The way …. and the way forward?

The church in first world countries, as a whole, is losing ground, neither making converts nor making an impact. There are many ideas, many books, talks and blog posts, outlining the problems and the way forward, as someone sees it.

But I recently came across a brief overview that I think provides a better understanding and suggests a better way forward that most.

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Another king?

Critical issues:
I think this post raises a crucially important matter for christians today.

king-tut

It was mob violence, but at least it didn’t lead to a lynching. Jason and a few friends, converts of the apostle Paul, were dragged before the city officials and angry accusations were made:

“These men [meaning Paul and company] …. are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” (Acts 17:6-7)

The officials released them on a bond. But, of course, the charges were quite accurate. Jesus is the king.

But it seems many christians no longer believe this …..

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How sermons are stifling christianity

Cartoon

Preaching is one of the mainstays of Protestant christianity (though not so important in Catholic and Orthodox churches). Bible colleges teach how to do it, websites tell us how important it is, and those considered good preachers can become celebrities.

Yet the words “sermon” and “preaching” have negative connotations to many people, jokes about sermons abound (did you know that if all the people who sleep through sermons were laid end to end, they’d be more comfortable?) and educationalists and psychologists tell us they are not very effective in teaching or changing people.

Recently several friends, strong and active christians who attend church regularly, made strong anti-sermon comments. It made me think again, that sermons are stifling christianity.

Here’s how.

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Unbounded church – church as we haven’t known it for a society as we haven’t known it

People in a cafe

Albert Einstein apparently once said: “The significant problems we face can’t be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

Churches in the western world are facing declining numbers and interest. Most of them are continuing to do the same things they’ve always done, hoping maybe to do a little better and so turn the corner.

One person who thinks this isn’t sensible, and isn’t going to work, is a minister of an interesting church near Sydney.

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Unintended consequences of employing church staff

Minister

Most churches in first world countries employ staff these days. Small churches may have just a Minister or Pastor, but larger churches commonly have several pastors, an office secretary and a youth minister, and perhaps other staff as well.

It is an obvious step and perhaps the only way to get things done, especially when western christians are asset rich and time poor. But I think it has some drawbacks and unintended consequences that should be considered – many of them I have observed happening.

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There’s nothing like a sermon to make it hard for christians to learn and grow

Preaching

It is well established that lectures and sermons are poor ways to teach and to change – see Sermons – not how we learn best? A good sermon may encourage the congregation, but only a small percentage of people learn that way, and most don’t remember much, especially after the first 15 minutes.

More research information is coming in all the time. And it seems christians are the last to learn.

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Don’t plant a church, plant a mission?

Notice about new church

When I was a young christian, most churches were part of a denomination and most people knew what denomination they belonged to, even if they never actually attended. People didn’t switch denominations very often. When they moved house, they would generally find the closest church of their denomination and attend it.

Most new churches began when a new suburb was developed and the denomination would set up a new congregation. There were few independent churches and they were generally quite small.

But it’s all different now. People change denominations easily. There are many independent churches, many of which began as a “church plant” from a larger independent congregation. And increasingly, the denominations are “planting churches” too. But is this a good thing?

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