Thursday, October 1, 2009

Here we blog on Post-Christendom

This week our task was to point to ONE theme that stands out that should be remembered by the Church as Christendom fades.

There are many themes of Murray’s book that should be kept in mind as the Christendom passes. In evangelism the church should learn the value of listening and investing in people (228). The church should learn a new vocabulary to help avoid baggage inherited from unhealthy church experiences and to simply be clearly understood by a completely unchurched audience (306). Furthermore, much of the rigid institutionalism needs to be stripped away to reveal an authentic community where individuals are safe to be themselves and to wrestle with their faith. I love the three aspects that Murray says are integral to the church of the future – recovering friendship, eating together, and laughter (274-276). I have covered aspects of all of these themes in my essays or in my responses to other individual’s essays.

One theme that I have yet to cover has to do with the approach the administrative side of the church. This covers tithing, leadership, and membership. First, the church in post-Christendom needs to rethink tithing. Aside from the lack of New Testament and early church support for a moral tax of ten percent there is the reality that the next generations will not feel obligated to attend or to give. Murray states that tithing was introduced into the economy of the Old Testament as a borrowed practice. The idea was reintroduced by Augustine and eventually moved from a recommendation to a tax (273). Murray’s main frustration with tithing is that it “offers false security to those who assume it subverts consumerism and fails to address injustice and inequality” (274).

A second aspect of administration that will need to change is church leadership. While I would not go as far to say that the titles “clergy” and “laity” need to be abolished (262), I would agree with Murray that congregational leadership is key to a church’s survival (263). Clergy has taken too great of a role in the life of the church. Murray points out that the hierarchical structure creates a false notion that laity are less spiritual and that the clergy is on the “front-lines” (261). Furthermore, tithing will inevitably decrease so there will be less money for clergy forcing laity to take more ownership.

There are a few administrative challenges that were inadvertently created by Christendom. Churches have invested so much time and money into building magnificent buildings for their congregants that they are forced to put an unhealthy emphasis on tithing and on the number attending the church.

Another administrative challenge created by Christendom is church consumerism. It sounds like consumerism began back at the height of Christendom when the sermon became the focus of the church (264). While the sermon is the focal point of many churches still today, there has been a push in the past 15-20 years for a church to have the freshest music and the flashiest production. We need to shift from a model of consumerism to a model of journeying through life and faith together. Such a shift will be more substantive and sustainable.

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