Categories
Christian Living

We Need an Emergent Mindset

Seek Ways to Make Our Faith Communities Relevant to a Postmodern World

In the early 2000s there was much talk about the emergent church. The idea was to address shrinking church attendance by taking steps to be more pertinent to a younger audience, many who dismissed the religious practices of prior generations. These people weren’t turning their backs on Jesus, however, just the institutional church. Therefore, churches need an emergent mindset.

Though this need is even more pronounced now than ever, we don’t hear much about the emergent church movement anymore. But this wasn’t a fad that died out. It’s more likely that the people doing this aren’t talking or writing about it. My post, “What Happened to the Emergent Church?” addresses this.

Even so, for churches to remain pertinent to changing demographics, they need to embrace an emergent mindset. First, we need some background. In my post I wrote:

“The emergence movement seeks to reimagine church in fresh, new ways to connect with a disenfranchised society that is open to spirituality, albeit apart from the traditional church.”

What does this emergent mindset mean for today’s churches?

Avoid the Status Quo

If churches do the same things they’ve always done, they’ll get the same results. This means that for churches that want to reverse their decline in attendance will need to reverse their practices. This doesn’t mean they must change, or even should change, what they believe and teach—providing that it’s biblical. Instead, they need to reevaluate everything else they do that surrounds it.

Many churches today struggle with declining attendance and an aging congregation. For most of them, the only time they grow is when another declining church closes and those members seek another place to attend.

Advocate Change

To move away from status-quo church practices means to embrace change. Most people, however, don’t like change. This is especially true with long-time church members who have fixed expectations. They may oppose needed changes by threatening to withhold donations. They may even follow through.

In short, they use money to selfishly manipulate the church into doing what they want her to do.

To avoid this unproductive response as much as possible requires teaching about the need to adapt to meet changing societal expectations. Becoming what future generations need and will be drawn to requires an emergent mindset. This can help churches grow numerically and not shrink.

Launch New Initiatives

After about ten years of existence, churches move toward becoming institutions. As they do so, self-preservation becomes key and most other activities become secondary.

If you think your church is the exception to this truth, look at your numeric growth. If it’s stagnant, you are an institution. If you’re seeing healthy, Jesus-focused growth, you may have overcome this generalization. It’s also likely that you have an emergent mindset.

For everyone else, know that doing what’s required to attract the next generation is most difficult from inside an institution. Instead of attempting to do this from within, an alternative is to launch a new initiative that comes from your established church but is not a part of it.

Just make sure that this initiative your launching is truly something fresh and not merely repackaging what already isn’t working.

Make sure your church is around and viable to help future generations encounter Jesus in meaningful ways. Click To Tweet

Embrace the Emergent Mindset

Make sure your church is around and viable to help future generations encounter Jesus in meaningful ways. Doing so will require you to stop doing what you’re currently doing, embrace change, and start a fresh way for people to experience God.

It won’t be easy, but it is essential.

Categories
Christian Living

What Happened to the Emergent Church?

The Emergent Church Seeks to be Biblically Relevant for Postmodern People

Ten to fifteen years ago, it seemed that every time I turned around I heard something about the emergent church. I wrote about this in my dissertation, with one long chapter devoted to the topic.

My thoughts on the emergent church were greatly influenced by Phyllis Tickle’s mind-blowing book The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why.

What is the Emergent Church?

It’s an effort to reclaim church practices from a biblical perspective to reform them to be relevant in a postmodern culture. The emergence movement seeks to reimagine church in fresh, new ways to connect with a disenfranchised society that is open to spirituality, albeit apart from the traditional church.

At the time I speculated it was easier to find a book on the emergent church then to actually find an one in real life. Though I don’t think this was true, it certainly seemed that way. After all, the very nature of the emergent church shunned structure, organization, and hierarchical leadership.

These traits made emergent churches hard to find.

Our Churches Must Emerge

When I write about the church in this blog, it’s usually from the perspective of emergence. I want to see our present-day church practices emerge from what they are to produce something more meaningful that abounds with relevance for today’s spiritual seekers.

When I talk this way, it often comes across as criticism, but I only want what’s best for the church—that is, for us as followers of Jesus—so that the church can become more than what she presently is. I write about the church because I love her and want to see her reach her potential.

I want to see the church emerge to become something grander. I long to see the emergent church and wish to be part of one.

Instead of looking for an emergent church, the better solution might be to start one. Click To Tweet

A Fad or a Trend?

