Some Thoughts On Being Post-Congregational


I don’t have time to piece together a coherent train of thought between these random links, but these are some of the things I’m pondering right now as it pertains to being “post-church”/”post-congregational”:

Dear Disillusioned Generation
“Obviously it is essential that we as Christians intentionally build relationships with nonbelievers in pubs and laundromats, because that is where they are. But that isn’t church. Church is much more complex than ‘worshiping and sharing Jesus.'”
Is it really? If so, how? Why? Or have we just made it more complex (too complex) in our modern/corporate/institutional way of doing things?

“I’m unclear on how one can create a ‘permanent fixture in society’ and not create an institution.”
Perhaps the “permanent fixture” is a presence that is felt but is not organized and institutionalized as the church has become over the last 100 years. Church history goes back 2,000 years mind you. This institutional form that’s been the popular project for the last several decades isn’t the end-all and be-all, is it?

“I’m not sure it’s possible to sustain real-life faith without institutions.”
Sure, we all need institutions along the way, to serve and support us at various junctures. But perhaps we have uncritically embraced the corporate model for our Christian expression, and as a result have created a country club style church where some people feel welcome and safe and others are left on the outside—and choose to stay on the outside, because, frankly, what’s going on inside the church is mostly irrelevant to many people’s lives Monday-Saturday.

ME church
I find it ironic that this video was produced by the Watermark Church that Tony Jones mentions briefly in his book The New Christians (mostly chiding them for having a trademarked name, i.e. “how corporate can you get?”). Is post-congregational Christianity just about “me”/”what I want out of church”/”fitting into my schedule”/”serving my needs”? That seems to be one possible implication of this video, but I think that’s pretty far off from the missional motivation behind most post-congregational Christians decision to leave institutional Christianity behind. If anything, this video is a telling reminder of the kind of guilt games that institutional churches play to make you feel like you have to show up to a big box church on a Sunday morning to “really do church” (sigh):

(HT: Route 5:9)

Reaching the Post-Congregational Christian
My friend Stephen Shields blogged about this whole “post-congregational” thing back in October 2007, and I just discovered it via Google tonight. He quotes Reggie McNeal in “The Present Future” about the statistics of “churchless” Christians worldwide being around 112 million or about 5% of all adherents. Most of these are going to be in the global south where they haven’t adopted western culture and formed into western-style churches, thus the moniker (based on a western mindset of what constitutes “a church”), but certainly in amongst those ranks (and those are good ranks to be among, IMHO) are those of us “post-congregational” folks who are not a part of any local congregation by choice (privilege?).

I posted this comment on Stephen’s piece: “You know I love ya, but … 😉 I feel like I have to confess … that I am a post-congregational Christian. And I think your overview makes a mistake in mixing post-church (or, I prefer the term post-congregational) Christians with those who are de-churched non-Christians (those who have grown up in Christianity but have rejected it later in life for whatever reason).

“Although your overview here (which I just found ironically by doing a Google search on ‘post-congregational’) makes it sound as if all post-congregational Christians are ‘lost souls,’ I am finding that the opposite is in fact true. Those I know who are choosing the route of post-congregationalism (if that’s even a word) are doing so out of a missional motivation to intentionally be the Church outside of traditional church structures in order to be salt and light amongst a largely de-churched world. Lots more to talk about there, which I’d love to do with you sometime. When are you coming to Charlotte again? ;-)”

The Shema Movement
Dubbed “The Campaign to End Consumer Christianity,” The Shema Movement is an interesting player in this whole post-congregational space (to use really corporate language). It kind of strikes me as the “Invisible Children” approach to post-congregationalism, which is to say: very edgy, very hip, very cool. Mind you, I’m not against “cool,” but it is ironic when the goal is to “end consumer Christianity” that one would create and promote a consumable product (a slick, well-designed campaign with a promotional tour, social network, etc.). But, hey, on the flip side, I really appreciate the resolution they have put forward—it really captures a lot of what I think the “post-congregational” (missional) spirit is with which many of us are moving out from the safe, traditional church structures.



