Q&R: Church Futures?

Q&R: Church Futures? May 22, 2015

Here’s the Question:

From your perspective professionally and your position (of great privilege!) as a grandparent, will the followers of Jesus meet in a place called “church” when your grandchildren are grown? I’m sitting with how much time and effort is focused on (to) “keep” in the church….families, young people…and I really think it’s from an orientation towards self-preservation. I feel pretty solidly there is a need to prepare them to go! ‎I don’t know what that looks like to those of us who are still in the building.

Here’s My Response:

Thanks for your question. It’s especially encouraging to me because a key chapter in my upcoming book is devoted to this question.When I speak of Christian futures, I usually talk about 3 primary options:

A. Continuing decline – current trendlines continue
B. Conservative resurgence – a warrior fundamentalism predominates
C. Pregnancy – Christianity-as-it-is giving birth to Christianity-the-next-generation.

Then I say our job is not to predict which is most likely and prepare to adapt to it, but rather to determine which is most needed and dedicate our energies to making it so. In that spirit, I think the pregnancy option will both celebrate and affirm the value of our existing structures (buildings, denominations, agencies, etc.) and welcome innovative new structures. I think we will take your implied question – “How can we prepare people to go and live a regenerative life of love in our world in the Spirit of Christ?” – and make that the primary question … not “how can we keep people coming to our buildings or contributing to our budgets,” and not “how can we preserve the religious industrial complex we have created.”

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  • louismoreaugottschalk

    What stood out to me was ‘christian futures’ like it’s thing to invest in on the stock mkt. I think ‘don’t follow the money’; the future of faith belongs to the living god who is present in the sufferings of the marginals. I think our (i am a marginal) crisis now is moving us to prayers of desperate need & those prayers connect to that arc of justice that is falling closer then ever before to it’s earthly destination. I know to this second what recieving grace is and living in god’s presents is. I think when there is no safety net and one is powerless to influence outcomes the mysterious and intangible stirs its wings and launches itself into the future that makes all things new! I think what the marginals know & you can learn from us is that when you have suffered & have no agency you will find that god is the god of losers & nobodies.

  • I love that metaphor of Pregnancy — Christianity-as-it-is giving birth to Christianity-the-next-generation and I wholeheartedly agree with that. I pray that the Church goes where she is needed to go and not be taken over by some superstitious faction that is bent on dominance and control. Strange thing is, I recognize this has always been the call of the Church, to protect the oppressed, to feed the hungry, to heal the sick, to clothe the naked, to visit the imprisoned and to free those in bondage. I sincerely hope that our generation will do a better job at this than previous generations, but if I am to realize that (make it come to reality) then it starts with me. Thanks for that reminder pastor McLaren

    • louismoreaugottschalk

      yes! I think one is church wherever one goes. The mission for me, so far today, is to carry a message of hope & it seems to lately be working out to be a sphere of influence of the lord touching ppl w a presents of possibility of new things to open up, inspiration, creativity, healing & liberation fr past hurts & trauma.

  • Nixon is Lord

    Church is boring.

    • louismoreaugottschalk

      I hear ya! I don’t go to a building called ‘church’ cuz I don’t feel i’m wanted there; i’m poor, i’m old, I only have one eye so I look wierd and get patronized (which, BTW, feels like shunning), i’m fat. Churches in buildings have a lot of bills to pay & I can barely pay my own! No I am church wherever I go, whoever i’m w like rite now w you!

  • This strikes me as an important, albeit somewhat provocative post. In its current form, the “church” is flawed and ineffectual. Many feel what Gewaite expressed, that it’s boring. And, would that this were the gravest concern. The church is ruining faith. It is often unaccommodating to people who are human, with human doubts and human suffering. It is presumed that they must enter the building as either superhuman or inhuman–both of which are horribly oppressive and existentially disfiguring. Frank Viola has done some nice work in this area, in his “Re-Thinking” series, church being one of his prominent topics. Thanks Brian! Dale

  • Brian, We’ve (obviously) not met, but I am so heartened to “meet” you, so to speak! I just watched your very brief promo video for your forthcoming book. I couldn’t agree more with your premise re., essentially, the more we love Christ the more we should have love for all human beings! I’ve come to the place where I completely resonate with your premise in earnest, but I didn’t start here. I’ve long been a lover of the doctrines of grace and have been tied with the reformed part of the broader church. The more I fell in love with Christ and the goodness and mercy of the gospel, the more I began to blanch at incessant moralism and snarky spats over, for instance, how old the earth is or whether the church should be accepting of others who have non-traditional backgrounds and self-understandings. So, theologically, I swerved toward Luther, and that brings me to appreciate your entire premise! Thanks so much for your courage and your faith and your clarity. Respectfully, Dale

  • Nixon is Lord

    You’re whistling in the dark.