First, this is not a post to bring up the debate about the future of denominations. I understand that this is a large and complex question. It goes beyond the long time dispute between the "Denominations are evil" and "Non-denoms are American Individualists" folks. I also know that future of institutional religion is going through a tremendous upheaval from both the "left" and "right" hopefully ending up in some mish-mash of people gathering along like interests for the common good. We’ll see . . .
As far as my beloved Presbyterian Church (USA) I understand that we have issues – why I should leave – but I have also landed in a place where I think this is what is most helpful for me – why I will say – at this point in time.
So here is the story . . .
Last week I met up with some MBCC transplants now living in the Chapel Hill/Durham area. One of the things I wanted to do was to go to church on Sunday. I take my responsibility to help those who leave one congregation to find another one very seriously. So I did some research, posted something over at Presbymergent and scoured the Presbytery website. While some fine suggestions, from the online faces, we couldn’t find one that fit these folks needs, hopes, etc. Yes, I understand that they SHOULD be willing to go anywhere to worship God, but lets be real. It needs to be a place where they can both be fed and do some feedin’. There must be SOME reason that they would muddle through some of the other "stuff" that exists in any congregation. More importantly a church for them needs to have a postmodern worldview that is not just talked about and hoped for, but lived out. Tired two faced images of "We welcome all people" "We are bible-based" or "We are NOT that" ring hallow and modern.
One of the couples had done some church visiting – giving each place two Sunday’s in a row – but found most to be the opposite of what they would like to be part of a community that is vital, engaging, compelling and relevant to their lives. None has felt like they truly wanted folks to engage in conversations and being community in new ways.
This is just sad. I am sure this in not just a NC Triangle thing, but if I were a church shopper with a postmodern worldview, would I find your church? Of more importantly, should I find it?
Keep in mind that these are not people who are looking for a consumer based church. These were folks who are engaged in ministry while they were in SF and understand that they should not look for a MBCC clone. they could deal with any style, but what we could tell from our web search was that the image and message of most churches was: tradition for traditions sake, come here if you are wealthy, young and elite, we are pretty much the same as we were in the 50’s. These seem harsh, but that is what experience.
So this raises the question, "What should we do?"
Now I know many of you out there would say that this is a denominational issue. I don’t think that is true. I think it is an American culture stagnation issue manifested in churches. Being a denomination does not automatically mean we can’t be vital, engaging, compelling and relevant. In fact, I think our rich traditions can give us more grounding to be that than being out on an island. But that is just me.
So dear Presbyterians. We are in dire straights. We must think of ways to be and do church differently to be able to meet the needs of so many that are seriously looking. I know this is nothing new, but this experience and the great possibility that these particular folks are somewhat being left out to dry by me and this denomination, has given me a sense of urgency about the ways we not just live community, but get the word out.
If you are of a postmodern way of being, share it better. If this is not your crowd, help the presbytery to share who is. Look a the bigger picture of the area congregations ans REALLY ask the questions of whether or not all these types and styles of church would be doing better ministry if they were together and starting other.
Whether or not you "buy" that this worldview is already the air we breath one must at least acknowledge that these types of folks are absent from most Presbyterian Church. We must, for lack of a better phrase, diversify our efforts. Our denominational nature allows us to be all things to all people so it’s time to cowboy/cowgirl up my friends and get to the sharing of Christ in beautiful complexity that God allows.
For some folks who are thinking about these kinds of issues, Presbymergent.