Monday, September 21, 2009

The Future of the Church: Small is Beautiful

In our fast-paced, size-obsessed Western culture a healthy church tends to be equated with a church that has many, many members. I have come to question that kind of thinking. I understand what Luke reports in Acts 2:41 - "So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls" - Is this however the emphasis of the passage? Is this the measure of the health of a church? Rather, doesn't the next part of the passage give us better criterion for the healthy church?

Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. [Acts 2:43-47]

Rather than pure numbers, the healthy church is concerned about character - a character reflected in the embodiment of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, it would seem that the concern of the human members of the church described in Acts was to draw closer to Christ in worship and service. This was the work of the Spirit in each member's life. Numbers was the "Lords" concern, not theirs. What 'role' do numbers play then? If Luke mentions numbers, there must be a reason; even if they are not the central concern...

Here is a possible answer: numbers represent the fulfilling of need. The organization that is "increasing" in numbers is fulfilling a need; the organization that is decreasing, is missing the need. This 'need' can be filled in a holy fashion, or in an unholy fashion, resulting in either increase or decrease. In some churches, numbers can increase due to personality-driven leadership, entertainment-oriented ministries and comfort-focused facilities. The focus of this church is not Christ then, but self - yet the numbers increase - because the easiest thing for any organization to do is to appease the self. So numbers can't be the sole indicator of church health. The measure has to be something else.

Rather than numbers, the key to church health would seem to be 'character transformation'. Do the persons who make the church have transformed character? Together, do these people exhibit a community character that could be described as "like Jesus"? The addition of 'numbers' then becomes the responsibility of the Lord (Acts 2:47). The joy of the church then must come from the presence of the Spirit in the transformed character of the people of God. The Western - and particularly the American - church must change its understanding of the function of numbers and the reason the church exists. Indeed, the most satisfied self is ultimately not the comfort-driven self, but the self-in-Jesus.

Small, then, can be beautiful. A church whose members seek self-transformation in Jesus find 'solace' not in creature comfort, but in the cross. Church health then is reflected in a luminous character, imbued by the Spirit in the image of Christ. This luminosity draws hurting people in - some stay and are transformed, and yet some do not stay, finding the cost to self to be too high. Yet growth is present, first in character, then in presence. The healthy church will go through cycles of numerical growth and decline, but will always have a tremendous sense of character in the Spirit due to the abundant presence of love.

In the future, the church will focus on character transformation. The congregations of believers will vary in size, but due to outside pressures, will most likely be small. Rather than focusing on large rolls and big budgets, the church of the future will be smaller, more mobile and will be enclaves of the character of Jesus. Traditional or contemporary, believer or seeker sensitive, emerging or cowboy - those facets will not matter to the church in the future. The question will be - how do you embody Jesus?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Future of the Church: Now

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:43-47)

So what about the church now? What about the church tomorrow? What about the church in our life time? It is easy to project out an apocalyptic scenario that is far beyond our immediate experience. But where do we go from here?

Here and now is the heterogenous church. There are many expressions of the body of Christ; as many expressions as there are people types it would seem - particularly in the individual oriented West. Indeed many of our churches are 'personality' driven! The reformation of culture we are undergoing, however, is obviously influencing seismic shifts in our church cultures. The postmodern emphasis on community, as well as individuality; the demand that music and ministries be "relevant" and the increasing drive to be "missional" all contribute to this cultural shift. Nevertheless, there are many churches and communities that are not experiencing the postmodern influence to the degree that most are. These churches recall a time when the church seemed much more homogenous and long for the day when that homogeneity can be recovered. But that is simply not our reality.

In the West, the church is - not, will be - but is, fragmented. Despite the common assumption that the church is being a positive influence for change in culture - and it is to a degree - today, it is probably at its most ineffective and self-absorbed. Its focus tends towards the myopic or nearsighted and thus becoming less and less effective: it problematically focuses on worship preferences, service issues, denominational loyalties and doctrinal boundaries. As the church has grown over the years and become a popular 'spiritual outlet' on the whole it has lost its focus on spiritual transformation. Interestingly, these types of problems cropped up almost immediately in the early church. Paul's epistles to the Corinthians, the Ephesians and to Timothy are good examples of apostolic "fire control." Paul was right: until Christ returns, believers live in a sin-stained world, where the tension between following Christ and following self is excruciating. If this has been a problem since the church's inception, why the fuss now? Good question. In my opinion, due to the fragmenting of the church in North America today, we have an opportunity to recover a much more genuine understanding of what it means to be the church, the body of Christ.

