Friday, July 22, 2011

The Nature of the Church in the 21st Century

Oh.  Wait.  This one's
the Nature of the Church in the 25th Century
As my fading denomination wrassles with ways to become relevant and revitalized, things look a bit on the grim side.  We continue to bleed out members faster than a hemophiliac with a bad case of Ebola.  Our fellowship seems unable to do much more than fight amongst itself, that is, when it's not engaged in long, hard-hitting meetings about the soteriological ramifications of the carpet in the narthex.

What?  You don't know what a narthex is?  You know, come to think of it, I'm not quite sure either.  I think it's next to the thorax, right in between the carburetor and the uvula.

So to get past this, we've done what Presbyterians always do.  We've commissioned a task force to do a study.  Yay!  More study!  Oh, how we loves us some study.

From that task force a series of questions have arisen, to which the task force has invited input and response.   They aren't bad questions to be asking, and while I have no expectation that my inputs will have any impact on the dialogue, it's still worth pitching out there.  So, here are the questions, and some preliminary answers.

1)  What is your vision for the church in the 21st century?  Hmmm.  A tough one, and with complex nuances grounded in the significant sociocultural dynamics of a globalized economy and the shifts in ethos driven by new media.  

I'd say...um...let me think...Jesus?

2)  What characteristics will draw the great diversity (racial ethnic, age, gender, etc.) of our country into our community of faith in the 21st century?  Wow.  Another tough one.  Let me think on this for a moment.  Taking into account the underlying demographic shifts from the most recent census data, I'd have to say that the preponderance of research points to the answer being Jesus.

3)  What do you think are the highest priorities and challenges for the church in the 21st century?  Clearly, this is more than one question.  A substantive answer requires us to parse out priorities, which relate first to vision conceptualized generatively and as a radically normative lens.  Second, we approach  challenges, which require us to assess those extrinsic and intrinsic factors that will force us to reconsider the central operating paradigms of our ecclesiology.  

For priorities, clearly, it's Jesus.  And for challenges?  Well, gosh and golly, look, it's Jesus again.

4)  What unique voice to we, as Presbyterians in the Reformed tradition, bring regarding vital ministry in churches and society?  As Presbyterians in the Reformed tradition, I think what our unique voice has to offer is clearly יֵשׁוּעַ, although I think we also have to include Ἰησοῦς in any comprehensive answer.  

5)  How do we move the church past division in theology, evangelism and mission to work towards unity in Christ?    As you may have ascertained, just like the 15 Minutes Of Fame Rent-is-Too-Damn-High Guy, I've got pretty much one answer to any question on this topic.  

Once again, how? You said it.  Jesus.

What?  A cop-out, you opine?  Just pitching out sophomoric substanceless Sunday School silliness, you say?

Alrighty then.  Let's unpack each question one at a time.  A blog series it is.  Follow the links on each of the questions, and let's get it done.

2 comments:

  1. I sense some frustration. ....

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  2. Amen. Of course, then the question becomes, "Which Jesus?" I believe McLaren identifies 7 different Jesuses in Generous Orthodoxy. Then there are these synthesized, hypothetical Jesuses like the "wandering Cynic philosopher" of the Jesus Seminar. Call me an old-fashioned Barthian, but I will always go with "Jesus Christ, as he is attested in holy Scripture." Perhaps if we took a holistic both/and approach and just reflected on our attempts to follow Jesus, that would help. But you're absolutely right that the church is as usual asking dumb, obsolete, institutional questions when it ought to be encouraging us to follow... Jesus.

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