For the week of July 10, 2006

An Either/Or World
By: Bill Easum
Numerous books have been written lately on the emerging church. Many of these books are excellent in their content and analysis of the culture. Three of these books stand out from the rest – The Shaping of Things to Come, Revolution, and The Organic Church. Each of these books shares a basic concept – the emerging culture will basically shun the institutional church. It is almost as if they are saying the shape of Christianity in the future will be monolithic. Talk about modernity speak! These books make it sound as if the future will be either or for the church. I don’t think so!

Each of these books has a valid position and holds some part of the truth regarding Christianity in the future. They are great books that you should read. But Christianity of the future will be far more diverse than the picture they seem to paint.

No one knows for sure what the church of the 21st century will look like. But I think it is safe to say that it will not be the bland, one-style-fits-all church of modernity.

I see a more post-postmodern picture. As such I see four major forms of church life. I see a growing number of islands of strength within the mainline denominations. I also see a growing number of what I call “marketplace” congregations. In addition I see the smaller emergent church that is ancient/future. Finally I see the continuation of the high commitment, disciple making, culturally indigenous, mega congregation.

If we have learned anything about whatever comes after modernity it is that it will not be the one-size-fits-all world in which most of us have grown up.

So I want to offer an alternative picture of the future.

The only reason society is shunning the institutional church is because, for the most part, it is spiritually dead. Spiritually alive churches, no matter what their form, or where they are planted, always grow. That is the nature of the beast. That is the kind of church God honors. That is what the church was put on earth to do – spread the Good News. When a church faithfully does that, it grows. Period.

If your church isn’t growing, don’t take offense. Instead ask yourself why? Does it spend the vast majority of its time figuring out and executing ways to spread the Good News? Does it understand that it exists for those who are not yet part of it? Does it pray daily for the spiritual and social redemption of the community? Does the pastor train people to articulate their faith? Is the majority of the time, energy, and money of the church spent on sharing the Good News? If not, its spiritually dead, no matter how well it takes care of its members. Unless, of course, it’s really a hospice or hospital.