As I read the passage from the book of Acts quoted above, I do not discern similar emphases in the earliest expression of the church. I am particularly drawn to the phrases "Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe" and "sincerity of heart" - There is an obvious focus on Spiritual transformation and the character of Christ. In our heterogenous church environment, we do not have to seek uniformity, but can communally seek the character of Christ. The homogeneity we can find is not to be found in the externals then - worship styles, minutiae of doctrine or denominational loyalty, but rather in an embrace and embodiment of the character of Christ not only as individuals, but as communities of faith.

This means a focus on biblical discipleship, spiritual transformation and prayer-filled worship that transcends any one style. It means a "turn towards the other" in love. If our churches will allow this shift to occur, Christ will use us to transform our world in the here and now.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Future of the Church: The Form

For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Romans 12:4-5

What is the architecture of the church? In other words what should a church look like? What should a church look like in the future? We agree that the church, as in its current state is floundering, struggling for its life. It has forgotten that it is the ecclesia - "the called out ones." We agree that the church needs to refocus on its "life in the Trinity" and primarily recoup an understanding of the Spirit's work in its midst. Indeed, cooperation with the Spirit is crucial! But then what will this living and breathing organization 'look' like?

At some point in its 2000 plus year existence, the church became identified with the structure in which it met. Like a temple or synagogue, it had a sanctuary, an atrium and like the early Roman house churches a water source for baptisms. Within several hundred years, the church building took on a particular form and by the sixteenth century Reformation had found its ideal architectural style. In contemporary America, most people know a "church building" - it can be white or usually brick, a raised roof, stained glass lining the sanctuary and a steeple of some sort. Any one of these or a combination of these elements are indicative of the church building with or without a sign. But is this the church? According to our preliminary studies, the answer would have to be no.

Well, here are some preliminary thoughts:

1) The church is the community of believers, drawn out of the world (ekkaleo), by the Spirit, in Christ, to participate in the program of the Trinity.

We are a community of people, readily identifiable by our character in the Spirit, constantly pointing to Christ as our source and the Father as our glory.

2) The church looks and acts, like a "body."

Paul consistently referred to the church as the "body" of Christ. See Romans 12 especially.

3) The church functions as priest to the world.

The closest any other Biblical writer comes to Paul's vision of the church as "body" is Peter, in 1 Peter 2:5 - "you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."

We stand as witnesses to a lost and dying world of the absolute love of God and point to the salvation that is to be found in Him alone.

With those thoughts in mind....

4) In the future, buildings will be irrelevant. Indeed for many churches in North America, function already trumps form.

This will be hard in a transitional age. There are many in North America who have so closely identified church with building that the shift in understanding will bring bewilderment, resentment and even anger. See the "emerging church" on this polarization. Nevertheless, as the church recovers its identity as the Body of Christ, an increasing focus will be given to mission and radical discipleship. The idea of catechetical instruction will return.

5) In an increasingly secular and antagonistic culture, the places where the church meets will increasingly focus on functionality - as staging points for ministry.

Locations of where the church meets, might even shift on a regular basis due to the emphasis on functionality and the possibility of antagonistic response by the secular community. This is already the case in third world, socialist or Islamic countries.

The signs of liturgy and sacramental beauty - such as bright brass crosses and communion vessels, stained glass and carved wooden symbols of our faith - will become portable and even hidden. The main form of worship will return to prayer and gentle singing. (See Ephesians 5:19)

6) The church will become a movement.

Different denominational expressions of the church in the community will dissolve. Much of the membership will be lost to secularization while a few will reform as the movement of Christ. The Holy Priesthood, the Living Stones, the Body of Christ will go about doing the miraculous work and ministry of Christ with no permanent place of worship; they simply will utilize what they have on hand to affect worship and make disciples.

