Saturday, May 04, 2013

Fish and Coleslaw (1a) with Chips

One of my favourite meals is fish and coleslaw. A few chips (fries in the US) are needed to make it really tasty.

I have just completed a meal of fitch and holsclaw and it was pretty nourishing too. I am going to round of the meal by chipping in with my comments and thoughts in the next few posts. The book is Prodigal Christianity – Signposts into the Missional Frontier by David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw.
The first signpost sets the context for the rest of the book, so I will chip a little more in on it.

1. Post-Christendom
The first signpost is Post-Christendom.

People are living as if God doesn’t exist or, at least, as if God does not matter. Society used to have a general place for God. Now sightings are rare, and if they materialize, they are soon forgotten.
One response is to preach the old message harder (neo-reformed). The other response is to actively embrace the post-modern mind-set and make Christianity relevant (emerging). Fitch and Holsclaw want a more radical response that breaks with the Christendom paradigm completely.

They suggest the cultural shift is characterised by three posts-. I will comment on the first post- in this post.

A) Post-Attractional
People in the post-Christendom no longer think about going to church when they wake up on Sunday mornings.

I agree that the attractional church does not work, but the world is still easily attracted. People are attracted to football games, rock concerts, peace marches. Many of these events are not relational, yet people are attracted.

The problem is that the people of the world are not attracted to church any more. Part of the reason is that there is now much more competition. When I was growing up in the 50s and 60s, there was not much else to do on Sunday morning. Now there are a huge variety of alternatives. You can run a marathon, go to a farmers market, or visit and art gallery.

When I was young, going to church was what people were expected to do, especially if you were in the middle classes. You did not have to go every week, but if you stopped going altogether, you would come under suspicion. So people went, even though they did not always enjoy it. The lower classes were different. They were not expected to go to church, and many did not.

The real problem is not that the world is post attractional, but that our church meetings are boring. Who wants to listen to a pastor droning on for nearly an hour? Congregational singing is a turn off, no matter how enthusiastic are our wannabe rocks the worship leaders. These days, people listen to their music of choice all the time, they do not sing together. Even seeker friendly services do not cut it for modern people. People close their eyes, and try to look solemn during the Eucharist, but many feel nothing. Our church services are not attractional, because they are boring.

Fitch and Holsclaw claim that Jesus did not use an attractional approach, but went to where people are. I like the way they quote of the Message version of John 1:14:
The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
Yet that is only part of the story. Jesus operated in a hugely attractional way. Whenever he entered a village, everyone gathered. When he went in the mountains, enormous crowds followed. So we need to ask, why people were attracted to Jesus, but turned off by our church meeting. People were attracted to Jesus, because he healed the sick, cast out demons, thumbed his nose at the Roman rulers, and got stuck into the religious authorities. I guess the Holy Spirit helped, but people were drawn to Jesus because they like what he was. The apostles were attractional too, in a similar way. The church could still be attractional, but only if it heals the sick, casts out demons and challenges the religious and political leaders of the age.

Jesus challenged his disciples to announce the good news to all nations, but warned them that they should wait unit they were clothed power from on high (Luke 24:45-49). Until the Holy Spirit is doing what Jesus did in our meetings, people will not be attracted, whether we are in a church or in a neighbourhood.

If Jesus has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, and poured out the Spirit of God to live within us, the that should not be hard. If we cannot heal the sick and cast out demons, or change the world without relying on human politics, the world is entitled to ignore us, because they think our claims are false.

I would characterise post-attactional in these words,
People will not come to us.
We will have to go to them.
That means that most of what we are doing now does not work very well now, and will not work in the future.

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