The church as people or institution

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Christianity has long maintained a detachment from the self and attachment to Christ as part of individuals maturing toward Christlikeness. However, as an institution, and not-for-profit business, the Church proves quite the opposite. It is as though attachment to Christ had become synonymous with attachment to the Church.

A commonly held and reinforced assumption is that following Christ of necessity, and through divine ordination, includes membership to the Church. This view originates from the pulpit, is reinforced at church conferences, and gets regurgitated during conversations. The whole goal of church appears geared toward getting visitors to become members and volunteers who turn bring others into Church. And the purpose of a calling from Christ, or in response to the pulpit, is understood overwhelming by churches to mean schooling people toward professional careers in ministry as related to planting, maintaining, and growing churches and, if we must, parachurch organizations.

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Why I’m “post-church”

Credit: Unchurching.com

There’s something fundamentally wrong with the church, but it’s hard to put your finger on it – especially when people try to bite your finger off! And though there’s a ton of well researched and explored material related to the decline in church attendance and commitment to the Christian faith in the West, there’s little related to understanding what were actually doing when doing church and what the real problem is.

I stopped doing church back in 2006, which meant giving up my (successful) career in ministry as an urban missionary working with people seeking a relational encounter with God. I stopped doing this because people experiencing God would go on to join churches, then return a year later to argue that “church is not about God.” And I agreed with them as, after all, my relationship with God had little to nothing to do with conventional church. And though I had experienced God present in a church, specifically one focused on intimacy with God, this is, generally speaking, not what doing church is about.

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Opening to God

The third key conversation that’s regular at Urban Mystic is about how to cultivate, nurture or develop a relationship with God. This conversation is tied up with people’s past experience of God and their present lack thereof. And the questions asked differ depending on whether people are spiritual but not religious, committed to spirituality and not religion, or committed Christians. Common to each is the realization that they’re not meeting with and experiencing God.

What’s common to each is that everyone has the capacity to recognize God’s Presence and hear God’s voice. Everyone has an awareness of God expressed as having recognized God’s Presence, activity and voice at some point in their life. Virtually everyone remembers a life experience where they were aware of God being there. This may be in a dream but that’s less common than being awake during the experience. Most experience God drawing near to support, assure, strengthen and encourage them during a life crisis while experience God protecting them during a life threatening situation. Also common to the experience is the tendency for others to explain their experience of God away. People don’t often tell this story because of the way others respond, but it continues to challenge the default faith position in society that God is not. Continue reading “Opening to God”

Rise of the Nones

Within the developed world we’re seeing the rise of the “nones”, an increasing number of people who don’t identify with the world’s established religions. This is “the problem of God” presented anew in a postmodernising world and the second key conversation at Urban Mystic.

Being spiritual but not religious doesn’t mean that people aren’t spiritual. It simply means may no longer subscribe to the traditional suppliers of religious goods and services, the classic and few religious movements. People continue to turn to God after the death of God and after religion fails to capture their imagination and turn them into an adherent. Instead, they’re simply not religious. The nones have simply disconnected their quest for God from the faith of the classical, new and contemporary faith institutions and businesses. More and more people now describe themselves as spiritual but not religious, understanding that God and responsible and meaningful living is no longer synonymous with the religions and the cultures, values and mores of premodern civilisations. Continue reading “Rise of the Nones”

Christianity, a shrinking faith

I’m sure we’re all aware that Christianity is a shrinking faith in the developed world but, given how successful some churches are, not everyone agrees that there is a shared problem. One of our key conversations at Urban Mystic is that of de-/re-constructing church.

Many believe that because some churches are growing that the problem is the way others churches are doing what they’re doing when doing church. So, if they improved their social media, adopted a better approach to worship, invested in better venue and equipment, rebranded, adopted the right programs and ministries, employed the right staff, etc. that they’d go from hobbling along to well-established. But that’s not really the case as most of their growth is transfer growth. Continue reading “Christianity, a shrinking faith”