7) The church will be anonymous. There will be but one name: Christ.

No more first, second and third churches. No more this street and this avenue churches. No more consumer based church shopping and hopping. No more church splits. No more personality driven ministries. There will be but one body, one Spirit and one baptism. The members of the body will exercise their Spiritual gifts in the name of Christ to the glory of the Father.


In an era where the institutional church has forgotten who she is, a younger generation of Christians is working over time to recapture the roots of the Christian faith. Especially in Protestant Baptist life, where we are so focused on Scripture and the revivalist tradition. This younger generation has finally said, "enough!" to the constant bickering over buildings and the nuances of biblical authority. They see it for what it is, the quest for power and division by the enemy. So the institutional church has given them no choice if they want to find the roots of their faith: start over. And they are. They are going to different denominational or non-denominational faith expressions. They are returning to the Roman church. They are forming house churches.

Although the church is fragmenting now, in my life time we will still have church buildings, traditions and beautiful stained glass. There will still be believers who love the liturgy and the beauty of where they worship. They will love the organ, the praise band and the Christian music stations. We will spend time in Christian bookstores and watch Christian movies. Nevertheless, we must prepare for the future and refocus our lives as the Body of Christ and invest ourselves in the concerns of our Savior.

Food for thought my friends.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Future of the Church: The Spirit, pt. 2

"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you."
John 14:16-17

"The Spirit itself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God."
Romans 8:16

As Christians, we worship the God that is Father, Son and Spirit - or better, Son, Spirit and Father - for our first tangible experience of the Trinity is the Son in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the "word made flesh", who is the absolute revelation of God the Trinity on the earth. It is when God condescends to humankind in the form and substance of man that He can be perceived by our fallen senses. But even the truth of this experience is mediated to us by the Holy Spirit, for it is the Holy Spirit that affirms to our hearts and minds the reality of God the Son. This is how the truth of this reality is communicated to us after 2000 years of history: the Spirit.

When Jesus responds to Judas (the Son of James) in John 14:23, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him" - He is stating the reality of all Christians.

When we accept the truth and sacrifice of Jesus into our fallen lives (initiated by the grace which emanates from the Trinity itself!), the Spirit takes up residence and continues the process of transformation. Indeed, as Jesus states, the Spirit is the very presence of both Son and Father in our lives. Individually, the presence of the Spirit gives us hope, joy and peace. It gently corrects us and nudges us in the direction of wisdom. It points us constantly to Jesus, His Word and thus his guidance. But it is this same Spirit that is working in all believer's lives and not for the purpose of simply making us feel better as individuals! The Spirit's work in us as individuals serves a greater goal. The Spirit has a mission...

The Spirit is drawing us into community as the Body of Christ, where each of us functions in the power of the Spirit together, for God's glory. In most of the passages where Jesus or Paul refers to the Spirit's work in 'you', it is most often not referring to the first person singular 'you' but the second person plural: all of you. The Spirit is making the 'each' into an 'all' - bringing the solitary individual into a community of love. There is no place for pride, preference or pugilism in this body! The truly effective Saints in the Kingdom of God - the Body of Christ - today, constantly deflect praise for his or her work. They continually credit God and those around them for the marvels in which they participate. It is the working of the Spirit he or she says, and "I give God the glory"...

If the heartbeat of the Church is Christ Jesus, then the life blood that beats through its veins is the Holy Spirit, providing energy and nutrients to the rest of the body. If the Christ is the head of the church, then the Holy Spirit is found in the electrical impulses that move from the head to the rest of the body, guiding its movements as the head directs. What happens then if the body has no blood and the soul "loses its nerve"? Death.

Without a healthy, balanced - and thus orthodox - view of the Holy Spirit as mediated through scripture; the local, institutional church is in great danger of dying a slow, painful death. There is little love, no power and constant struggle. Most Western churches, suffering from poor theology, selfish concerns and even an unregenerate membership, settle into a death process which lasts one to fifty years.

