Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Allergic reactions to church

Every so often a link passes across my RSS feed that catches my attention.  Quite a long time ago I blogged about a talk by Reggie McNeal about the missional church. It was a talk that sat and listened to one Sunday morning while on sabbatical in 2008 I think. Well, here's a link to a series of talks he gave at a conference in early November. According to the link the videos will only be available until the end of January, so if you're reading this post January 2013 I'm sorry if the link no longer works! Many of the stories he shares and the challenge he presents are in his books and probably available via other links too, so it shouldn't be difficult to find him somewhere on the web talking about these things.

Here's the link.

I noted down a few things from what he says in the first session.

Talking about the rapid growth in the number of people in North America that consider themselves unaffiliated to any religious movement, he spoke about revealing a "precipitous allergic reaction to institutionalised religion". People are not allergic to God or spirituality, just institutionalised religion. If that is true then painful as it may be to hear, no matter how well we might be doing church, people are not going to come. It's a false premise that better worship, more multimedia, shorter sermons and clever drama will somehow attract people into our buildings. It won't. As McNeal says, "Fewer people are interested in becoming congregationalised."

We're building better auditoria than ever, in some parts of the world at least, but people aren't coming. Church has become a vendor of religious services. If doing church well was going to change this tide it would have worked by now. The question is not about how to do church better but how to be church better.

The church is not the point. The mission of God is the point. The Bible begins and ends without a church. No church in the garden, no church in the city.

Instead of  telling the stories of God showing up and showing off (this is one of his favourite ways to describe the nature of God, not as an arrogant deity but as a God who just loves to bless beyond our capacity to imagine). We need more present stories of God-sightings and fewer historical retellings of Pentecost!

Anyway, as usual with Reggie McNeal there are lots of stories and lots of jumping around in his topic, but it's worth settling down with a cup of tea/coffee/hot chocolate and a suitable low-calorie snack to listen to what he has to say.

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