an event to be attended and many are discovering that the event they attend adds very little value to their life as whole and to their spiritual life in specific. the "holy" is experienced more profoundly by watching an oprah episode or attending a u2 concert -who needs the church (ie the worship event) to be moved spiritually? i feel compelled to throw in one of my favorite lines from bono: "religion is what you get when God, like Elvis, has left the building - but when God is in the houe you get something altogether different."

i think people are dissatified with church as insititution and are longing for the real deal - connection with God and others, and with our world - religion will not and in fact cannot faciliate and nurture this.

you raise the question about the role of leadership in the days ahead. i heard michael slaughter says this years ago: "the task of leadership is to find the fire in people and then throw gas on it." for too long leaders have been throwing wet blankets on the spiritual fires of people with the church - many are simply saying, "we're not going take it anymore.

Anonymous said...

What age are these Revoluntary Christians - do they cut across the boomer, gen-x divide? I will be interested to see Barna's actual research that has led him to this conclusion. I think there is something here that rings true but as long as we continue to create a church culture that appeals to our creature comforts this "revolution" is still a long way off. Out side my own "frustration and anger" with the institutional church I don't sense that growing dissatisfaction that would drive people to "find avenues of growth and service apart from a local church." Or maybe I am out of touch with this group and in that case where are they? I do believe that among this very large group of apathetic Christians, who beleive that going to church IS being the church, there is a great opportunity to awaken many them if they can expereince a real missional church. But as you asked - how are those passageways created? I am responding because I am headed off to chair my EPC National Outreach Committee for the next three days and I intend to bring this Barna report up for discussion, especially the question of how do we measure success besides attendance and budgets?

bj woodworth said...

I do not think these "Revolutionaries" have given up meeting together they are just in search of something deeper more profound and more authentically connected with God through a missional worshipping community that is active, permission giving and not isolated and they are not finding that in our gatherings that we call church. Therefore we must reorient ourselves back to the missional purpose of worship (see NT Wright's For All God's Worth). Secondly, we must throw gas on people's missional sparks so they can go BE the church, blessing, honoring and support their work at BEING the church. Finally we have to develop differnt measuring sticks to assess the health of a church community. If the church is growinng and healthy it will be both gathered and scattered and currently we have no good ways of measuring the scattered church. If you do not go to church but are the church how then does one assess the church's missional activity if you can no longer just count butts in pews and finaancial giving. Any thought?

alan hirsch said...

Hiya BJ

I suspect that this is just a tad overstated. I have found that Barna is give to overstatement. However....I think he is definitely describing a real phenomenon and a statitical trend. And I think when it hits the US its going to hit hard and fast. The future is in the hands of a few freaks and outcasts again it seems.

terry said...

barrett describes the first pattern of missional churches as "missional vocation" with these words: "the congregation is discovering together the missional vocation of the community. it is beginning to redefine success and vitality in terms of faithfulness to God's calling and sending. it is seeking to discern God's specific mission vocation (charisms) for the entire community and for all its members.

this is so subjective in a sense and so personal – so difficult to mark and measure. my take: are we becoming who we already are in Christ? are we living into and out of our calling from God? are we giving more and more attention and energy to the questions of being (and not doing), the where, when, and why we are in a specific time and place?

Anonymous said...

As a church burn-out, both from a traditional and missional church, as well as a seminary student, the frustration is not in the ability to initiate change, but in being irrelevant within the church itself missional or otherwise. When one's efforts to worship through action, leadership and deed, in response to call and challenge from the church, are simply overiden without concern or discussion, it is frustrating. The personal and spiritual price is simply to high to continue participating in the church. I'm not interested in being a revolutionary, or cool, or making change, or any of the other great words we use, I just want to love Jesus/God, and my neighbor without great discussions on soteriology or eschatology, or missional, or have endless discussions on how we are doing God's work, and watch out for "the enemy". Unfortunately I find the love aspect in church a rare commodity, a long and distant second to the church organization, the hoped for result of yet another program.

I'm painting this picture with broad brush strokes intentionally, much the way I read theologians talk about "the culture" and demographics (ie me) in broad brush strokes. It is just as offensive from this side of pulpit to lumped into an artificial demographic, as it is from your side of the pulpit. There will be no change in the church, missional or otherwise, until the Proffesionals in the church, no matter what they call themselves, moves past these cultural demographics, and look at individual people, Just as "they" expect the church people to know and love them. Unfortunately that is extemely exhausting, but is community building. There is much talk about being the church, but it won't happen until "being the church" is valued beyond participanting in proffesional leadership directed programs.

A simple question to the missional church intellegencia: I will continue to be the church as best I can, but is there room for me at the church? Room for me to heal, as well as contribute beyond knowuing my place? To date the answer is no.

It is clear to me and I hope to you, that i have a lot of forgiving to do. I've posted this anonamously, because, I just don't want to deal with an influx of personal contacts telling me that I'm wrong, Perhaps I am, but I'd like to hear the intellectual response first.

bj woodworth said...

Thanks for that last post. I wrestle with those questions daily. I am in the denominaitonal machine and feel like I havea split personality. I cannot answer your question about whether there is aplace for you in the church becaseu then I would be falling into the trap you so aptly and rightly criticized. I would be treating as a statistic who left the church and not a person. So I can say that my hearts desire is that there is room for you in the church but I do nto know for sure (as I suppose you would not know of me) unless we can talk over cofee or beer.

Thanks for your honesty!

Scott said...

Hope this is on topic. After reading the previous posts, this is where my mind went.

