A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Quote of the Day 2008.17

Seven Ways to Change Congregational Culture: Renewed Life

Though the past quarter century has been a challenging, sometimes discouraging time for mainline congregations and their leaders, many positive things, often hidden from public view or statistical analysis, have been going on. Many mainline congregations have learned to see scripture afresh, have profited from more biblical preaching and have rediscovered the power and beauty of worship. There has been an explosion of creative new hymnody, reflected and made available in a host of new hymnals. Mainline churches have rethought and refrained their social and political witness in a way that has deepened rather than diminished it. As interest in "spirituality" has grown in the larger culture, many mainline congregations have deepened their own forms of Christian piety through Bible study and prayer, spiritual direction and formation, and a renewed appreciation for the rites and rituals of the church.

From my own experience, I would suggest that mainline congregational culture is changing. Specifically, I see seven shifts in that culture: seven ways that mainline churches are changing -- or should be changing -- the way they operate.

From civic faith to the practice of transformation: With their churches no longer part of the religious establishment, and with the country increasingly diverse culturally and pluralistic religiously, mainline leaders have had to ask bottom-line questions -- questions about purpose, not profit. What is the deep purpose of the church? What is the purpose of our particular church? Descriptions that once defined the church’s mission -- being the conscience of the community, helping those in need or being a center for civic or social life -- are no longer fully adequate.

What is our purpose today? It is suggested by words and phrases like "Christian formation," "spiritual development," "healing," "making disciples." All are images of change, of human transformation.

At the church I serve, we find ourselves reclaiming such familiar yet strange words and phrases as "dying and rising," "new hearts and new minds," "being born anew," "repentance," "new creation" and "conversion." Our business is the transformation and formation of persons and communities in light of the vision and values of the gospel.

We are not abandoning the task of addressing issues of our common life as a society. If we are faithful to our scriptures and, in our case, to the Reformed tradition, we will continue to recognize, as Calvin said, that "all of life is lived before and unto God," and to speak of and to the common good. But we are no longer the sole religious voice, nor the exclusive voice of conscience in the community. Ours is one voice among many. Increasingly, we seek to be an alternative in a society that is often destructive of human relationships and humane values, a society afflicted by a chronic low-grade nihilism that is masked but not healed by material affluence. Those seeking a church today need more than a committee assignment. They need and seek a whole new way of life. The church offers the possibility of transformation in light of the story of God’s grace and the life and practices derived from that story.

You can read Anthony B. Robinson's entire article here.

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