According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Theology & Church After Google 2/6

http://homebrewedchristianity.com/2011/04/19/theology-the-church-after-google/

by Tripp Fuller
Apr 19th, 2011

Church in the Google Age, or “Toto, We’re Not in Kansas Anymore”

Perhaps a few questions will help to evoke the sea change that we face today:
• Why is it that most Americans today don’t walk down to their neighborhood church on Sunday mornings for worship, Sunday school, and a church potluck?
• Although many Christians believe that “everything must change”5 why is it that the institutions and those who lead them don’t seem to recognize the enormous changes that are already upon us?
• Do we really inhabit two different worlds: those who text, twitter, blog, and get 80% of our information from the Internet, and those who are “not comfortable” with the new social media and technologies?
• Could we today be facing a change in how human society is organized [re “social networking”] that is as revolutionary in its implications as was the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg over 500 years ago?
• If we are, what does all this have to do with theology and the church?
Of course, churches will still exist in the year 2030 (and hopefully long afterwards). But we must not assume that they will look much like church practices from 1955-1995. I assume that Christians will still gather for worship, teaching, and community; that the Scriptures will still be read; that the sacraments will be celebrated. But what church means in practice has always been deeply affected by its age and culture. When these change, so too must the church. Everyone acknowledges that we are living in a time of revolutionary transformation. So shouldn’t we expect that the church is in for some radical changes?

Consider this comparison. On the eastern seaboard in the 17th and 18th centuries, and in the expansion of a young nation westward toward the Pacific Ocean, churches played very specific social functions. They weren’t only the center of religious life, the place where one came to be baptized, married, and buried (“hatched, matched, and dispatched”)… and everything in between. They were also the heart and soul of the community—the center of social, communal, political, and even economic life. There was simply no other game in town. The church stood for the moral values of the community, “what made America great.” When you see the white steeples in a New England town, or when you drive through Midwest towns with a church on every corner, you realize how central a social institution the church once was.

But things have changed. For today’s generation, churches no longer play most of these social functions. We are now a massively pluralistic society living in an increasingly globalized world. Every major world religion is represented among United States citizens. This transformation has massive implications for ecclesiology. Take, for example, the question of authority. In the frontier town, the Southern city, or the New England village there was the authority of the law and the government. Many people were not very educated, so they did not read much, and there was no radio or TV. The pastor of the church was not only the moral and spiritual authority—the representative of the only true religion and its obviously true scriptures—but also probably the most educated person in town. He (almost certainly it was a he) spoke with authority on a wide variety of issues that were important to the society of his day.

Contrast that world with today’s situation. Rarely are pastors approached as figures of authority, except (sometimes!) within their own congregations. Radio, television, and the Internet are our primary authorities for the information we need, with newspapers, advertisements, and movies coming in a close second. For many American Christians, Beliefnet.com (“Your Trusted Source for Free Daily Inspiration & Faith”) is a bigger authority on matters of Christian belief and practice than any pastor. We love self-help books, so we are more likely to read Spirituality for Dummies than to go to a group Bible study. Forty years ago people were influenced in their judgments about religious matters not only by their pastor but also by the editorials in the religion section of their local newspaper. Today the blogs one chooses to follow are far more likely to influence her beliefs.

Where’s the Revolution?

I am almost embarrassed to list these differences, because they are so obvious. But here’s the amazing fact: Denominations aren’t changing. In most cases they’re not planning for and investing in new forms of church for this brave new world. (There are some great exceptions.)

This is not a matter of blame. The assignment of the administrators who head up denominations is to run the organization that they’ve been given. I once heard a major national leader say (prophetically) to a group of similar leaders something like, “We all know that the ship is in grave danger, and it may go down. But we all seem to have the attitude, ‘Not on my watch!’”

 
Denominations aren’t changing. In most cases they’re not planning for and investing in new forms of church for this brave new world.
Pastors have a bit more latitude. Individual pastors and churches are doing amazing things across the U.S. (and outside it); so are para-church and extra-church groups, organizations, and ministries. But in most cases, it’s the denominations that determine how pastors are educated, what kinds of ministries they can engage in, and what kinds of church assignments they get. The training and formation of most pastors takes place in seminary, and seminaries are increasingly out of step with the 21st century world. (As a seminary professor, I get to see this up close and personal.)

Imagine that a pastor has the good fortune to depart seminary with her idealism intact. She’s then likely to be assigned to a traditional church that has virtually no youth or younger families present, an average age of 60, and a major budget crisis on its hands. Her orders are, “Keep this church alive!” The church members like the old hymns and liturgies; they don’t like tattoos, rock music, or electronics. They are about as likely to read and respond to blogs as I am to play in the Super Bowl. So the young pastor folds her idealism away in a closet and struggles to offer the traditional ministry that churches want.

In short: The majority of our resources continue to be flung at traditional church structures. [But] those doing the real revolutionary work, those trying to envision—and incarnate—the church of the future struggle [continue] on with the barest of resources.

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Endnotes:

5 Brian D. McLaren, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007).


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