The Ideas Issue

The Ideas Issue … of Church Executive

[The editor’s page in the October 2010 issue of Church Executive shared a few “ideas” or intellectual trends that are, for better or worse, shaping American faith today. Here is the complete listing of all those who shared their ideas.]

The Proposition:

The Atlantic magazine (July/August) has a feature on “The Ideas Issue … with the 14 3/4 most powerful ideas of the year.”

Now it seemed to me that that Ideas Issue was a good idea in itself–especially if we related it to religion and faith and values.

The Atlantic’s writers, for example, listed such major ideas of the year as:

> The triumph of free speech (#10)

> The Catholic Church is finished (#9)

> Information wants to be paid for (#7)

> The kids aren’t all right (#6), and #1:

> The end of men; how women are taking control–of everything

Well, you get the idea. If you looked at religion/faith/values/the church…what “ideas” would you propose that are on the edge, gutsy, and outside the box? Here are the rules in making your suggestions:

1.    They have to be stated in no more than 8 words.

2.    You can explain them, but don’t get too involved.

3.    Give your name, because we want to identify the person (but nothing else).

4.    Should be about (to paraphrase The Atlantic) intellectual trends that, for better or worse, are most shaping American faith right now.

The Responses:

1. Religion Inhibits Vertical and Horizontal Relationships

Man-made religious doctrine (what we wear, how we praise, what day we worship on) obscures the truth of Jesus Christ, thus inhibiting believers from enjoying a whole, complete – that is, vertical – relationship with God. And because the vertical relationship is skewed, there is nothing upon which to base effective – that is, horizontal – relationship with our neighbor. To use the analogy of an old television set, when the vertical and horizontal alignment are incorrect, the overall picture is distorted. Proper alignment of the two forms the image of the Cross of Calvary.

[Derrick Day]

2. The “emergent church” didn’t

Emerging and “emergent” churches have either become just a latest wave of neo-orthodoxy rejecting the bible’s authority, or very much like effective attractional churches with a strong commitment to social issues. But what growing church isn’t engaging the needs of the poor and their local community? It’s differentiation without distinction. We did get some new voices writing about what the church should be, but for all the type and hysteria, there was no “new way” to do church here.

[Dave Patchin]

3. My religion is not the only way

I think this idea, which the vast majority of Americans, and a majority even of evangelical Protestants, now hold, is tremendously influential in American religious culture. On the plus side, it makes people more tolerant—even appreciative—of religions other than our own. On the negative side, it makes people care less about passing their faith on to their children. High levels of religious belief and practice mean something different when religious people do not think they are the only ones on the road to salvation.

[Mark Chaves]

4. Deaf Parents Raise Blind Children

The basic idea is that a generation of parents who were raised to know right from wrong, but turned a deaf ear to it, have now raised a generation of children who are morally blind. I could also have a subtitle: “Ministering in a handicapped culture” but I think that would offend too many.

[Craig Irwin]

5. The rise of the entrepreneurial leader

“Leadership” in the church is being redefined. Pastoral leadership will continue to take its rightful place in the forefront, but the wise leader will increase her leadership by releasing others to lead. While the previous sentence is “lead” heavy, it is important to the health and vitality of the church that leaders in the body be expanded exponentially, growing themselves as well as duplicating themselves. There is a growing and healthy tension as believers understand their calling and seek to live it out, not only in the church but through the church. The wise pastoral leader will not only welcome this, but do everything possible to encourage it.

The energizing of the church “beyond the walls” – Across the country it seems as if a revival of service is taking place. In churches large and small, in urban and rural areas alike, the people of God are discovering the ministry of service in unique and practical ways. And through it all, the love of God is being offered to people who desperately need it. What’s the deal? Here’s my take on what’s happening: We typically think of the church as the “gathered” collection of believers in a place and time: usually on Sunday mornings. Powerful worship and illuminating study of the Word of God takes place. Then the church goes home. One week later, repeat. On and on, happily oblivious to the desperate needs outside the church walls. It’s almost as if we live separate lives. Now take another look – the “scattered” church is awakening to the power of God lived out in member’s daily lives. People are realizing that they are called to be the hands and feet of Christ, ministering and serving others as they live out their daily lives.

Redefining “church” – The institution of the church is dying; the organism of the body of Christ is awakening from a long sleep. Somewhere in the past, with all good intention, we slowly created the institution of the church and became more concerned with the maintenance of the status quo instead of the mission of God. That is changing rapidly and none too soon. People in the church building are beginning to realize that they are the church, and are doing something about it.

Rediscovering the Divine Model – There are certainly many areas of my belief system that rest on faith, and one of the most prominent has to be the knowledge that Jesus Christ was both the Son of God and a man just like me.  When I try to rationalize that and think it through, I always end up puzzled. But when I believe it on faith, I begin to grasp a new appreciation for who Christ is, what He experienced in life on earth, and what that means for us. Nothing we encounter is beyond His comprehension; nothing we do is new ground for Him. Knowing that should give us comfort – we serve a God who has gone before us, marking the path as a guide, and encouraging us to follow Him. Understanding that “His word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path” should give us courage as we embark on being His hands and feet to our world. He has not only been there before, He walks with us in Spirit and in Word.

