The new Reformation

Martin Luther with iPhone

Martin Luther is examined for heresy.

I remember about 40 years ago coming to the conclusion that the church in the western world was, in the next few decades, going to go through changes as significant as the Reformation. I felt we had got away from the truth in several important areas – introspective & hierarchical churches, dead orthodoxy in many christians’ lives (including me), and failing to heed Jesus’ teachings on non-violence, acceptance and the perils of wealth – and God surely wouldn’t allow this to continue unchecked.

I think we are now in the middle of a new reformation, and here are some of the signs I see.

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What Americans think of church

Country church

The Barna Group has recently released results of research into church attendance in USA, including information on “millennials” (under-30s). While this will have little relevance to other countries, there may be some similarities and thus things we may all learn

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Is anybody listening?

Book cover

The shaping of things to come by Mike Frost and Alan Hirsch was published more than a decade ago now. It was at the time a revolutionary book which had a lot to say to contemporary churches and christians.

Ten years later it still needs to be read. Here’s a few of the things we can learn.

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Update on sermons and why we should abandon them (for the most part)

Preacher

Last post I discussed the messages our dependence on sermons sends, and referred back to a study I had done on Sermons – not how we learn best?

A reader went to that page and found a bunch of broken links. I have therefore completely re-structured the page, and included quite a lot of new material.

There are a few interesting things to report.

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What do sermons say about churches?

Preaching

Pretty much all Protestant churches have sermons – generally as the centrepiece of the weekly service. Sometimes we learn from them, sometimes we don’t.

In fact studies by educationalists show that they are a poor method of teaching or changing behaviour, though they do generally make people feel good (see Sermons – not how we learn best?).

So why do we use such a poor communication method? What does their prevalence tell us? I’ve been musing about this lately.

Here’s a few thoughts that have been running through my head.

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Is the church dying? Do we need to be worried?

Crosses on the top of churches

Many atheists make strong statements about how the church is in terminal decline, and it’s only a matter of time til it is reduced to an insignificant minority in most western countries, and eventually worldwide. Some christians may be influenced by these claims.

I did some research for my other blog to check out the facts and the conclusions of sociologists of religion, so I thought I’d share them here.

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Justice and the gospel in the local church

Micah 6:8

Last post (Justice and the gospel), we looked at how the ministry of Jesus included both evangelism and meeting physical needs. But in many western evangelical churches, the “gospel” has been narrowed down to mean little more than personal salvation.

If you are in a church like that, and you believe that justice and care for the poor and marginalised is part of the gospel, what can you do?

Let’s look at a few ideas and a little personal experience, and then (hopefully) others will share what they are doing.

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Transform your church – permanently

Hands making a circle

I have said before (Church as a community of people) that I am a great fan of the blog Church in a circle.

Their latest post, 10 principles which could transform your church practices – permanently is well worth checking out, as it summarises some of the ‘big ideas’ they have been learning and blogging about.

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