Transitioning to a Post-Everything Church
Updated: Apr 9
While attending a Consultation in Melbourne, a few years ago, I should not have been surprised to discover so many people on the same page with respect to the need to develop post-everything missional communities. In interacting with students, over the past twenty years, I have found that many of them also recognise the need to create such communities. Yet seeing the need and making the transition from the church as it is to a church that is meaningful in a post-everything world is difficult.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty we face is that deep down we are reluctant or scared to make this transition to a post-everything church, because we are not ready to let go of that with which we are so familiar. Therefore, we minimise the differences between the church as it is and what it needs to become in this age of post-everything. We think we can tweak a bit here and a bit there, thus move gradually towards our goal. The reality is that the post-everything world of the twenty-first century is more discontinuous with the modern world of the twentieth century than we often imagine. This new world needs a new church and tweaking the old church will never be sufficient. We must stop minimising the differences and embrace a radical discontinuity in the way we understand church, do church and be church.
William Easum writes:
"We live in a time unlike any other time that any living person has known. It’s not merely that things are changing. Change itself has changed, thereby changing the rules by which we live. . . . Established churches are becoming increasingly ineffective because our past has not prepared us for ministry in the future. The discontinuity we have experienced because of these quantum leaps is comparable to the experience of the residents of East Berlin when the Berlin Wall came down. Nothing in their past prepared them for life without the Wall. Very little in our past has prepared us for ministry in today’s world."
If we are to embrace the new we must let go of the old, which in itself is a painful business. It will involve a period of reassessment during which our core values are re-evaluated in the light of the new paradigm in which we live. We will need to come to a new and fresh understanding of the relationship between the gospel, the church and the world. This must be done because the changing world requires a new contextual understanding of these crucial relationships.
Consequently we must ask: What is the gospel in this new post-everything world? We must ask this because while there is a sense in which the gospel never changes there is another sense in which it is always different thanks to the context in which it is communicated. Likewise, we must ask: What does it mean to be the people of God in a post-everything world? This is significant because the church on the other-side of Christendom will of necessity look very different from the church that was central to the community in which it functioned. The church in a post-everything world is a church on the periphery of a world in which there is no centre. This calls for a very different way of being the people of God from what we have experienced so far. It means that we must become what we were always meant to be – a missional community and we must rediscover the missionary nature of the church. Finally, we must ask: How do we as the people of God relate to the world in which we live? This question is important because too often we have been disconnected from the world out there. We have a tendency to live the greater part of our lives in our Christian ghettos with very little real engagement of the world beyond the walls of our churches. Too often we have been ‘of the world but not in the world’ rather than ‘in the world but not of the world’. Consequently we need to discover how to re-engage the world in which we live.
I would suggest that these questions have to be reflected upon, not in isolation from the post-everything world, but in the midst of post-everything people, in the pub, at the shopping mall, at the bowls club or the coffee shop wherever people gather. Only then will we really start to get to grips with the meaning of the gospel, our role and function as the people of God, and our relationship to the world of post-everything people. Only then will we be ready to make that radical and drastic transition to a postmodern church.