Archive for trends
Yesterday’s post had part 1 of this conversation. It is really good video. Part 2 here is worthwhile, but part 3 is essential. For 3 to make sense, best to do 2 first. After the second portion, it appears that Stetzer & Fitch agreed (even requested) to have the camera turned back on in order to communicate some things very important to both of them. Very worthwhile.
Above Ed and Dave provide their perspectives on whether mega churches can be missional. A lively and fun discussion.
After a few minute break whilst shooting the conversation (see end of Part II “…you’re wearing us out” then laughter), Dave and Ed came back with some final thoughts on the importance of the church telling a new missional story.
It follows. If the God we serve is the missionary God, then what follows? While my last post, Non Sequitor, had 5 things that did not follow the Missio Dei, here are 7 that do. While the non-sequitur list does not include examples for obvious reasons, there are a number of good examples here. Here are some positive expressions of church that reflect the “sending of God.”
- Just do it – Some slogans transcend time because they ring true for now and other times. In athletics, Nike’s advertisers hit a home run. Some church slogans that ring true in light of the Missio Dei include Northstar’s “Don’t go to church, be the church.” This is key for a church that is awakening to the lostness around them. Another great slogan (and book) is by author Jason Dukes. His church seeks to “Live Sent” 24/7/365.
- Healthy networks – Teaching the things one has learned to others is evident in a number of networks, not the least of which is some great guys that are the Reproducing Churches Network. Multiple expressions and strategies here. Humility abounds. The message of Christ is being spread through churches that are planting churches. Through disciples that are making disciples.
- Taking it downtown – There is a movement of churches going into the heart of inner-city areas, bars, and other places where people live. Where lostness dwells. Where an incarnational witness has previously been scarce. Some expressions of this include: Redemption Hill in Richmond, Branch Life Church in Birmingham, and Evergreen in Portland. Another encouraging expression of this includes Christ Presbyterian Church where several families sold their suburban homes to move their families into inner-city Nashville to live among those they are loving and serving through a school of the arts.
- Taking it to the streets – Some have moved the church or made other radical changes. Rodney Calfee converted the children’s area of the The Downtown Church into a halfway house. Seeing people from the suburbs coming into the city for church, he realized that the population segments of downtown were not being reached with the gospel. With radical changes attendance plummeted, but God began to do amazing things in transforming lives. Matthew’s Table is an experience in community in Lebanon, TN. They meet in a coffee shop, and in homes, and wherever else along the way as they live as the church among their community.
- Sending Churches – Churches are sending people out in teams to the nations to be a blessing to communities and to seek to plant churches there. One church, LifePoint, is preparing to send multiple units comprising two teams to two different continents.
- Acoustic church – Caleb Crider with The Upstream Collective presents the “sound system rule” where a church moves toward either an attractional or missional model. Acoustic church could refer to what some call simple, organic, or house churches as well as some larger gatherings which are currently happening in other countries where Church Planting Movments (CPM) are underway. This is church with both a little more and a lot less. Some additions may include food, increased emphasis on prayer, relational discipling while also taking out lots of bells and whistles. Acoustic church is not for the glory or material enrichment of man. For some it serves as a place for the burned as well as the burned-out to have fellowship with believers. For others, however, it is a missional force. Exciting things are in the works here as a number of mega, multi-site, well-known churches are saying enough of our satellite or campus additions. Enough of us reaching a small segment of our city. Let’s go out to where the lost are and be the church among them. This is the church participating in the “sending of God.” Thanks to Neil Cole and Church Multiplication Associates for being one of the leaders in this for some time already.
- Ethnic awareness – Across the U.S. there are churches being planted for people groups from languages and countries including hispanics, Asians, Muslims, Europeans, etc. Additionally, church for skaters, surfers, cowboys, and others are encouraging. When this can coexist in one group of believers it is encouraging as well. Kudos to Mosaic and others that follow their lead.
It does not follow. I have only been back in the U.S. for a few months after living overseas for some time. Coming back there are a number of things that I continue to scratch my head about and try to reconcile how emphasis in these areas is consistent with the sending of God–Missio Dei. Aware of how prone church in some parts of the world is to take its cues from U.S. church, I feel it is important that the U.S. church at least be aware of these…. By way of disclaimer, I am not writing that each of the below items are bad things. However, I am writing….
Here are five things that may not serve as expressions of the “sending of God.” While the list these come from is longer, I thought it wise to pause here for the time being. And yes, the sequitur will follow. (smile)
- Naming of a church and the marketing mix – I am amazed to see several individuals, organizations, and churches spending so much energy and money seeking to determine what is the best name for a church. Is it marketable? Is it clever? How will the community receive the name? Does it appeal to our target audience? What logo can we design around it? What should our (corporate) colors be? While “a good name is more desirable than great riches,” I’m not entirely certain this Proverb refers to the church. Is the church name to be: 1) descriptive of the sending of God; 2) a tool to bring people to God; or 3) nomenclature of the people that are being sent out that bear the image of God?
- Style of worship – This seems to be one of the biggest debates over the past several years. Really I think the debate is about issues much bigger than just the style of music. I also think it is about bigger issues than the style of preaching. But is the debate as important as we have made it? How does this music or that music / this preaching or that preaching correspond to the sending of God? What place of preeminence should this topic hold in “as you go make disciples?”
- Buildings and campus(es) – As a pseudo-foreigner, the message I am receiving is: a (church) building is good; a campus is better; multiple campuses are the best. Does this follow with the sending of God? I’m not saying, I’m just saying. I do see an outlier effect here, but that is for another post on another day.
- Sermons for sale – Really? If that were to happen then I would think it would be time to be thinking about a Great Commission resurgence.
