Friday, January 06, 2006

320 Postdenominational Christianity in the 21st Century

The title of the article I took to the coffee shop this morning is a mouthful: "Postdenominational Christianity in the twenty-first century," by Donald E. Miller, Annals, American Academy of Political and Social Science, 558, July 1998. I was sort of afraid this was going to be one of those "new paradigm," "seeker sensitive," "new reformation" dirges that are announcing in the death knell of liturgy, hymnal singing, and music that doesn't grow tumors in your ears.

And I was right, and it did confirm that the Lutheran (ELCA) church I attend is "postdenominational." However, the article was very reader-friendly and I think quite accurate from what I've seen at the webpages of the churches of other bloggers.
See if this doesn't sound like the successful churches you know (I've added a few white spaces to make it easier to read):

"The revolution that is transforming the Protestant landscape does not have to do with the content of Christianity so much as it does with the envelope in which is is placed. The gospel being preached is biblical and rooted in the first century, but the medium of presentation is contemporary and postmodern.

In the place of organs and choirs are bands and singers. The beloved eighteenth-century hymns of the mainline congregations have been replaced with melodies drawn from rock and roll, blues, jazz, and country-western.

The hierarchical structures of decision making, including denominational polity and layers of internal congregational bureaucracy, have been radically simplified to encourage members to act in response to the leading of the Holy Spirit as they initiate new programs and projects, rather than conform to top-down management plans. This revolution in style and organizational structure is a rebirth of the Protestant principle of the priesthood of all believers." p. 197

"The fastest growing churches in America are independent congregations that typically share the following characteristics:

They were started after the mid-1960s;

the majority of congregational members were born after 1945;

seminary training of clergy is optional;

worship is contemporary;

lay leadership is highly valued;

the churches have extensive small-group ministries;

clergy and congregants dress informally;

tolerance of different personal styles is prized;

pastors are understated, humble, and self-revealing;

bodily, rather than merely cognitive, participation in worship is the norm;

the gifts of the Holy Spirit are affirmed;

Bible-centered teaching predominates over topical sermonizing." p. 198

And here's the author's final thought--one well worth considering.

"The most vigorous movements do not rely on social science research but instead depend solely on their vision of God's claim on their lives. Indeed, when churches start hiring demographers to plot their spiritual course, then, most surely, one is witnessing the evolution of a movement into a more routinized state of its existence. p. 208

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