Archive for January, 2008

The Fall of the Evangelical Nation

Posted in Book Review with tags , on January 18, 2008 by seguewm

I just finished reading, The Fall of the Evangelical Nation, by Christine Wicker (2008).  She exposes details that seldom see the light of day in the press.  All is not so rosey in ‘evangelical land’ as one might have been led to believe.  Like most organizations, the evangelicals have mastered the art of ‘spin’ – a clear American past-time these days.  What ever happened to the Christian value of transparency?

The book revealed some interesting stats. Eighty percent of Americans say they are Christian and 60 percent say they are church members – some place. Yet only 40% attended church in the last week. Further research shows that only 20% of Americans are really in church every week.

One would think, though, by what we read in the media, that evangelicals are growing by leaps and bounds and that they truly make up the majority of Christians in the USA – thus a powerful voting block. The truth is that they are only 7 percent of the population and not growing much – if at all. They simply talk a good talk. People come to check it out, but evangelical churches have a fast-spinning revolving door.

Additionally, the ranks of non-believing Americans is growing much faster than believers!

Though it is reported that nearly 6000 people leave church every day, 1000 of these people are evangelicals. More interesting is that few ever return to the church. Ninety four percent of High School graduates leave church within 2 years of their graduation.

Then there are these stats: (1) divorce and spousal abuse among those who claim to be born again is the same as among non-believers. (2) evangelicals lose their virginity on the average at age 16.3 years of age, while mainline protestants and Catholics average at age 16.7. (3) One out of 5 evangelical women have gotten an abortion.

While church attendance in down, it is now estimated that nearly a quarter of the American population meet in small groups of less than 20 people. For a large number of Americans this is ‘church’ for them. This reflects a growing trend away from a strong centralized authority and doctrine that is protected from queries.

Well, there is so much more in this book. I’ve just shared a few thoughts that struck me. It is a book well worth reading – and is a relatively quick read.

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Signs of Emergence

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , on January 8, 2008 by seguewm

signs-of-emergenceMany have observed that the church needs to change. But how? Kester Brewin posits that transformation can no longer persistently focus upon individual members, but upon a deconstruction of the entrenched corporate practices of the church. As in the time of Jesus, the organization of church is the obstacle. We’ve too long emulated the Old Testament model of ‘top-down’ management. God gave us a completely new way of church – an empowered ‘bottom-up’ paradigm.

 

Brewin suggests that the church is stuck in the Fowlerian ‘synthetic-conventional (faith stage 3), yet the gospel calls us to operate in ‘conjunctive’ stage 5 (the ’emergent church’?). Of course, the way to this fifth stage of faith necessitates a ‘dark night of the soul’ journey through stage 4 – ‘individualistic-reflection’.

 

The author suggests that the way to learn a ‘new corporate church dance’ first begins with ‘waiting’. This waiting time insists that we grieve our loss of God – though we have been busy in His name. True change cannot be forced, it must allow space to deconstruct what is and then time to re-imagine. The very way we approach change, must change. Thus, rather than effecting change by the time-proven ineffectiveness of ‘revolution’, we must cling to Spirit-created heart ‘evolution’.

 

Secondly, we must we must re-emerge – being born anew. Finding both hope and direction in the incarnation of Christ, the church must be totally, and courageously, birthed as helpless infants in ‘the codes, the language, the history and the life of that which it comes to serve’ and then allowed to evolve and adapt within it.

 

Thirdly, this emergent church must be empowered to manage itself with feedback coming from the bottom up – from the place of its existence – rather than from the offices of insulated leadership. Real life ‘springs up in the complex region between rigidity and disorder’ – at the edge of chaos. Thus the emergent church, the conjunctive church, will re-establish itself between rigid fundamentalism and anarchic liberty, as the body of Christ, rather than the ‘machine of Christ’.

 

The emergent church provides a framework for a risky existence that remains open to and dependent upon its environment, sensing it, quickly learning from it, responding to it, remembering what it has learned and then, in turn, more effectively capable of shaping it. This flexible, networked ‘open source’ change to our corporate way of being ‘church’ allows everyone to make a contribution that is valued and requires decentralized servant leadership.

 

The last three sections of Brewin’s book discuss the place of ‘city’, ‘gift giving’ and ‘dirt’. First, we need to take the time to get our hands ‘dirty, listening for and working with God in the city rather than retreating to the insulated safety of the suburbs. It is in the city where ‘wounds are carried, pain cannot be hidden, people have to face their prejudices, hatreds and fears’, and God presence is more evident. Second, we must reflect on whether our church practices are more of a commodity or a gift. Do we make room for all to give or do we merely encourage the majority to sit and appreciate the performance excellence of a select group of experts? Third, we need to re-evaluate our ‘dirt’ boundaries. Church is all about ‘dirt work’. The ‘cleansing’ aspect of church was not intended to leave us ‘purified to the point of powerless sterility’. Rather, the church must always serve as a refuge for ‘dirty’ people.

 

Much here for all of us to reflect upon.