1 June, 2004 12:09 PM
I've been asked by my Dad to consider a question about the Church and Culture. I'd like to open it up for some discussion here and would value anyone and everyone's opinion.
'I am doing a series of sermons on mission and want this week to put in some material that will help a basically 60's plus congregation to begin to understand the key things happenning in our culture and how we might come to grips with living and speaking the gospel in that context.'
Another way of asking the question is:
'Whats' happening out there in our culture that the church needs to see and hear?'
I've begun to assemble some scattered thoughts (I'll add a few of them below to start the discussion) but would very much value your insights and experience so consider the Mike Open and have your say below. Dad will be reading your thoughts also.
Suspicion of Institutions � We see it in the way people view banks, the government etc � the same is true for the church. People are suspicious of what they perceive as rigid, old and inflexible structures. I suspect that some of the child abuse scandals in the priesthood and issues of who we will and won�t ordain have perhaps effected this.
Sexuality � As a young adults this was one of the biggest reasons I would say that many (most even) of my friends left the church. For most they did not find church to be a place for them to comfortably and naturally talk through issues pertaining to Sex and Sexuality. They saw the church and these issues as mutually exclusive - something I find very sad. Here are some suggestions on how we might move forward on it.
Firstly we need to talk about it more, especially with our young people - most churches barely speak about the topic at all. Secondly perhaps we need to do some good hard theologizing on the topic, not just at a high leadership level but at the grass roots. We may end up with the same positions that we started with but at least we will have a better understanding of the issues that are being faced. Thirdly I think we need to somehow move to a more inclusive position � even if we do not agree with people�s lifestyle choices I suspect that there is room for people in our churches to move towards God as much as their is room for people in our churches who have issues with greed, impatience etc.
The way we learn and communicate is changing � people do not learn by being presented with monologues or rote learning anymore (did they ever?). They are much more interactive, creative and hands on in the way in which they learn and understand issues of life and faith. This has implications for the way in which we teach/preach and do worship.
Consumerism � I am coming to see that consumerism is perhaps the biggest threat/challenge that the church has perhaps ever faced in the West. It is something that has crept into life in more ways than I think we are aware. I�ve seen a number of friends recently do almost complete about faces in terms of their views on their faith and calling and I wonder if it is something to do with the pressures that they feel to conform to the pattern that is laid out for us as how we are �supposed� to live our lives. I know V and I struggle with this one also - the pressure to 'have' is great.
So many people seem to get their idea of self worth from what they own, where they live, what they have achieved and what experiences they have or have not had. Unfortunately the church (or some segments of it) has bought into a lot of this. Sometimes its pretty obvious (prosperity doctrine) but more often than not its very subtle � its in the messages spoken from the pulpit, its in the buildings that we meet in and the wizbang programs that we run. I�m not sure how to tackle this. I�ve even heard one or two people lately suggest that the church SHOULD buy into it on purpose because its such an important part of our culture � I worry when I hear these sorts of statements.
Rise of the �Cultural Creatives� � A number of studies lately have been undertaken that look at a new and very large emerging class of people that are emerging across the West.
They are creative people, very interested in Justice, the Environment but also the Arts, good food and wine etc. They have a conscience but can also be very consumeristic in their own way. They are into experiencing life (which I think is something we need to grapple with more in church) as much (if not more than) gaining knowledge. They like to engage the senses. Most churches do not operate on a level that these people can engage with � many �cultural creatives� would find most of our gatherings very dry as it is non participatory and non sensual.
Churchless Christians � Studies are finding that there are a lot (someone recently estimated 112 million - see last post) of people in the West who profess to be born again Christians with a living expression of their faith in Jesus but who have given up on, not found a home in or have stepped out of church. This is both exciting (reminds me a little of Acts when the church was scattered) but also a little scarey for many Christians who like order, structure and to be able categorize people.
By no means is this an exhaustive list - I've only just started. Please add your thoughts, ideas and experiences below, whether they be big and thought through or short and off the top of your head. Thanks.