Monday, 21 May 2007

Getting From SUB to E or RE-emergent Church

I am the lead worshipper in this beautiful old church building. Most people say, "What a beautiful building!" when they come in. We also have terrific stained-glass windows.

We have a beautiful, historical building built according to a way of thinking which parallels that of The Church of England which bases a significant part of its identity on its physical presence in every community, and on a ‘come to us’ strategy. But as community becomes more complex, mere geographical presence is no longer a guarantee that we can connect. The reality is that mainstream culture no longer brings people to the church door. We can no longer assume that we can automatically reproduce ourselves, because the pool of people who regard church as relevant or important is decreasing with every generation. (Mission-shaped Church: 2004, Church House Publishing, p11)

Not only that, Mission-Shaped Church also points out that
Weekends, especially Sundays, are now seen as family time. This is a big tension for Christian partners of non-Christians. p2
Add to that the fact that increased divorce and single parent families,
very many families will be involved in visiting absent parents, usually fathers, often at the weekend. This will inevitably make Sunday church attendance problematic. p3
And
When they do have time, those who live away from their relatives, or who have children who live with ex-spouses, will visit them. People no longer view Sunday as special, or as ‘church time’. Children are much more likely to be playing sport than being in Sunday school or church. p4
Venues and meeting days are getting more diverse. This is a response to the sense that Sunday is no longer a ‘church’ day for our society, but rather a family day, or DIY day, or sports club day or whatever people choose to do. Some people may be keen to meet with other Christians regularly, but it is no longer feasible for them to do that regularly on a Sunday. p12
Since the seventeenth century more and more people have discovered,originally to their surprise, they could ignore God and the Church and yet be none the worse for it. (David Bosch, Believing in the Future, Continuum International Publishing Group/Trinity Press, 1995, p. 15.)
Magnets are useless at attracting non-ferrous objects, and many churches are not attractive to post-Christian people. p23
That people are not "wired" for church the way they used to be is no surprise. The percentage of children at Sunday School in England went from 55% to 4% in the 20th century. I don't think Canadian numbers would be very different.

So here we are in our beautiful, historic building built for the way worship was done a century ago. We look closed even when we're open. Our bell-tower is built like the keep of a castle designed to keep people out!

I think we need to re-invent ourselves in order to E- or RE-emerge from the structures of our past. But, I hasten to add, I don't think that necessarily means the historic building has to go. It is expensive to run, but there is a new post-modern interest in "vintage" worship and we have the perfect venue for that. We also have a terrific group of people. We need to get serious about praying for divine insight and more good ideas which will get what we have out into the community.