Tags

, ,

For those of you that don’t know him, well, let me introduce you to Mark Sayers. I’m a fan.

Anyway, I’m reading his new book Disappearing Church: From Cultural Relevance to Gospel Resilienceand…

It…

is…

blowing…

my…

hair…

back.

I won’t bore you with the stuff that I’ve learned intrigues me about philosophical influences on the Church in the West.  Suffice to say that it’s well-covered ground here at The Diner my feelings on consumerism in our Tribe’s subculture.  My feeling is that most of you would give me the same look my fraternity brothers gave me when I tried to tell them what I was learning in my philosophy classes in undergrad, anyway.

Nonetheless, Sayers makes a good case that “Leaders and believers have unwittingly absorbed the belief that one can maintain both strong Christian faith and social currency within Western contemporary culture with little or no friction.” Also at the heart of things is that our consumer-driven mindset has created functional “soft atheists” (being an atheist without doing the “hard work” of thinking through the ramifications) or “half-hearted hedonists” (radical individualism with a polite nod to spiritual life).

So, with that as a backdrop, here are the quotes I’d like for you to engage with this morning.  Grab some coffee, and start typing your comments.

Manalive do I love these conversations…

Some churches, while keeping their theology and their traditional church structures alongside a strategy of making their communications, worship, and aesthetics culturally relevant, find themselves experiencing another kind of disappearance. The church as an entity stays and even grows in size and influence. Yet, the majority of its members disappear annually to be replaced by another class of attenders. The size of the church stays the same or even grows, yet the annual turnover of attendees can run at between 60–90 percent. Such turnover may be sustainable in the short term, but one must wonder how such an approach can work long-term. Such churches are in danger of becoming what could be called flashmob churches: churches that are able to harness social networking and energy to gather an impressive crowd, but who soon disappear.

Don’t you love the phrase “flashmob churches?”

If the church acted as the public sphere, it could grow, be hopeful, and attract a crowd. It could gain influence and seeming success, and be loved by its people—while in the private sphere, its members and attenders would remain a confused mess of commitment-phobia, compartmentalization, and self-creation.

How about the description of the private lives of attenders?  Whoa.

One last one:

In the beautiful world, there is a point in which many realize that while their hip and fantastic church may offer them opportunities to engage in justice projects, a life group that meets for community and meal at the pub, and digestible life advice, they can leave the church and find similar opportunities. The kicker is that you can still enjoy all of this while ditching the biblical prohibitions on sex, or having to measure up to the limitations of biblical holiness, or the commitments of creedal Christian community. If you still want to keep your sneaker toe in the Christian camp, no problem. Just pick up a book or subscribe to that podcast by a “progressive” Christian author who will reassure you that you can still be a Christian while not getting too stressed about sex or Scripture or going to church. In an increasingly world-focused evangelical church, what looks like leaving faith or church, to the actual leaver simply seems like a small shimmy to the left, in which the beautiful world promises that you can have it all.

Now, on to his suggestions for solutions:

What if the answer is what it has always been? The path of walking in Jesus’ footsteps, of following the traditions and teaching of the apostles. What if the answer to our culture’s challenges is still the gospel?

I’ll keep you up to speed on the solutions (I should finish the book today), but this should be enough to get the conversation going, kids.