As I have been talking with folks and posing the idea that there are larger cultural shifts that the church needs to respond to, inevitably the question of "What exactly do these shifts look like?" comes up. While I will blog about these in more detail as time goes on, let me just toss out a few musings for you to chew on over the weekend.
A few of the cultural changes that are taking place are shifts . . .
- Towards organic movements of collaboration and away from mechanistic structures of regulation. We can no longer structure or legislate our way into community. During the Civil Rights movement, legislating from above was needed and responded to in concert with grassroots movements, but now the way people perceive authority changes the way people receive and react to mandates from on high.
- Towards committed relationships built on values and away from mandated loyalties to camps or pre-determined agendas. We can no longer rely on loyalty to an ideology. Whereas in past generations there was a Liberal or Conservative agenda that people would sign up for, these days folks have a much less polarized political, social, theological worldview. At one point maybe people did buy into every item of the Democratic or Republican platform, but no longer is that the case. Folks may now be willing to overlook some disagreements IF there is a high sense of integrity and strong values, even if it means crossing party lines.
- Towards appreciation and interaction with the other and away from tolerance for and debate with the enemy. For so long we have been "in dialog" which was really about proving why we are right and you are wrong. For so many years, we have also been taught tolerance. Tolerance is simply believing that you are right, they are wrong and we must try to be nice. What we must now be able to do is really appreciate the other, so much so that we have room to actually shift in our opinion or at the least, to acknowledge that the other person may have come to their position with just as much faithfulness as we. I need to be able to listen to you without thinking about how to change your mind and/or thinking the only reason you believe that is that you are less intelligent than me. It goes to the idea of Truth and who holds it. Too often we believe that it is we, and only we, who hold the truth now and forever.
- Towards engagement driven by hope and optimism and away from reactions based on suspicion and scarcity. We can no longer operate as if new life and hope are not realities. I believe that too many of us only know how to feel useful if we are in a climate of fear and desperation. Too many of us only know how to play the role of malcontent and/or gatekeeper and do not know how to operate within a climate of hope. In fact, when we are really unhealthy, we may even create negativity and chaos when it is not there, simply so we can come in and operate in a more comfortable setting. How many times have folks tried to move things forward only to run into walls of negativity and fear? Now this is not simply a stage-of-life issue, but a reality that we, especially the church, must deal with. Jesus did not come to bring despair, but hope. If we the church, of all institutions, cannot live into that idea, we might as well pack it in and go home. Movements of hope do not demand ease and smooth sailing, but a common understanding that through the struggle and communal hard work, there is new life ahead.
There are of course even more shifts that are taking place, but right now I think these are some of the more important ones for us to address as a church.