Thursday, February 18, 2010

Holy crap

I came across a really great essay by Walter Russell Mead The Holy Crap Must Go. I haven't read any of his other writings and he is targeting his essay at "mainline" denominations but the message is a great one. Here are some excerpts...

That’s a pretty good description of where the American church is today: there’s a lot of holy crap on the premises, and it is long past time for a good housecleaning. The American church is staggering under the burden of a physical plant that it doesn’t use and can’t pay for; it staggers under the burden of dysfunctional and bloated denominational and professional structures that it can no longer carry; and it is crippled by outdated ideas about what it needs to do its job. All these buildings, bureaucracies and assumptions may have been holy once, may have played a real part in advancing God’s work, but for a lot of them that time has passed.
Without even questioning it, most churchgoers assume that a successful church has its own building and a full-time staff including one or more professionally trained leaders (ordained or not depending on the denomination). Perhaps no more than half of all congregations across the country can afford this at all; most manage only by neglecting maintenance on their buildings or otherwise by cutting corners. And even when they manage to make the payroll and keep the roof in repair, congregations spend most of their energy just keeping the show going from year to year. The life of the community centers around the attempt to maintain a model of congregational life that doesn’t work, can’t work, won’t work no matter how hard they try. People who don’t like futile tasks have a tendency to wander off and do other things and little by little the life and vitality (and the rising generations) drift away.
Those bureaucracies, institutions, and assumptions: It’s holy crap and it’s got to go.

What would we do instead? Scale down and build a mission-centered church. Perhaps instead of the large dioceses stretching over several counties or in some cases whole states, a ‘diocese’ should consist of a collection of house churches or other congregations in a single town or urban district. A bishop might oversee half a dozen house churches — and hold down a day job in the secular world. Paul did.

Just great stuff. Again, written from a "mainline" perspective but just as valid for most evangelicals today. Give it a read!

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