It seems to me that the whole "measuring of success" concept is is a business method that is contrary to what this group of "revolutionaries" is all about. Many of the people I know who have left the church are looking for an authentic Christian experience, not a successful Christian experience. The account of scripture never tries to evaluate the success of Jesus, the disciples, or Paul. It simply shows what it means to live in relationship with Jesus and with each other. Success is a "modern" evaluation tool to determine if something is worth our time and effort. It is similar to asking about the success of showing someone love to see if the "investment" paid off. If at the end of the day you can answer the question "have I loved well?" with a yes, then you can be pleased. My responsibility and attempts to love others has little to do with their response and whether or not it was 'successful'.

Much of the postmodern viewpoint of 'being' over 'doing' is still being evaluated in modern terms and methods. This seems to me to be missing the point. It is good to observe and learn, but it should never be done with the intention of duplicating or measuring what has been done in an attempt to compare.

Any thoughts?

alan hirsch said...

BJ, I tend to think that the whole doing-being dichotomy tends to be wrong headed anyway. I rather think that we are in the process of becoming. It is an existential task that is worked out as we go.

But as for the stats, I think they are a prophetic warning--we would be wise not to dismiss them. I do suspect that the US church is going to hit the wall in the next few years. (Its an exponential trend.) And we have to think differently now to be able to pre-empt some healthy responses.

"The kind of thinking that will solve the world's problems will be of a different order to the kind of thinking that created those problems in the first place." - Bertie Einstean

Tony Myles said...

Interesting... I wonder how long the church can cover its ears and say "LA LA LA LA - NOT LISTENING!" before reality kicks in.

Anonymous said...

In the words of Paul Tillich; "The ontological essence of being is the absence of non-being" To a person trained in philosophy this statement is worth a life time of study, to the layman it is nonsense, and unconnected to life as experienced. As I read the gospels, Jesus spoke to life as experienced, and how it changes by worshiping God. If the missional church can't do/be/proclaim that effictively, it will be as irrelevant as those it speaks against, and "missional" will become simply another failed strategy. There are no new thought processes needed, There is no magic pill of leadership rhetoric. Its is simply being/doing/proclaiming. As I read the NT, these are synonyms. Seperation of meaning is a false distraction, based in Greek philosophical thought, not the Gospels.

brian said...

Any time I see the words "market share" in a sentence with the word "church" I cringe.

What can get lost to these "revolutionaries" is the discipline that a church -- a good church -- provides. It seems pretty clear that God wants us to be a part of a church -- a community that comes together to worship Him, and at the same time, provides a certain degree of spiritual direction to its members. Are there "bad" churches? Most certainly. But just because you've had a bad church experience doesn't mean you should turn your back on the institution. It's gotten us this far....

Such an approach to church community is, ultimately, dangerous. Who's to stop a revolutionary in believing that sex outside of marriage is OK, or that homosexual behaviour is sanctioned by God, or perhaps that abortion is not wrong? And if their little faith community doesn't agree, he or she can simply move on. Certainly, God may choose to discipline this person in a very real way in the moment, but by being a part of a church community, a real church community, we submit ourselves to our fellow believers, and ultimately to God

bj woodworth said...

the counter is true as well. church structure either denominations or non-denominational structure has not stopped injustice, hertical theology, or moral depravity from occuring within "the church" What the structure has stopped and is currently stopping is mission. I think you might want to dig a bit deeper on thinking about what defines the chruch?

brian said...

the counter is true as well. church structure either denominations or non-denominational structure has not stopped injustice, hertical theology, or moral depravity from occuring within "the church" What the structure has stopped and is currently stopping is mission. I think you might want to dig a bit deeper on thinking about what defines the chruch?

So do you believe that the institutional church has, as a whole, failed? Or perhaps just specific denominations? I won't argue that the Church, in all its forms and denominations, does fail minute by minute, day by day. That's the nature of being human. Two families in a home church will get things wrong, just as the Roman Church will.

As far as my thinking of what "church" is -- I know a lot of people who spent a lot of time trying to define what "church" is, and if it being or doing, or both. And there's much to be learned from that. I've put myself in a church tradition that I believe does a good job of being the "church" -- providing guidance, wisdom, and discipline -- while giving its members what they need to "be the church" outside those four walls. The congregation isn't about simply being at church on Sunday from 10:00-12:00 -- the community comes together regularly to eat, play, and study. Perhaps my family is simply blessed to have found such a church, though (and that's not say the Open Door isn't such a community as well). Perhaps I'm simply more comfortable within the confines of tradition.

bj woodworth said...

I would say that the denominational churches are failing and if we continue to try and put new wine in old wine skins they will continue to burst. We need some new structures that are permission giving and mission oreinted. Our ecclisiology must stop determining our missiology. That is backwards. Missiology determines ecclesiology or the shape of the church must be determined by the missional context it finds itself in. We have always beleived this when it comes to working cross-culturally but now we in North America find ourselves, I believe, in a new missional context. Therefore our church structures must be reformed, flex and bend as they have throughout history in order to meet the missiological needs.

It sounds like your church community has got a good handle on this. I am not trying to make blanket statements about certian brands or flavors of church. Although my expereince with my own denomination (PCUSA) has been a mixed bag.

BTW- I cannot beleive that you are Brian Janesack. Crazy how life circles around. I knew you from Oakland club days. How did you get hooked up with all those guys in the coffee house thing>

Keep up the good questions.

brian said...

I do feel pretty fortunate about the church we're in (an RPCNA church in Wilkinsburg). We certainly don't do everything right, but I think we're on the right track. And I'm sure a PCUSA experience might sour one a bit...

See, BJ, you can't rid of me that easily ;-). I got hooked up with those neocalvinists via Scott Calgaro and Keith Martel (friends from my Geneva days). Perhaps one of these Sundays, my family will wander down the street to the Open Door -- we do live in Morningside and all.