All this talk about the emergent church, however, was a decade ago. What about now? It’s been years since I’ve heard the phrase mentioned. Was the emerging church movement a fad that arrived for a moment and left just as quickly?

No. The impetus for the emergent church still exists. It’s just that we don’t hear that phrase anymore. Despite this, however, around the world people—who love Jesus but gave up on his church the way it’s currently practiced—are seeking out new expressions of faith community.

They are emerging to do something new and something fresh. But by their very nature, we don’t hear about them. This is because the philosophy of an emerging church shuns self-promotion and distrusts marketing.

The interest in emergent churches is still there, even if the label has slipped away. Perhaps instead of looking for an emergent church, the better path might be to start one.

Discover more about this idea in the post on micro-churches.

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

What Is a Micro Church?

Bigger isn’t always better and the micro church proves this

In another post we discussed the emergent church. Today we shift the discussion to micro church. Emergent church and micro church, are these alternate labels for the same thing or different? The answer is maybe.

The concept of a micro church can go by different labels. Other names, some of which might be more familiar, include simple church and organic church. Some micro churches are house churches, but not all of them. And some house churches are micro churches, but, again, not all.

It’s easiest to describe a micro church by looking at its characteristics:

Streamlined Structure

Micro churches have only a minimal amount of structure and just enough to allow them to function. Their organization tends to be flat as opposed to hierarchical, with a more egalitarian operation.

No Paid Staff

At micro churches people minister to one another and serve as priests to each other, as we find described in the New Testament. They don’t have a need for paid clergy or to maintain anyone on a payroll.

Priesthood of all Believers

Since micro churches have no paid staff, they have no clergy. This isn’t a problem since they embrace the priesthood of all believers. This means that the people in the community minister to one another, teach one another, and help one another.

They feel no need to subjugate this to professional ministers. Because of the nature of their faith they are automatically priests.

Deemphasized Sunday Service

The micro church doesn’t place as much emphasis on a Sunday morning service as traditional churches do. In fact, they may not meet on Sunday or even once a week. Their gatherings may not even resemble a church service.

At micro churches, weekly church gatherings prepare people to go into their community and serve. Click To Tweet

Missional

The micro church has a vision to serve. They have a mission. This makes them missional. However, their mission is not inwardly focused but outwardly focused.

Their internal gatherings, be it like a Sunday service or something else, are to encourage and prepare the people present to go out into their community and serve. Therefore, many micro churches have at its core one particular vision, a mission, around which people gather.

Focused on Multiplication

The micro church isn’t concerned with growing its numbers, but it’s vitally interested in growing influence. Micro churches seek to do this by helping others start their own micro churches to address other needs in the community.

Their simple structure makes this easy and fast. This is why they view themselves as organic. They’re constantly growing, changing, and reproducing more of their kind.

Perhaps Emergent

In a previous post we defined the emergent church as an effort to reclaim church practices from a biblical perspective to reform them to be relevant in a postmodern culture.

In considering this definition and the above characteristics, it’s easy to see a connection between the emergent church and the micro church. This doesn’t mean they’re the same, however.

It just means they tap into a similar underlying angst of spiritual speakers to pursue community and help the world in new and unexpected ways, ways that the traditional church has missed.

I embrace both the emergent church and micro church concepts as practical and effective ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a world seeking relevance and purpose in a confusing existence.

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

Martin Luther’s Concerns

Martin Luther’s 95 Concerns Were Distributed in Printed Form and Essentially Went Viral

Martin Luther lived five hundred years ago. He was born at the dawn of the modern era. He became a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation. A key technology in birthing the modern era was the printing press.

The printing press also helped drive the Reformation. It propelled the spread of information. This moved a premodern society into the modern era. (A similar change occurs today, as the internet helps us move from the modern era into the postmodern era.)

This printing technology broadcast a message of spiritual enlightenment to a people poised for religious change. We politely refer to the transformation that emerged as the Protestant Reformation, but the word revolution might better describe the spiritual rebellion that followed.

Luther’s List of Concerns

The fuse that ignited this came from a list of ninety-five concerns that this German monk had about the abuse of one specific church practice: the sale of indulgences, which, at the risk of oversimplification, allowed people to buy their salvation.

We call Martin Luther’s concerns, his talking points, as his ninety-five theses. He wrote it in Latin, so the masses wouldn’t know about his concerns.

