Emergent thinker Tony Jones wrote in The New Christians, “In the 20th century, it’s not God who’s dead. It’s the church. Or at least conventional forms of church.”
Jones’ new book is one of the resources that I have to read for an upcoming class this fall on missional evangelism. I don’t know where I stand on the whole Emergent movement. I am not ready to castigate postmodernism like many fundamentalists. But at the same time I do believe that some things are too sacred to toy with just so that we can be relevant. I don’t always trust new things. And I find something comforting about ancient traditions, practices and theology.
What I do know is that Jones hit on an important point. I agree that conventional forms of doing church are suffering a disconnect with both God and people. I don’t know if denominations and institutional Christianity is dead. But it certainly is in flux.
Let’s be clear here. Jones is not saying that The Church is dead. No that would be brash even for him. The Church belongs to Jesus. And He is eternal life. It will never die. The Church extends beyond the building and even the people. It is the body of Christ throughout the world. It is the most powerful force on the planet because its life comes from Jesus. But that doesn’t mean that our ways of doing church and being the church reflect God’s intent. Sometimes we got it right for a while but stray from God’s best. There are times and seasons in history. Things change, and our methods and practices may need to change with it.
Here are some questions that I will seek to answer over the next semester as I wrestle with how best to do church and be The Church.
1.) Is institutional Christianity dead? What can churches do to respond to the current angst and disconnect that has taken place for many Christians?
2.) How does the church process through the tug-of-war between liberal and conservatives interests?
3.) Is it the methods or the theology that need to be rescued?
4.) Why are so many people leaving institutional churches for home churches or small groups? Will this trend change as some people become disillusioned by these new expressions of faith?
5.) Is the real problem church or something deep within us? Maybe our expectations are off? Maybe our abandonment to God needs work.