Posted on 04-21-2008


  1. dave says:

    April 22nd, 2008 at 12:53 am

    Hey Steve,

    This is about the fifth time I’ve started writing this comment, as I’m also having some difficulty with putting together a cohesive train of thought. I guess it all boils down to the fact that I don’t have much to add, but I’m interested in this “post-congregational” idea and hope you’ll post more on the topic. My conservative Baptist background cringes at the idea of letting go of what I was raised to believe was “church” (isn’t doing so supposedly some sort of sign of a great end-times apostasy…or something? I’m pretty sure there was a Sunday school flannelgraph about that), but at the same time, we’re struggling with being churchgoers, and I know other people who are going through the same thing. And I don’t think it’s because we Gen Xers want church to fit around our schedules and preferences so that we have a more enjoyable time consuming it.

    So yeah, do keep posting.

  2. Fernando’s Desk » Blog Archive » Is It Possible To Be A Post-Congregational Baptist? says:

    April 22nd, 2008 at 7:52 am

    […] So, it was engaging to read Steve’s “Some Thoughts On Being Post-Congregational” this week. In particular, these thoughts leap out, “Those I know who are choosing the route of post-congregationalism (if that’s even a word) are doing so out of a missional motivation to intentionally be the Church outside of traditional church structures in order to be salt and light amongst a largely de-churched world.” […]

  3. stephen shields says:

    April 22nd, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    thanks for your comments! I respondedon my original post .

  4. “On Being Post-Congregational” « Post-Congregational Christianity says:

    April 23rd, 2008 at 10:52 am

    […] April 23, 2008 in post-congregational Steve Knight has put together an interesting blog post that you might enjoy reading.   […]

  5. Todd Wold says:

    April 23rd, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    Spot on with that first article. Just Spot on.
    Why is it so hard for some to grasp that WE ARE the church–no matter how we express faith and community.
    The church is people, not places.
    The author needs to do more research, to say the least.

    Re: The MeChurch video and the Trademarked church. It’s amazing to me that megachurches don’t recognize the fruit of their labor–the consumeristic audiences that fill their pews (or theater seats). Like a video can reverse years of marketing messages designed to sell church to seekers? All I can say is, you get what you pay for: customers. What you win them with, you win them too.
    I gotta get Tony’s new book–just for that trademark discussion alone. Interesting that Watermark doesn’t use a TM or SM on their mark (I looked at their web site). They may lose their precious mark if they don’t, based on my experience with trademark legalities. Maybe they don’t want to have to explain it to everyone. Maybe that’s why they should rethink it.

    Anyways, hello and God bless.

  6. Steve K. says:

    April 24th, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    Thanks for all the feedback and link love, ya’ll!

  7. jimmy spencer says:

    May 4th, 2008 at 3:21 am

    I appreciate the interest in what we do. It is odd when people look into our work and find us “slick and well designed..” We do try to do our best work in presenting ourselves…although thats not the sole driving force behind our hearts…to look cool. We are just as “post congregational” as anyone else I guess. We dont have a very monastic or cloistered vibe…we are very regular joe, mainstream oriented.

    The Shema Movement empowers small unvalidated groups of Kingdom workers across the country and connects them to each other. We help resource health insurance and business services for the leaders of these groups–whatever we can do to support Kingdom workers. We empower local neighborhood communities to find needs– meet needs–and we try to support/catalyze those meeting the local needs. We are very decentralized.

    We do sponsor a Campaign as a way of opening a conversation up. We find community is a result of people working for the same cause. Community is a result of working together. People dont work together simply because they belong to the same community [ie institution]

    Our cause is to help Christians to re-orient their lives from a Consumptive mid-set [where the church revolves around meeting their needs] towards a Viral mind-set [where they set down their agendas and spread the love of Jesus] Our focus has little to do with structure…we don’t argue about structure..we focus on purpose.

    We’re just doing our part…at least you find us interesting! If the worst thing somebody has to say about us is that we have a slick and well designed website…well it is a pretty positive day….haha. Especially since I do all the website work myself.

    We are very interested in tangibly supporting and catalyzing emergent cohorts and helping all from The Kingdom work together –and since The Shema Movement is free…we have little to gain except the exctement of hustling for The KIngdom of God.

    see you around the way…

  8. matt says:

    May 13th, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    not sure what you’re implying in your comments about the video. i really hope the sarcasm was not lost on you. surely not. while i’ve not read tony’s book I find it hard to believe anyone can walk away from looking into watermark’s values and come out thinking we’re me-centered or even “corporate”…whatever that means. as for the name, our founding families contacted the Nockels and received their blessing in using it…so again, I’m at a loss.

    what are the talking points behind jones’ remarks?

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