However, without Luther’s knowledge, well-meaning followers translated his ninety-five theses into German and printed copies for the people to read.

This turned his handwritten list into a printable tract, which saw wide distribution throughout the country and spread his concerns to a much larger audience.

Widespread Distribution

Though not all Germans could read German, they could understand it as others read to them. What they heard disturbed them, likely in part because many of them had paid for full indulgences, which Martin essentially outed as a scam.

Then others translated his ninety-five points into other European languages. This spread his message across the continent. Though five centuries prior to the internet, his list of ninety-five theses went viral—long before the information super highway and Twitter existed.

The private discussion Martin Luther sought with Church leaders never happened. Instead... Click To Tweet

Outrage ensued. The private, internal discussion he sought with Church leaders never happened. Instead, a revolution resulted.

But Martin never wanted to lead a rebellion or become its figurehead, he didn’t intend his ninety-five points to attack the Roman Catholic Church, and he certainly didn’t mean to spark a revolt.

Martin wanted to work for change within the system. But the laity, now aware of his concerns, were poised to rebel against what they saw as an unsympathetic Church that exploited them and didn’t care about them or their plight. The people wanted a religious revolt, and that’s what they got.

Read more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in Peter DeHaan’s book Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
52 Churches

Growing Deeper (Visiting Church #2)

This Sunday we visit a nondenominational church. It’s three years old and I know a bit about it and its pastor, who I perceive as a mostly postmodern guy possessing a modern theology. I suspect the church will mirror that.

Located in a small strip mall, I find a parking spot near the door. Only afterwards do I realize they leave the prime spaces for visitors. A man greets us warmly and we walk inside. The facility is inviting and accommodating.

There are scores of people milling about. All are engaged in conversation, so we take a seat.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

Intended as retail space, the rectangular room is narrow and three to four times as deep. The focal point is the side of the room, allowing everyone to sit relatively near the action. Smartly decorated walls, give way to two flat-screen displays. A wooden cross stands nearby.

Spiritual Growth is More Important Then Numeric Growth

The place fills up and the service begins. The pastor welcomes everyone and points out the church’s guiding goal is to grow deeper, not wider. This is significant; spiritual growth is more important than numeric growth.

The worship team has two on electric guitar, one on bass, a keyboard, drum kit, and a cello; three musicians also sing. There are no songbooks, with words displayed overhead. I estimate 170 present.

The people are dressed casually; jeans and t-shirts abound while ties and dresses are absent. It’s a younger crowd. The feeling is one of excitement and life.

There is a break in the singing for “connection time,” an informal opportunity to mingle, get a coffee refill, or grab another doughnut. There are many people to talk to.

The pastor is an insightful Bible teacher. After the message, they serve communion. It’s open to all who acknowledge a saving faith in Jesus, so we happily participate, with the bread and juice passed in quick succession.

Spiritual growth is more important than numeric growth. Click To Tweet

After a closing prayer, the service ends; there’s no offering. There are more people to talk to. It’s clear no one knows if we’re first-timers and some question if we’re visitors. We could have even been unknowingly talking to other visitors.

We drop off our guest card and head home. Two and a half hours have elapsed. Time passes quickly when in the company of winsome people and an embracing community. This is as church should be.

[Read about Church #1 and Church #3, go to the beginning, or learn more about Church #2.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

What is Post-Denominational?

Dividing the church by forming denominations isn’t biblical, and it’s time to move past it

Jesus prayed for our unity, that we would be one—just as he and his father are one. He yearned that his followers would get along and live in harmony. Dividing into religious sects wasn’t his plan. Yet that’s exactly what we’ve done as we formed 42,000 Protestant denominations.

Instead of focusing on our similarities, our common faith in Jesus, these denominations choose to make a big deal over the few things they disagree about.

They should get along, but instead they develop their own narrow theology, which they use as a litmus test to see who they’ll accept and who they’ll reject.

How this must grieve Jesus.

While there has been some disagreement among the followers of Jesus almost from the beginning, the divisions started proliferating 500 years ago with the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. And since that time, it’s escalated out of control, with a reported 42,000 denominations today.

This represents the most significant degree of Christian disunity ever.

The push for denominational division traces its beginning to the modern era. While the modern era assumed that reason would allow us to converge on a singular understanding of truth, the opposite occurred. Instead, the pursuit of logic resulted in wide-scale disagreement.

