A lot of my interaction with students, pastors and church planters is over the issues of post-Christendom and the revolutionary change required of us who seek to engage those outside Christ with the gospel. It truly is stunning to recognize how things have changed in this country over the last fifty years. Over and over again I hear the stories of churches and the lament “all we’re doing is shuffling discontented believers from one form of church to another.” Or I hear “another mega church has moved into the area and emptied out three traditional local churches.” It’s post Christendom and we’re competing for customers.
For those who refuse to enter this ugly frey, we are left to plant churches and think about the Christian life in a different way. There simply are not a ready made group of people out there ready to join your church-plant in just a few months of your beginning (hallelujah). Salvations don’t just fall out of trees (read here for my case on this) and disciples take several years to grow. There are no simple techniques or boot camps. I’m ok with this. For indeed church planting now has to be life on life – sustainable over many years.
This is the situation of “when they will not come.” It is church planting, church pastoring and church life as it is after the “attractional” nature of the church has disappeared. Now all we have left is “us.”
Church in post-Christendom therefore is nothing less than a chosen way of life. It is choosing a way of being together. This way of being together encompasses how we worship, how we share and eat food, how we pool together resourses to help the poor, how we get together and hear Scriptures read and teach our children how to listen for God in that. Forgiveness, patience, care, speaking truth in love, is part of this way of being together. In this way of living, career and making money is more about taking care of one another and giving glory to God than personal aspiration. And God inhabits this way of being so that miracles, blessings, sustaining times in life and death become a part of everyday life. Mission becomes our rhythym.
When those outside of Christ will not come to our church services no matter how professional they might be, when they will not come to our special out reach events, when they will not come for Sunday school for their kids, or movie night or whatever other crazy fanagled way we dream up to get people into our church, then we must somehow rethink the orientation of just about everything we do in church. This would include worship, community and fellowship, discipleship, preaching (part of worship), children’s ministries, leadership, evangelism, justice and of course church-planting. From time to time then, on this blog, I’m going to post on all these subjects from the point of view of “when they will not come.” It’s a well worn subject I know. Yet I’d like to reflect on the ever expanding stories, theological perceptions and practical reflections I am gaining from walking through this process at Life on the Vine and in discussion with many other people. If you like- sign up for this blogs RSS feed. And I’ll tag any post in this series by starting out with the words “When They Will Not Come.” Hope you’ll be joining with me on this discussion!