Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Finding Hope in the Mainline Crisis with Brian McLaren

The Mainline Church in the US is now the Sidelinded Church. It has lost influence. It has lost scores of members. It has lost thousands of its historic congregations. And now its seminaries are crumbling down. The crisis is clear. We are facing the death of the institutional Mainline Church as we know it. The hope is that from this death, there will be a resurrection of something faithful, effective, and relevant. What will emerge from this crisis? Many things. Our task is to foster the emergence, instead of choke it. And Brian McLaren continues to offer us resources toward that goal. Since our last post was about the crisis in seminaries, we thought we'd share McLaren's reflections on the hope he sees in the crisis facing seminaries. He offers some helpful words about theological education in a discussion called "The Emerging Church and Mainline Theological Education." Here are a few snippets from that conversation:

"How do we plan public worship experiences that form individuals and form communities? How do we approach the Bible in a world that sees the twin dangers of narrow fundamentalism and shallow relativism? How do we understand preaching and teaching in a digital world that is formed far more by hyper text than linear text? How do we lead boldly in a flattened world?"

What if we said we are not living with a problem, we are living with an emergency...There is an emergency that very few people are talking about. We have all kinds of layers of denial...
What if we were actually serious? What if some people snuck through the system, with enough courage to say, 'How can we leverage our resources for an emergency before it's too late?' Because we can predict what will happen. You know the growth curve of organizations. Once you get beyond a certain point on the curve - I'll say it very uncharitably - all the smart people leave. Because they know this thing is going nowhere but down. And then you end up with the shrinking gene pool of loyal, nice people who will be good hospice care-takers for a dying organization. At some point people need to say, 'Let's have our emergency now. Let's face it now.'"

"The best was to reinvigorate existing churches is by planting new churches...I think we must pour disproportionate, absurd, extravagant amounts of money into the planting of experimental new churches, that may not be a good bet of success, but are as far out on the edge as we can. My motto is that existing churches imitate and new churches innovate."

"The Church is renewed from the edges, not the center. Be grateful for new things happening, even if they are not easily digestible."

"John Calvin wrote The Institutes of Christian Religion starting when he was 19 and he finished the first edition when he was 25. There is no 25 year old that would be listend to in any Prebyterian Church in the world today. How can you become the kind of Church that doesn't drive away the thousands of young John Calvins and Joanna Calivins who are in your circle?"

"What if Mainline institutions could shock the world by unleashing their ties, changing their paths, and welcoming in young leaders. Not to domesticate them and make them docile, but to enrich their wildness with the wildness of a truely liberal (i.e. free/open) education."
If this got your attention, check out his discussion below. It's good stuff. And it just might help us face the crisis in the Mainline Church so we can re-emerge in a faithful, effective, and relevant way.


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