Church As We Have Always Done It Will Find Increasingly Fewer Participants….

I thought a recent post on Tim Stevens’ Leading Smart blog was interesting – he quotes Ed Fenstermacher as follows:

Eddie Gibbs, in his book ChurchMorph, has identified at least five changes, or megatrends, as he calls them, happening in our culture at present.  They are the shifts from modernity to postmodernity, from the industrial age to the information age, from Christendom to post-Christendom, from production to consumerism, and from religious identity to spiritual exploration.  Books have been written on each of these.  The amazing aspect of them is that they are converging in our time, causing seismic shifts in our culture which require paradigm shifts in our thinking.  In this environment, “church as we have always done it” will find increasingly fewer participants.  Just as financial advisors are needing to modify basic principles they have used for years in this new economic scenario, so will those doing church development need to consider new ways to impact their mission fields.

In his original blog article Ed goes onto say:

Of course, the church will be slow to respond.  The classic bell curve used to show acceptance of innovation applies here.  Since the church is not feeling immediate drastic consequences of the cultural changes, most church folk, including leaders, will be glacial in accepting the need for change.  Ample evidence abounds indicating that even when change is clearly needed, change is very difficult to implement.

And his overall conclusion is interesting:

Missional churches do not necessarily revolve around real estate, buildings, and programs.  They often do not focus on staff driven ministries.  A criticism of many religious folks not reached by attractional methods is a view of traditional church where they feel too much money is spent on staff and buildings and not enough reaching out to those in need.  Missional is not a program to add to existing church.  It is not a category of ministry to add to other categories within the church.  Missional is an ethos which permeates every aspect of what church is, such that all ministries of the church are outward looking and more about the mission field than the existing congregation.  There is no simple threshold which determines if an existing church has arrived at being missional.  It is an ongoing process, sort of like going on to perfection.  However when a church is getting there they can tell the difference and celebrate the progress. 
Being missional is an additional challenge to congregational development.  Since finding new life, vitality and mission in existing churches is tough enough as it is, adding even more depth to the change required will not be easy.  Converting from the attractional model is another level of difficulty, but some churches are doing it.  Likewise most new starts have a strong sense of mission in their early days, but still do so within an attractional framework.  Doing church out there and having much of it stay out there requires a thorough paradigm shift.  To not do so will leave us with ever diminishing returns with the attractional model and a corresponding ongoing denominational decline.

Any thoughts, anyone?

Read the article on Leading Smart here.

Read Ed Fenstermacher’s original blog post here.

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