The coming evangelical collapse?

10 03 2009

Monday was a big news day re the status of the church in North America – here’s what went down:

arisreport20081) The ARIS survey results title American Religious Identification Survey 2008 was widely reported. The full report is available here.

barnagroup

2) The Barna Group released results of a recent survey titled Changes in Worldview Among Christians over the Past 13 Years – it was not widely reported. A printable version of the findings is here – the key nugget: “less than one-half of one percent of adults in the Mosaic generation – i.e., those aged 18 to 23 – have a biblical worldview, compared to about one out of every nine older adults.”

csm3) But to top it all off the Christian Science Monitor published a very provocative article titled The Coming Evangelical Collapse (print edition to be available later in the week). If you are already uncomfortable from reading other posts on this blog you may want to skip this one (as if the title wasn’t warning enough). But for those who want to read the author’s thoughts in greater detail check out the unabridged version – a three part series posted the end of January 2009 here, here and here (or a printable version of all 3 available here).





Missional leadership

26 01 2009

missionalleader

Alan Roxburgh is leading a series of webinars that coordinate with his book The Missional Leader.  The book is an excellent resource providing some very practical guidance for leaders in post-Christendom.  Christianity Today reviewed the book shortly after it was published in 2006.  The following comments are from that review: 

“The book first describes this new term ‘missional.’ Leaders no longer view themselves as heads of a hierarchy, and church members no longer look only to the “professional” Christians to get the job done of reaching and caring for their communities. Missional leaders are more interested in cultivating community than controlling outcomes through programs and buildings. Such congregations are beginning to breathe in the same air and dream incredible dreams because they are learning to allow God’s Word and his Spirit to lead them rather than agendas, budgets, and traditions. People who would never have dreamed of taking leadership roles are discovering purpose in the community of believers.

“Essentially, in this model, the leader is a facilitator skilled at bringing out the deeper issues among the community. Rather than providing solutions, he asks good questions and embraces, rather than resolves, tension. The missional leader seeks to cultivate the congregation’s imaginative power rather than attempting to shape it into a pre-determined form.

“…For all its idealism, The Missional Leader paints a realistic picture at least of what life could look like among churches willing to enter the chaos and make lasting change little by little.”

Early last year Chad Hall illustrated how The Missional Leader was “playing out” in several churches in a Leadership Journal article (pdf available here).  

webinars_350x225The webinars Alan Roxburgh is hosting are available here.  The next one is scheduled for February 16.  The first webinar was recorded and recently made available to the participants – I’ve posted it below (the Powerpoint can be accessed and printed from here):





The end of Christendom – a good thing

12 01 2009

barnagroup

 

 

 

George Barna posted today the results of his latest research regarding the state of Christianity in America.  He titled his findings “Christianity Is No Longer Americans’ Default Faith” – summarizing his findings that “half of all adults now contend that Christianity is just one of many options that Americans choose from and that a huge majority of adults pick and choose what they believe rather than adopt a church or denomination’s slate of beliefs.”  Here are some of the insights Barna draws from the research:

  • “The Christian faith is less of a life perspective that challenges the supremacy of individualism as it is a faith being defined through individualism.
  • … Americans are embracing an unpredictable and contradictory body of beliefs… Millions also contend that they will experience eternal salvation because they confessed their sins and accepted Christ as their savior, but also believe that a person can do enough good works to earn eternal salvation.
  • In the past, when most people determined their theological and moral points of view, the alternatives from which they chose were exclusively of Christian options… Today, Americans are more likely to pit a variety of non-Christian options against various Christian-based views. This has resulted in an abundance of unique worldviews based on personal combinations of theology drawn from a smattering of world religions…
  • Faith, of whatever variety, is increasingly viral rather than pedagogical. With people spending less time reading the Bible, and becoming less engaged in activities that deepen their biblical literacy, faith views are more often adopted on the basis of dialogue, self-reflection, and observation than teaching.”

Barna’s survey results are no surprise but serve to underline our present reality that we need to be living in this culture as missionaries – not pharisees. 

theendofchristendom

Christendom has been waining in the west for several decades but the church has been slow to see it – and even slower to process the implications.  One exception to that is Malcolm Muggeridge who gave a series of popular lectures on the subject at the University of Waterloo (Ontario) in 1978 (published in 1980 in a book titled The End of Christendom).   Muggeridge’s perspective was that Christendom is not compatible with Christianity and, as such, the end of Christendom will allow for the church to triumph.  He saw the twentieth century as a parallel to what St. Augustine encountered when faced with the collapse of Rome: the inevitable transience of historical civilizations in contrast to which the eternity that comes to light through Christianity shines out all the more clearly, as he envisions anew Augustine’s distinction between the ephemeral City of Man and the everlasting City of God.





Apologetics in post-modernity

1 01 2009

One of the statements made by Andy Stanley at the Catalyst Conference this fall keeps ringing in my head: “If you are over 45 years old, you aren’t going to have any good ideas. It’s your job to recognize the good ideas.” I take a statement like this as a challenge not another nail in the coffin for those of us in this age group. The challenge is to not submit to the comfort of just “doing church” but to press forward – learn new things and engage in new ways.

Well, Andy Stanley’s statement rang again today when I read a series of questions that John H. Armstrong used in a graudate class in apologetics he taught last month at Wheaton College. I think these are the type of questions that can really help us move toward engagement – they provide a good map about what we need to be learning and applying. John Armstrong credits these questions to Newbigin’s book Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt and Certainty in Christian Discipleship:

1. What are the questions that the postmodern person asks that were not asked 25 years ago?

2. What specific influence does Hinduism have upon the “new-age” movement in the West?

3. How can we speak about apologetics in a way that makes it accessible to ordinary people?

4. How do we approach the issue of evil with unbelievers?

5. Does conservative and fundamentalist Christianity actually pose a major problem for serious apologetics in today’s world and if so how do we deal with this problem?

6. Do Marxism and radical Islam have anything in common and if so how do we address these problems?

7. How do we respond to the “So What?” responses of many postmodern hearers?

8. Does our commitment to seeking justice and mercy in society act as a form of apologetics and if so how can we do this better?

9. How do we change every sphere of society?

10. In what ways is the Christian faith “public truth” as Newbigin cogently argues?

11. Is the community of Christ our greatest apologetic and if so what does unity and John 17 have to do with this in actual practice?





Missing the point

9 11 2008

“The point is.. all the effort to fix the church misses the point. You can build the perfect church-and they still won’t come. People are not looking for a great church… The age in which institutional religion holds appeal is passing away.

“Church leaders seem unable to grasp this simple implication of the new world-people outside the church think church is for church people, not for them.”

-Reggie McNeal





Fishing in Christendom

13 10 2008





Karios

29 09 2008

 
Karios is a Greek word that means “when all things come together” and the identifier for a network of neighborhood churches in the Los Angeles area.  Their web page is worth a visit to get a flavor for what this new church is all about. They are part of Great Commission Ministries, an affiliation of missional churches – many of which serve university campuses (including a new church plant at FSU). Yes, this is cutting edge but not without solid backing (with guys like Rick Warren, Howard Hendricks, John Maxwell and Luder Whitlock on their Council of Reference).

In particular I thought their vision statement was well written and provides an excellent example of what a church in our post-Christendom culture should be about: 

As a community we are
          gathering a variety of wounded people together
                    crying out to our Creator
                              “breathe new life into us.”
                                        so we can see broken communities…
                              becoming communities of faith
                    bringing the reality of God’s reign
          neighborhood by neighborhood