This is perhaps most manifest among the followers of Jesus, who love to argue over their individual understandings of theology.

Yet there’s a sense we’re moving away from denominations and the divisions they cause. The word to describe this is post-denominational.

Just as we are moving from the modern era to the postmodern era, we are also moving from a time of denominational division to a time of post-denomination harmony.

In understanding postmodern, we don’t consider it as anti-modern but instead “beyond modern.” The same distinction rightly applies to post-denominational. Post-denominational is not anti-denomination, as much as it is “beyond denominations.”

So, what is post-denominational? Post-denominational moves beyond the Protestant divisions that proliferated in the last 500 years, during the modern era.

Post-denominational sets aside the man-made religious sects that divide the church of Jesus. In its place, post-denominational advocates a basic theology to form agreement and foster harmony. This allows the followers of Jesus to live together in unity, which will amplify their impact on the world around them.

The people who follow Jesus are beginning to realize this. Many new churches label themselves as non-denominational. This reflects a general mistrust among today’s people for the brand-name Protestantism of yesteryear, that is, denominations.

People are weary of the criticism, finger-pointing, and disunity that denominations have caused. Click To Tweet

They’re weary of the criticism, the finger-pointing, and the disunity that denominations have caused. That’s why the label of non-denominational is so attractive to many people.

This includes those who go to church, those who dropped out, and those who have never been. They don’t want to align themselves with a denomination anymore. They want a spiritual experience in a loving Christian community, one without denominational division.

For the sake of Jesus and our witness of him to our world, can we set our denominations aside and agree to work together to move forward in unity?

It’s a lot to ask, and it seems humanly impossible. But Jesus already prayed for our success (see John 17:20-26.)

May this generation be the answer to his prayer. May we be one.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Personal Posts

The Exciting Millennial Generation

It seems that I’ve recently heard a lot of complaints about this “younger generation,” known as the Millennial Generation or Generation Y (those born after 1984—or between 1980 and 2000—depending who’s doing the explaining).

Employers moan that Millennials don’t want to work: they arrive late, lack motivation, and do not make good employees. Customers complain than Generation Y doesn’t seem to care and looks strange.

True, each successive generation causes angst and head scratching from their elders. However, with Gen-Y there is an additional factor at play—the emergence of a postmodern mindset. (See What Does Postmodern Mean?)

Generally, Gen-Y, and to a lesser extent Gen-X that preceded them, have postmodern perspectives on life, whereas prior generations are more likely modern thinkers. Herein is the rub that causes the above frustrations.

One element of the postmodern outlook is that they want meaningful work and to make a difference in the world.Career, wealth, and possessions tend to have little draw to postmodern people. And this excites me.

I recently asked a 21-year woman if she would soon be graduating from college. (This was a bad assumption on my part.) She hemmed a bit and then admitted that she had just dropped out of cosmetology school—her second post-high educational effort.

She realized that a career in cosmetology would be a shallow and meaningless pursuit. She wants to make a difference in the world by helping those in a third-world country—she leaves in two months.

In general, most Millennial's want meaningful work and to make a difference in the world. Click To Tweet

Another acquaintance abandoned her career path as a paralegal and is cranking through grad school—so she can join the Peace Crops—and then aid governments in developing countries. Another 20-something friend is wrapping up a yearlong stint in Russia.

Even though he’s not yet back to the States, he is already planning on a return trip as soon as possible. A fourth friend simply desires to travel the world—to help the people she meets.

I could go on and on about this “younger generation” who are set on making a difference, have forsaken materialism, and seek meaningful work—and it excites me greatly—Gen-Y has the potential to make this world a better place.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Personal Posts

What Does Postmodern Mean?

I was talking with a 20-something friend and tossed out the phrase “postmodern.” His ears perked up and he asked what it meant.

“You’re postmodern,” I spontaneously asserted.

“I know; that’s what people tell me,” he replied,“but what’s it mean?”

“First there is one aspect of postmodernity that doesn’t fit you,” I clarified. “Most postmoderns do not accept absolute truth; to them all things are relative. The only thing they accept with absolute certainty is that there are no absolutes.’ (Don’t think about that too long—it will give you a headache!)

Postmodern is not a life stage phenomenon, but more a lifelong mindset Click To Tweet

“The rest of the profile seems to match you,” I continued. “In general, postmodern people value relationships and relish experiences—for them, the ‘journey is the reward.’