- Numbers – Is the staff office covered with numbers or names of those the staff is pleading for? If staff are hired or fired based on their output of numbers, what do we do with proven servants of God? Are we craving efficiency or an anointing? Would a church today hire Jeremiah?
According to research (chart below and here), the U.S. is increasing in spirituality while religion wanes. This study and others like it are not consistent with the views of several contemporary atheists such as Harvard chaplain Greg Epstein. A USA Today article–Atheism 3.0 finds a little more room for religion–shares this trend.
How are we to reconcile that religion is increasing while religion is decreasing? While there are several possible explanations, I will offer one that I feel is plausible–besides the possibility that this iteration of an atheist view is just starting to be published and may have impact in future numbers. (The following is a hypothesis based on anecdotal experience, not research.)
Spirituality involving thoughts and ideas associated with God are increasing. This is evident in the increase in the number of “spiritual” shows and movies as well as research results. Also increasing are acts of kindness commonly referred to as social action, but this does not appear to be included in research. An increase in social action is evident by the increase in socially active organizations and ideas ranging from clean water for third-world countries, human trafficking awareness, micro loans, etc. When researchers ask most U.S. respondents about religion, I suspect that respondents are expressing their opinion or experience on consistent religious activities whether it be a Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, Islam, or other expression of ritualized church attendance. When this is an expression of anything–be it faith or process–that does not include action–making a positive difference in people’s lives–it is rejected as hollow by a growing number of people. The religion atheists are embracing according to the article is that of doing good and being good citizens. Epstein states that: “When our goal [as atheists] is erasing religion, rather than embracing human beings, we all lose.”
I would propose that future research include questions about belief in God or someone higher than ourselves; the importance of doing good for others; and frequency attending a religious ceremony. Both the research and the article point to a post-Christian reality. Both also point to the need for followers of Christ to incarnationally live out their faith in deeds.
According to data results released with an article–“How Spiritual Are We?“–from Parade Magazine this past weekend, the U.S. population has a strong belief in God, but we are not a religious people. Whether measured by “How important is religion in your life?” or “How often do you attend religious services?” the answer comes out roughly at some 30% or less. While there are many ways the information could be interpreted, this is taking the position that for those that have religion as the most important thing in their life or that attend religious services once or more times a week as being “religious” people.
Belief in God remains high, but the post-Christian surge continues as 38% are less religious than their parents. This move toward a post-Christian society reflects societies that are further along in this move in Australia and Europe according to other results and anecdotal observations (more on this in future posts).
Another key finding is the 71% that do not hold that their religion is exclusive or “closest to the truth.” Once again, signaling a post-Christian U.S. culture, this also is indicative of the relativistic, post-modern aspects of society. With the majority (59%) saying that all religions are equal in validity, it appears that most people in the U.S. would adhere to the tenet that all roads lead to heaven or some other place or state of being or some other closely held non-conviction or some other conviction that is loosely held…. (smile)
Parade Magazine does not provide information on gender, age, socio-economic status, ethnicity, etc. regarding survey respondents. Based on distribution methods for the magazine, I would venture a guess that the data results reflect a high number of middle to upper-middle income level families with more females completing the surveys than males. If this assumption is correct, then it is a reasonable guess that these numbers are possibly skewed toward a more religious sub-set of society than the whole of U.S. culture. My expectation would be that a broader group of respondents may cause the number of those that are religious to drop as well as those that are more religious than their parents, although belief in God would, I am willing to guess, remain constant.
There have been a number of interesting studies and articles lately that I think are helpful for the church to be aware of–and possibly a little bit more. A little bit more what?, you may ask. That, my friend, is a very good question. I’m glad you asked. I am even more interested in your thoughts. Here we go….
One piece of great interest deals with the increase of the “Nones.” Many interesting things here. One is that, “in terms of Belonging (self-identification) 1 in 6 Americans is presently of No Religion, while in terms of Belief and Behavior the ratio is higher around 1 in 4.” If I am reading this correctly, more people belong to some religious group than believe and behave differently. Experientially, this does not surprise me. That people recognize and communicate this fact IS surprising for me. A second point of interest for me on this report in a quick overview is that, “most Nones are 1st generation – only 32% of “current” Nones report they were None at age 12.” This seems to indicate a generational shift in belief and practice in the U.S. This is not surprising, but corroborates the ever-increasing post-Christian U.S. reality. It is both coming and it is here. This piece was twittered about a good deal and blogged on several sites including Ed Stetzer’s.
Another piece that is important for discussion but did not receive the same amount of attention is an article entitled: “Religious life won’t be the same after downturn.” The future will impact the outcome on this point. Though I am not a prophet nor am I making a prediction, I do feel that serious inflationary pressures in the future have the strong possibility to combine with very high unemployment at present (pushing 10% nationally and much higher in some states / counties), unseen foreclosure rates that still have upward pressure, and historically high credit card defaults, etc. to make things more difficult in the U.S. in general and for the church in particular. Notes payable on buildings have had serious consequences for some churches already and will bring about greater pressure for others. Even for churches that are not struggling with paying off a building, strains could be felt if economic and inflationary pressures continue to cause job losses and utility costs rise. It is possible that churches without debt could struggle just to pay the electric bill and payroll.
When the two issues above are combined, the challenges for the church increase, especially if inflation and employment concerns bear out. If so, the ramifications for U.S. church may require a shift(s) in paradigm and praxis.
One other note is that I will be at Catalyst this next week. Wednesday night I am looking forward to participating in a meetup for bloggers organized by Brad Ruggles. If you are around, I’d be happy to meet you. Drop me a note.