[ This was originally posted on Felipe's blog .]
DESPITE the growing number of megachurches in America, the truth of the matter Is that Christianity is in decline in our culture. I've heard Alan Hirsch explain the phenomenon as one of reconfiguration due to a lack of understanding of the true nature and mission of the Church (with a big "C"). While it's clear That mainline Protestantism is in steep decline, I Believe That the megachurch model has its days numbered Also at its core lies Because an industry mentality That our culture is now moving away from.
All of this has led me to rethink the very way in Which values d my church does things. I have been reevaluating practices and culture through a theological filter fueled by a desire to see a more biblical and sustainable form of Christianity in our cities. What you're about to read raw thoughts are (in no way conclusive) in terms of paradigm shifts. There are four main shifts: 1) incarnation over innovation, 2) over environments Processes, 3) movements over expansion, and 4) flat over hierarchical. I'll write about the first two on this post and leave the last two for next week.
1. Incarnation innovation over
I not not feel that there is a large preoccupation with Innovation nowadays. Awards Have Been Given to innovative churches, and pastors are Praised for being "innovative." There's nothing wrong with trying to think outside the box when it comes to contextualization, but no method will ever trump innovative incarnation. I mean, this is God's own method of Addressing our need! It's what differentiates Christianity from all other religions. Coming down to the level of people've Always Been Christianity 's Most Innovative way to contextualize the gospel to the real needs of humanity. In fact, I would say That our level of innovation is always proportionate to the depth of our incarnation. In other words, aim at incarnation and you will always get innovation.
Two. Environments over Processes
In the last 10 years there has-been a great emphasis on discipleship churches Develop develop developing pathways and processes. Processes and pathways are not bad things per se. In fact, having something in place will help move people horizontally and Mobilize them towards your vision, organize your institution, or generate growth - At least on a surface level.
The problem is it With This methodology That Resembles the American industrialist model of assembly lines far more than the New Testament church. The thing with having to "process" Is that it Tends to compartmentalize discipleship by rushing through stages That people are focused on one specific thing. To carry out the metaphor, there's a stage where you're bottled, labeled another where you are, where you are packaged another, and another where you are delivered.
Environments are more holistic. They are spaces where you're exercising a variety of practices With Different intensities Depending on the environmental context. You can see what I'm talking about in Acts 2:42 where the first Christians Were living out the four components (the apostles' teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer) in the context of bigger gatherings, smaller gatherings, and while ministering to neighbors. Thinking in terms of mind-bending environments for discipleship is That Should not people just be moved horizontally towards an end goal, but in every direction at once (up, down, sideways, in, out). Such spaces allow the dynamism of the Spirit to be at work while helping to preserve the organic nature of the body of Christ. This is the perfect recipe for robust discipleship, which in the end is the the type of sustainable growth we ought to be looking for. In the industry model, eleven product goes through all the stages and Necessary is finally assembled, it's sold, then Consumed - a feeling common to Those Who Have been through a "process."
More on the next two paradigm shifts next week.