They want work that is fulfilling and allows them to make a difference in the world, but they guardedly balance work with their personal life. They tend to not be materialistic and money doesn’t mean as much to them as a ‘modern’ person.

They are decidedly non-religious, but are quite open to spirituality and metaphysical dialogue.”

He agreed with my assessment that he was postmodern.“And what about you?” he asked.

There is a propensity for younger generations to be postmodern and generations people—like me—to be modern. It’s not a life stage phenomenon, but more a lifelong mindset.

Being on the tail end of the baby boom generation, I should be modern, but in reality, “I skew towards postmodern.” He smiled at that; I guess that’s why we get along so well.

If you work with or manage postmodern people (typically generation Y or the Millennials, born after 1984), you will likely be challenged beyond anything you’ve experienced. 

Keeping this brief overview in mind might help you to better understand them. But don’t assume they think and act like you (unless you’re also postmodern) or you’ll never really connect with them.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

Not All That’s Spiritual Is Good

As followers of Jesus we can point the supernaturally curious to God

Premodern people saw everything as spiritual. Though modern thinking attempted to remove the spiritual from our everyday reality, the postmodern view is open to reunite them. For that I am glad.

Yet not all that is spiritual is good. Consider all of the TV shows and movies that delve into the supernatural. Sci-fi specifically seems to be moving in this direction but so are more generally marketed television shows and movies.

Also, consider the growing interest in fantasy novels and the various speculative fiction subgenres. Why is this?

It’s quite simply because of demand. The public seeks content that investigates spiritual concepts and explores the supernatural realm. They have interest in such matters. They hunger for something more than what a nonspiritual life offers, with content producers happy to fill that void.

In fact, most people in today’s postmodern world, notably younger generations, such as Millennials, are open to the spiritual. This is both good and bad. Just because something is spiritual doesn’t automatically make it good.

Sometimes supernatural considerations point us to God and other times this content steers us in the opposite direction. Often these mind-blowing forays into the non-temporal merely confuse a godly, spiritual reality with intriguing, yet inconsequential fantasy.

We need to guide our world's spiritually inquisitive to a true spiritual understanding. Click To Tweet

Does this mean we should abandon all cinema, television, and books that dip into the supernatural? Of course not. Ignoring this trend will not make it go away and will leave the spiritually curious with only opposing views to influence them.

As people who know what the Bible says about spiritual matters, we need to guide our world’s spiritually inquisitive toward an understanding that is biblically centered and focused on Jesus.

If we don’t, people will persist in forming their own hodgepodge of spiritual practices based on what they see in their entertainment choices and that is not anchored in the foundation of God’s Word.

Let us be their light to a path that leads to God, the narrow way, and away from the wide path that leads to destruction (Psalm 119:105, Matthew 7:13-14).

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Save

Categories
Christian Living

Are You a Friend of Sinners?

It’s hard to embrace those who are different from us but we should

The word sin is an unpopular one in today’s culture. Postmodern thinking rejects moral absolutes and advocates that anything goes. Under an ideal of tolerance, society claims that to label an action as sinful is judgmental, closeminded, and unacceptable.

Ironically they become intolerant of people who talk about sin.

In reality, everyone sins (Romans 3:23).

It’s just that we downplay or even ignore our own sins, while we recoil from the sins of others, which we deem as more objectionable or even abhorrent.

The Bible says Jesus is a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19, Luke 7:34). This slur comes from his detractors, and he repeats it. They intend it as criticism, but we see it as a badge of honor.

We admire Jesus for hanging out with the people that the righteous religious society rejects: prostitutes, adulterers, tax collectors, lepers, the sick and unclean, other races and mixed races, and so forth.

It seems Jesus accepts everyone the religious leaders discard. In fact he makes a point to do so, often going out of his way to welcome them. He embraces them; he loves them.

We respect Jesus for doing so. Shouldn’t we do the same? Shouldn’t we be like Jesus?

Be like Jesus and embrace those the organized church reviles. Click To Tweet

Shouldn’t we make a point to behave more like Jesus and reach out to those the organized church reviles? Who might this be? The other political party? Muslims? The LGBT community? Pornographers? Those with a criminal record? The list goes on. There is no end.

Hosea writes that God desires mercy not sacrifice, that is, offering mercy trumps following a bunch of rules (Hosea 6:6). Jesus confirms this and adds that these folks are the reason he came (Matthew 9:12-13).

Let’s be more like Jesus and befriend those who the church rejects.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Save