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.
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.