The church that preaches Jesus, must live Jesus. In order to live Jesus, they must allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through their lives. When the Holy Spirit works in and through their lives, the world changes around them. A church that "proclaims the Word" better live the "Word" - the proof is in the fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) or it will find judgment as the last word.

The Spirit is the key to church - not programs, not music, not architecture, not Bible translation, not parking lots, not even espresso machines! The Spirit pushes the church beyond concern for form to function, beyond the concern of individuals to the Body of Christ.

A friend of mine shared that she was placing the subheading, "Living in the Spirit" as a description for Romans 12 in her Bible. I agree. What happens if the every member of the Body of Christ took "living in the Spirit" seriously? What if every member of the Body of Christ stopped placing their own individualistic interests at the forefront of their lives and allowed the Spirit to shape his or her role in the greater Body for God's glory?

I don't know, but I want to find out - for here lies the future of the church...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Future of the Church: The Spirit, pt. 1

In recent posts I have been reflecting upon the historic trajectory of the Western church in order to provide a context from which to ascertain its future. A friend of mine from Stroud, in the United Kingdom, reminded me of the seminal fact that the church exists as the Body of Christ in and through the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit. This fact has not escaped me, I just wasn't there yet!

In this short post, let me simply make this assertion, which will be explored further in later posts:

The future viability of the church in Western culture depends upon the willingness of the Body of Christ to allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through them.

The Spirit poured the grace of God into our lives that we might believe. The Spirit called us out of the world and into the Church, giving us gifts and responsibilities. The Spirit reveals the glory of God in worship. The church prays in the name of Jesus to the glory of the Father in the power of the Spirit. Yet, phrased in the negative, if the people who assemble together and call themselves "Christians" refuse to embrace the actual presence of God in the Spirit, then the future is bleak. This assumption arises from several premises:

1) The New Testament clearly gives witness to the Holy Spirit as the power of life in the Church. Jesus, Paul, James, Peter and John clearly maintain that the Body of Christ is founded upon the empowering presence of the Spirit and to attempt to operate as the Body of Christ outside the Spirit is to be in the flesh.

(John 14-16; Rom. 8, 1 Cor. 12, Gal. 5 (among others); Hebrews 6; James 4:5; 1 Peter 1)

2) In Western Protestant theology, the doctrine of, or teaching on, the Holy Spirit frequently has been relegated to secondary status. By secondary status I mean either practically ignored or theologically "gerrymandered" to the point of irrelevance. This marginalizing of the doctrine not only defrauds a thoroughly Trinitarian faith, but also renders the church practically powerless and prone to painful death. For the church to live outside of the power of the Spirit is akin to a human being unintentionally suffocating themselves to death because they do not believe they need to breathe air to live.

3) Without the Spirit, the word ceases to be the dynamic life-giving rule of faith, and becomes cold hard law. Without the Spirit, love ceases to be the identifying character of the church. Without the Spirit, the worship of the Body of Christ turns into a rote recitation of songs, choruses, creeds and formulas, thus ceasing to be a glory giving tribute to the Living God. Without the Spirit, the supernatural, miraculous witness God intended for the church degenerates into a mealy moralism, which attracts no one and repels almost everyone.

Thus, it would seem that to be the church, its members must love Jesus. To love Jesus, believers must allow the Spirit of God to work in and through them - constantly - to God's glory. Please note: this is not to promote the individualistic interpretation of the Spirit that so plagues much of the charismatic church today. Yes, the Spirit works in us as individuals, but always for the purpose of drawing us into community, where the Spirit of Christ will do even greater things.


Friday, September 4, 2009

In the world, yet not of the world...

World: from the Greek, kosmos; "adornment"

The New Testament is filled with directives and admonitions about the "world." In general, the concept refers to the ever-changing, sin-stained, yet unavoidable human culture. As human beings, we live on the earth, but in a particular culture. "Culture" is the sum total of the relationships, the signs, symbols and the practices that define our existence and enable us to give some sort of meaning to our lives. To live in a culture is part of living; it is unavoidable.

