The Church is reforming…..who will join in?
As history has proven, the Church is always on the move. Some say that we are in the midst of a reformation; others refer to these times as a spiritual migration. However you refer to it, the church tends to have a rummage sale every 500 years or so, as Phyllis Tickle called it in ‘The Great Emergence’ and a growing number believe that we are in the midst of it. As some like to dwell on the gloom and doom of Christianity, others are recognizing a spiritual shift that is taking place and seeking ways to be a part of it.
The church is not dying, but the climate is changing. Thankfully many mainline denominations (including the UMC) are getting on board and supporting fresh ways of doing ministry. The possibilities are endless and the journey has already begun! This is not the time to worry; it’s time to get on board with this spiritual pilgrimage.
What might this look like? If we study the life of Jesus we can see countless examples of his encouraging people to leave behind traditions that are no longer relevant while encouraging us to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” [Ephesians 4:24] We are not really moving towards a new thing as much as we are moving toward Christianity as it was initially intended!
In Brian McLaren’s book ‘The Great Spiritual Migration’, he explores three shifts:
• Spiritually, growing numbers of Christians are moving away from defining themselves by lists of beliefs and toward a way of life defined by love.
• Theologically, believers are increasingly rejecting the image of God as a violent Supreme Being and embracing the image of God as the renewing Spirit at work in our world for the common good.
• Missionally, the faithful are identifying less with organized religion and more with organizing religion-spiritual activists dedicated to healing the planet, building peace, overcoming poverty and injustice, and collaborating with other faiths to ensure a better future for all of us.
I think McLaren is on to something here. Missiologist Alan Hirsch suggests that only 40 to 50 percent of the American population is reachable by church as we know it, and many believe that number is decreasing. 50-60% of the people around us are not going to come to our churches no matter how well we do things. Thankfully there is a Fresh Expressions Movement that is coming alongside the traditional church. I recently attended a Fresh Expressions Vision Day presented by the Academy for Leadership Excellence and the North Carolina Conference New Faith Communities office. These fresh expressions can help us reach people that will otherwise be unreached by the church. God is blessing these fresh expressions and lives are being transformed. I encourage you to join me in prayer for how God might want to use each of us and our respective churches in creative ways as we become pioneers, supporters, or permission givers in this spiritual migration.
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