[Bob Adams]

6. Rise in “salad bar” theology (people pick and choose whatever they like)

Resurgence of church planting, now more plants than closures annually.

“Glocal” approach to missions, both global and local

Multisite churches become so common as to be a new normal

Missional and externally focused churches legitimize community transformation

Church mergers on rise as stronger churches adapt struggling churches

Increase in number of intentional multi-ethnic churches

[Warren Bird]

7. God wins, even if the USA doesn’t. (Sometimes we Americans get caught up in the notion that we are God’s favorite nation and that his “Plan A” has to involve us.)

Satan’s current stratagem is widespread despair and discouragement

Jesus remains the answer … for everything

Real men love Jesus

[Tim Beltz]

8. Materialism undermining the impact of the church

[Rick Dunham]

9. Leverage church facilities for community service or sell

Gone are the days when the church can “sit on” money (or debt) in a campus. Use it or lose it.

[Mark Tuggle]

10. Global At-Scale Great Commandment Great Commission Goals

[John and Sylvia Ronsvalle]

11. Who’s kingdom is it really? Or What kingdom are we building?

[Larry Knight]

12. Stop talking about ministry, start reaching people

Stop ministering to “us,” start ministering to “them”

Ask, do we have what others need?

[Pete Livingston]

13. The Commercial Church

Multisite Church – Old Building New Purpose

Enhancing the Word thru Technology

Coffee house and the House of God

[Tobey Van Wormer]

14. Hunger for doctrine grows – going deeper reaches people

The era of the single-site church is waning

The exodus from homogeneous churches to heterogeneous churches

Retiring Boomers – don’t treat them like seniors

[Sam S. Rainier III]

15. The end of the traditional pastor (move to spiritual gifts-based team)

Multi-tasking is here to stay (implications for analog teaching in a digital world)

[Kevin Kim]

16. Leadership: great or famous…pick great (seems like an awful lot of church leaders want ‘famous’ the most)

Church is not on most people’s radar screen (time for the church to both serve strongly/consistently outside our walls AND to lead as a force in the world, not a responder only)

People need to belong before they believe

[Nancy Ortberg]

17. The importation of an exported gospel – African Pentecostalism reshaping America

The US exported Pentecostalism to Africa. The returning product is Pentecostalism extreme, feeding the prosperity Gospel in the US.

[Ernie Castruita]

18. Leadership is Empowerment, not Control

[Ron Johnson]

19. The era of “Pastor as motivational speaker” is over

“Missions” needs to be re-defined in the digital age.

Who’s doing missions in the country of Facebook? (Pop. 500 million people)

Family succession is for Kings, not necessarily for ministry leaders

Time to drop the “Taking America back” thing. It was never ours to begin with.

The church’s obsession to be “relevant” is costing us our distinctiveness

[Phil Cooke]

20. “Being missional” isn’t as easy as it sounds

“Church” is people, not places

To reach the community means being in the community

[Chip Arn]

21. It’s not about money, but about provision

Greed is out, generosity is in

Companies/organizations may be our employers, but God is our true Provider

Scarcity is leading to clarity

[Brian Kluth]

22. Small is the new big

The fusion of intimacy and impact

[Dave Browning]

23. Religion is failing, including the Christian religion

[Steve McSwain]

24. The Church is regional; not just your congregation

The church must learn (and use) peer learning

Mega-churches – Mezzo-churches, Micro-churches

Are we getting back to disciple-making evangelism?

Prayer: A “so that” conversation

[Phil Miglioratti]

25. Spread the word: Christianity is relationship, NOT religion

[Bob Kelly]

26. Millennials favor community sized churches vs. mega-churches

Churches will give up their tax-exempt status

Churches build local communities through business enterprises

Social media replaces websites as the tool for communication and connection

Millennials form a new revolutionary movement by 2016

Economic collapse causes churches to bind together

Churches become the primary source for social services

[Rex Miller]

27. “Church Under Glass,” an examination of a one-time mega church

[Lawrence Wilkes]

28.  Christians Are Fair Game – Hate speech and discrimination are out—unless your target happens to be Bible-believing Christians.

Elimination of All Things Church – The growing trend toward eliminating all elements deemed ‘Christian’ from the public realm, under the guise of ‘separation of church and state’.

Mainline to No-Line – Mainline denominations continue to lurch toward social justice and contemporary relevance even as those in the pews continue to exit in droves.

Mega Church Mania – The trend in influence and affiliation with mega churches.

Christian Ignorance – Polls show those in our pews know less about the faith than ever before.  (Sources Barna and Pew)

Black & White to Green, Pink & Red – Traditional absolutes are being supplanted by a rise in green initiatives, gay rights and Marxist philosophies within the church.  What does it all mean?

[Mark Simmons]


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