Nevertheless, Jesus, Paul, Peter, James and John all assert that there is a tension present in culture. As followers of Christ, we dwell in a particular culture, but are not of that culture. In other words, although I reside in a culture that could be described as "Western", quasi-rural, religious and technologically-influenced, that culture is not my primary identifier. As a follower of Christ, the culture that defines me is the "Body of Christ" - or the culture that is marked by the symbols, story and practice of the people filled by the Holy Spirit and gathered as the "church". John 17:11-21 is the defining scriptural passage for this understanding:

I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.

But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

From this passage, it is clear that Jesus sees a two-culture citizenship: a culture that defines us (God's Culture) and the culture to which we are sent as transforming agents ("the world"). But as the rest of the New Testament writers firmly assert, we cannot be defined by "the world" nor can we allow its value system to become our own.


So what does this mean for the future of the church? Well, several things:

The church, as the Body of Christ is always in, but not of, a particular culture.

The church will always be located in a particular culture, always. The particular culture may be rural, urban, suburban, country, white collar, blue collar, Western, hip-hop, jazz, Bible-belt, Deep South, Southwest, West Coast, East Coast, New England, Midwest or any other number of geographic, musical, economic or political identifiers. Nevertheless, we can't escape our context as the church.

The church is not to adopt the values of a particular culture.

Nevertheless, as Christians, the culture that identifies us, that gives our lives meaning is God's culture with its signs, symbols, practices norms and values. Christians love God and affirm that our economic means originates and returns to God. Christians love one another. We abhor killing and war, attempting to avoid it if at all possible. We cultivate the fruits of the Spirit as personal character (Gal. 5:23) and pursue God's mission of reconciliation as our vocation (Matt. 28:19-20). Do these cultural signs, symbols and practices identify you?

On the other hand, every world culture has different value systems that determine the priorities of the culture. For example, in the United States, our economic and political systems tend to be the value defining systems. Are you a democrat or a republican? Are you wealthy, middle income or impoverished? Do you work at a skilled trade? Are you a 'professional'? Are you a 'scholar' or are you an unskilled laborer? These are labels and to some degree even Christians are identified by them at some superficial level.

Yet in a culture that exalts work, 'play' is exalted as well. All cultures have some concept of leisure, but in a capitalist economy, leisure and its pursuits are exalted as the "end of work." So we spend the money we earn on vacations, extreme adventures, retirement, and other ultimately 'self-gratifying' activities. Leisure is not a "sin", but an exaltation of leisure as the goal of our humanness is. On a micro level, this exaltation of leisure can become absolute self-gratification, which can be manifest in unlimited sexual pursuit, substance abuse and economic greed with its exploitation. These "world" values are precisely the values and excesses that Christians avoid.

The church must always seek to communicate to the culture in which it is embedded.

Jesus stated that we (the church) are in the world so that they (the world) may believe that Jesus is Savior. It is important then that we reject the values of the world and its focus on the unregenerate self. That rejection in and of itself is a witness to a dying world system and points to where human beings can find life eternal. Yet although we reject the values of the world, there are certain methods and instruments in the world which the church must adopt if it is to communicate to that world.

I am drawing a distinction then between world values and world methods/instruments. Values are laden with meaning. Indeed, a value is a definer of meaning. Methods/instruments derive their meaning from that which you invest in them. For example, a hammer has a positive meaning when it is used to construct or dismantle a house or other construction project. A hammer however has a negative meaning when it is used to break into a house or facilitate some other act deemed harmful to life and person.

The church throughout its history has adopted different methods in order to fulfill its divine commission. Over two millennia, the music used to enhance worship, the architecture of its facilities and the form of its proclamation (not content!) have changed with culture. This is not because the values of the world have taken priority over the values of the church, but because the church has adapted the methods available in the world and infused them with God's values. The prime scriptural example of this sort of usage is Paul's sermon on Mars Hill in Acts 17:22ff. At no time did Paul desire or attempt to adopt the world's values, he did not hesitate however to take the tools available to him in the world and use them for God's purposes.

