Sunday, January 28, 2007

Failure is Painful

Tonight, after a busy week of real life and hardly any blogging, comes more from the mind of Steve Hayner on the Missional church. Remember those old videos of the early days of flight. What a pathetic bunch of early flying machines were put together by those early pioneers.

Here are some thoughts about the way in which many of us "church folk" do things. We don't do it very well:

• So what do you do when a church that focuses on its “gatherings” begins to lose steam, and it isn’t attracting so many people anymore? You try to make the gatherings more attractive. You do a better job of marketing. You look out into the culture and find out what IS attracting people, and you adapt to that style.

• What do you do when you seem to be losing the “culture wars”? You revise your theology and make it more “acceptable” to the world. You plan more strategies. You spend more money. You figure out how to leverage whatever political power you can muster. You fill up more thermos jugs of grace to deliver to the world.

• What do you do when the church’s organization becomes cumbersome, or doesn’t seem to be effective anymore? You reorganize. You write a new mission statement. You form a strategic planning committee—and a whole series of other committees.

• What do you do when the hierarchy doesn’t seem to be leading very well anymore, and those willing to lead don’t seem to be as committed or talented? You expand the number of people in the bureaucracy; you complain that seminaries aren’t doing their job; and you write new curriculum for training the leadership.

All of these steps may be improvements. But it’s like trying to improve the rotary dial phone. In the end it’s still a rotary dial phone. The bottom line is this: This way of thinking about how to "do church better” hasn’t worked. The Church in the West is dying. Europe is now “post-Christian” and arguably the continent most closed to the Gospel. The Church in the U.S. has not grown (in percentage) in over 100 years. And many denominations (including our own) are falling precipitously. Of the 25 largest denominations in the U.S., the PC(USA) is now shrinking the fastest—both in absolute numbers and percentage.

Ouch! Sound familiar?

Thank you, Steve Hayner. Now, my questions are this: How do we do church better? How do we face the future recognizing at the same time our brokenness, as well as the gifts we can bring? How do we communicate the greatest mystery and most profound even in all of history?

What is next?
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