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):





Education for a new society

14 01 2009

“The church that educates for a new society will live out in its structures what it proclaims.  The very structures themselves educate.  When our acts mirror our words, they give to our words a transforming power.”

-Elizabeth O’Connor





Are we having a rummage sale?

2 01 2009

greatemergenceI’m so over the word “change” – I mean give it a rest – the Obama campaign has flat worn the word out.  Before tucking the word away, however, let me offer a couple observations: 1) Systemic cultural change was well in progress before Obama’s campaign – he simply picked a good wave to surf on; and 2) The level of change the Obama campaign talked about pales in comparison to what is actually going on in American cuture and the church (specifically the church in North America).

No one describes the current transformation of the church more comprehensively than Phyllis Tickle.  Her new book, The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why, provides a view from 50,000 feet of what we are experiencing in this time of liminality.  Her assessment is bold but based upon an historical analysis and whether her conclusions are correct will only be known years from now.  But if she is right we are priviledged to be living (participating?) in a very transformative period for the church.

So what is the book about – what is the “rummage sale” thing?   Check out this short video introduction:





Thinking logically about leadership

13 12 2008

Logical thinkers love linkages – and cause and effect linkages are particularly satisfying.  Of course not all cause and effects are cleanly linked so we often go with corollaries to allow for some slippage.  Much of this blog has focused on leadership and leaders but not much has been said about non-leaders (perhaps a bit elitist?).  Well here’s a post that includes the non-leaders – specifically how leaders effect non-leaders.

I recently read a paper titled Leadership in the New Testament (2007) by Len Hjalmarson, a DMin student at Trinity Western Seminary.  If you read this blog more than occasionally Len will be familiar to you – he has an excellent blog – nextreformation.com – that I read regularly and have quoted from on earlier posts. I was struck by a correlation he drew between practices of the modern church and the effect on believers in such churches.  As leaders we are often frustrated with why so few people serve in the local church – I think the corollary Len presents in his paper helps paint the cause and effect picture explaining that frustration:

The modern church generally is (“cause”):

  • Leader centered
  • Program driven
  • Dualistic
  • Isolationist
  • Consumer driven
  • Seeker sensitive
  • Information oriented
  • Attractional

As a result, believers in the modern church tend to be (“effect”):

  • Passive
  • Self-centered
  • Undisciplined
  • Individualistic
  • Un-Christ like

Staying with the logical framework one would conclude a different and more desirable “effect” could be achieved if the “cause” part of the equation adjusted.  Len states that the church needs to become:

  • De-centered
  • Leaderful
  • Formational
  • Covenanted community
  • Missionally engaged

To make these changes leaders need to embrace paradox, admit how little we know, and be prepared to grieve the loss of the old world along with the identity we personally invested in those places and ways.  To do this we need nothing less than divine intervention and conversion. We can’t merely graft a new theory of formation onto an old root; we need a new tree. We are dealing with believers that don’t even see the need for spiritual formation.

More specifically, leaders need to get better at:

  • Supporting self-organizing activities
  • Creating conditions rather than giving directions
  • Moving from an activist stance to a reflective stance
  • Focusing on conversations that lead to clarity of purpose
  • Creating a learning culture by encouraging continual questioning
  • Rewarding innovation
  • Facilitating connections
  • Calling people together often so that everyone gains clarity about who we are, who we’ve just become and who we are becoming (by doing this leaders don’t have to undertake the task of trying to hold it all together)




Fishing in Christendom

13 10 2008





Five things

13 10 2008

Andy Stanley closed the last session of the Catalyst Conference last week talking about stuff that he has on his mind. Tim Stevens summarized those five things on his blog Friday:

1) To reach people no one else is reaching, we have to do things no one else is doing (Craig Groeschel) – we have 175,000 people within 10 miles of Northpoint, and we aren’t reaching them. We aren’t going to reach them by building another church building. We have to do something no one else is doing.

  • Become preoccupied with those you want to reach rather than those you are trying to keep.

2) The best idea for reaching the next generation isn’t going to come from the existing generation, it’s going to come from the next generation.

  • 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.
  • Don’t do to the next generation what the previous generation did to you.
  • Be a student, not a critic.

3) I’m looking for what can’t be done in church, but if it could be done would fundamentally change the church.

  • It always used to drive me nuts that the communicator and the leader had to be the same thing.
  • Multi-site solved this. Now the great leader doesn’t have to be the teacher.
  • Like that, you may be the one to crack the code on something no one else has figured out that will fundamentally change our “business.”
  • Pay attention to people who are breaking the rules. It’s the rule-breakers who are oftentimes the problem solvers.

4) If we got kicked out by our board, and they hired a new guy, what would the new guy change or do different? Let’s walk out the door and walk back in, and make those changes.

  • The problem with ministry is that we’ve fallen in love with the way we’ve done ministry.
  • It’s not “no pain, no gain” — it’s “no pain, no change.” Without pain, there typically isn’t any change.
  • Ask: “Where are we manufacturing energy?” The things we aren’t very excited about, it takes energy to get it done, but the results aren’t stellar.
  • Acknowledge what’s not working. Own up to it. And own up to why you aren’t willing to do anything about it. What is it you fear? You need to deal with that. It is a leadership lid for you.

5) When your memories exceed your dreams, the end is near. You look back with smiles and lots to celebrate, but you don’t have a lot to work forward to.

  • Are you willing to be involved in the future more than the present?
  • Don’t let success overshadow your vision.
  • Success breeds complacency and complacency breeds failure.

Need ideas about what to do next?  …these sure are some great starting points.