The future of the church will be determined - at least partially - by its ability to be in, but not of, the world. The old, modernistic methods are quickly becoming irrelevant in a world that is changing exponentially. Just as the polyester leisure suit of the 1970s has found its way to the back rack of the second hand clothing store and is no longer worn, so are different aspects of the church's methods of being God's messenger in culture. The days of programmatic evangelism, the exclusivity of the pipe organ in worship and formal wear on Sundays are in serious decline if not practically gone. Relational evangelism, the guitar and casual wear are quickly becoming staples of the church today. This is neither good or bad. It is simply the body of Christ trying to find its way in an ever changing world.

I appreciate your comments, concerns and corrections as I continue to define my thought.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pondering the Future of the Church

This week I offered to make a presentation at our local Baptist Network's annual meeting on the topic, "The Future of the Church." It seems a bit presumptuous of me, I know, to think that I - or anyone else for that matter - can offer an assessment of the future of the church! Yet I did just that and primarily because church health, church decline and student choices have been foremost on my mind lately. So in the next few entries, I want to reflect on this issue, in part to justify my reasons for making this attempt and also simply to clarify my thinking.

The future of the church.

In the nineteenth century, John Nelson Darby, among others, generated a mindset among Protestant believers that increased an expectation of the immanent return of Christ. This expectation was fanned into a brush fire as culture became increasingly antagonistic to the institutional church and its doctrinal positions. As culture in the West became more secular in orientation through the twentieth century, preachers, theologians and general church membership began to "prepare for the rapture" and neglect the weightier aspects of the church's mission of evangelism and justice. But this very emotional expectation could not be readily maintained after the turn of the millennium as it became obvious that Jesus' return, though immanent, did not progress according to our human calendar.

Thus, the church in the West began a process of introspection and reformation that continues to this day. The older mindset of immanent departure is slowly giving way to a younger mindset focused on an authentic Trinitarian experience and service to the causes of justice, love and peacemaking. This transition has created a "tempest in a teapot" for the institutional church in the West - who now views the future with great skepticism and even pessimism.

The future of the church.

The future of "the" church really isn't in doubt. The church of Jesus Christ, the Bride of Christ, the Body of Christ will exist into eternity as such until Christ returns. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 / Revelation 19-21). The church will exist because it is the body of Christ and as such, has a task on earth to engage and complete. This is the testimony of faith and history. The question is, "In what form will the church exist?"

The future of the church.

Modern Christians in the West (America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, etc) became complacent in the institutional Church. In the last 40 years, biblical and theological literacy declined tremendously as technology increased and as the modern trust in science as savior became increasingly commonplace. The Puritan and Pietist zeal found in the early years of the Reformation was in full retreat in the face of the modern scientific onslaught. The only "fire" to be found in the Western Church was found in the Pentecostal movements as birthed initially in the Azusa street revivals of the early twentieth century. This temporary fire was "bleed over" from the Great Awakenings of the 18th century, but slowed tremendously when the millennial fervor over the immanent return of Jesus waned. In the aftermath of the crisis the institutional church faced in the 1960s and 70s, the church in the West became a "seeking" or an "emerging" church. Disillusioned by the theological failures and liturgical irrelevance of the modern, institutional church, Christians in Western culture began trying to resuscitate or even create more viable models of the church based upon scripture and tradition. Thus, the "non-denominational" church, the "seeker-sensitive" church, the "purpose-driven" church and the "emerging" church burst upon the scene. Nevertheless, a great - though aging - remnant of the modern institutional church remains entrenched in its beliefs and practices. And so the Church in the West, particularly the English speaking West, is mired in transition and marked by conflict as it tries to figure out who and what it is. There are no easy answers.

Yet, as contemporary Christians learn to navigate tempest of postmodern culture, and, become biblically and theologically informed; then the church will emerge again as the living body of Christ. As the living Body of Christ, the church is people - indwelled by the Spirit, focused on Christ and giving glory to the Father. We are drawn together by the Spirit to join in the mission of Christ in this world. How that will look.... well, is yet to be determined.

We will continue again next time in this trajectory.

Let me know what you think!

Grace and peace...