Spent last Friday and Saturday participating in a conference discussing the future of the church and how her leadership must change (Sponsored by CityNet, a church planting/revitalization ministry serving Philadelphia). Eddie Gibbs (Fuller) and Dean Trulear (Howard) provided the keynotes. What made this conference different is that it wasn’t merely talking heads. We spent a good deal of time in small group discussion and interacting with panelists. Further, there was a real effort made to make this conversation applicable to a variety of cultural settings. It wasn’t just a white conversation about postmodern angst.
We talked about culture changes (and the church’s relevence to it), character issues, and training challenges. As the only member representing Seminary education (not sure, maybe I was invited because I work with pastors as a psychologist), I participated on a panel discussing training/leadership challenges.
Here’s some of my takeaways from the 2 days:
1. We are post-christendom in the US and are increasingly pagan. Some still have the freedom to remain in the Christian ghetto, but that freedom doesn’t have long-term viability.
2. To reach the lost, we must move beyond the invitational, attractional models to more of an incarnational model. 35 and unders are not coming to church, in part because they are not interested in being in the hierarchies of the church. They’d rather be part of networks.
2a. Attractional models were very pragmatic but their time has passed. We still seek “a what works” model over and above “what is true or good.” Even those who try to protect theology may be a pragmatic solution to focus on their own comforts rather than really contending for the faith.
3. We can not allow seminary graduates to leave without adequate training in world religions and cross cultural immersion. My friend Richard Smith constantly reminds me that we need to teach these things through cultural apologetics.
4. Where are the leaders of the main line church? Would they rather their churches die rather than cede power to a younger more culturally connected population?
5. Church still functions as a place of stability and comfort. While not necessary bad, this function demands that the church be 20 years behind the current cultural winds.
6. There’s lots of great models of church ministry out there, but mostly they don’t transfer but we like to believe that they do (especially teachers who make a living talking about models).
7. Seminary education has to be more experiential in its training. We can no longer divorce knowledge from practice. (This does not mean that we should be limiting our pursuit of knowledge to only those things that are immediately practical).
8. Traditional churches tend to have the pastor/teacher as leader
9. Emerging churches tend to have Apostles (entrepreneurs), Prophets (creative types), and Evangelists (promoters) but lack the pastor/teacher.
10. Healthy churches need all of them if they are going to last.