In light of Sermonindex' overarching theme of revival, I wanted to present a question that has been forming in my mind regarding the future of the church.
Currently I am noticing 3 different and apparently conflicting trends for the future of the church. All 3 directions claim to be the fastest growing and most radical adjustment in Christianity since the Reformation itself. What is curious is that they all want the same objective: authentic New Testament apostolic Christianity
Let me briefly describe these three models as I understand them. My intent is respectful since I am presuming to describe my brothers and sisters.
1) The Apostolic Reformation: The loose formation of apostolic networks all over the world in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the United States, which desire to be Gods "new wineskins" for what used to be denominations. At the core of this idea is that God is restoring the office of Apostle in every literal sense minus the penning of new scripture. Along with prophets, these leaders become the foundation of the church. "Vertical" apostles are over several churches and "horizonal" apostles postion themselves as guides to other apostles. It should be noted that all of this sounds much more authoritative then it could be---these structures currently just function as friendly peer groups.
The pastor, rather then being an employee of the church, leads almost unilaterally with majority descretion of the budget. Megachurches are regarded as the flagship vessels, where most of the senior apostolic talent will be raised up. Money and modernity are talked about openly and directly as pragmatic solutions for advancing God's kingdom.
The chief virtue of the Apostolic Reformation is that the church, through nimble Godly leadership, can mobilize people and resources faster, without bureaucracy to fullfill it's prophetic mandate.
For more info read C.Peter Wagner's "Churchquake", regarded as an essential guidebook for the movement.
2) The Emergent Church: If the Apostolic Church represents "consensus", then this international movement represents "contested consensus". Here the modern mega-church, as well as traditional authorities are being rejected in favor of the post-modern faith community. Whereas the 20th century church had to engage a society certain of it's scientific knowledge, the 21st century church will have to engage a society certain of nothing. Newtonian laws give way to quantum chaos. In order to provide a counter culture to the angst of uncertainty, the ermergent church reaches back in church history and employs icons, creeds, and liturgies freely with contemporary worship and preaching. Of the many churches that are identifying themselves with this movement, the one thing they have in common is uniqueness from each other. Each community invites it's members to creatively contribute to the mission formation.
In claiming that the post-modern world shares several similarities to the ancient pagan world, this movement assigns itself the goal of restoring historic christianity---not reinventing it. They are not the irreligous liberal church. Though they seem to attract Christians beyond the "right-wing"spectrum, they espouse descipleship to the living Jesus.
It is noteworthy that why they maintain the sole authority of scripture they do not maintain that objective certainty is always possible concerning it's intepretation. They point out that the church predates scripture so each community is only bound to historic orthodoxy, not the strict minutia of modern denominations. To them, this is being an authentic and living "Christocentric" church, vs. a modern static "bibliocentric" church.
The chief virtue of the Emergent Church is that each member feels ownership for the ministry of the community, allowingfor vital nuances of communication needed to reach the shapeless global society of the new century.
For more info check out "Emerging Church" by Dan Kimball, or "Ancient Faith, Future Faith" by Robert E. Webber.
3) The Churchless Church: This is a trend that I just recently became aware of. Also called the "Out of Church Christians" this group is an unorganized (at least by man) phenomena that is gaining global attention. I would describe these believers as "disenchantment seeking reinchantment" or better yet, "Reorganizing Church outside Organized Religion." They are the former laypeople, lay leaders, and staff leaders of organized churches.
The fact that this trend represents a diverse and autonomous exodous across racial, economic, denominational, and cognitariat borders, yet still has a unifying principle is noteworthy; these believers are bleeding out of organized religion because they feel established leadership is failing to obey the commands of Jesus for His church.
Claiming financial and spiritual fiduciary failure by existing leadership, these brothrs and sisters have determined to reorganize themselves afresh in each others homes or businesses. They want a renewed passion for frontline ministries such as feeding the poor, sheltering the homeless, and evangelizing the lost without pointless spending. They want to be free to express the gospel without being co-opted into political party advertising. They want to find healing and recovery from hurtful authority experiences. They want to leave the entrenched command structure of the fortress and engage the enemy as aggressive calvary and infantry.
The chief virtue for the "Churchless Church" is that they can commit their spiritual and material resources to the Great Commission in a manner they believe in, free from undesirable wastefulness.
I know that several people have recently posted on this subject who certainly know more then myself.
Here is a link on the subject:
[url=http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~revival/00-Out-Of-Church.html]Out of Church Christians[/url]
If you are still reading this, I am interested if someone can suggest a meaningful theme to what seems to be divergent trends. I like to make order of things...it's a compulsion I guess. If you have an insight, concern, or critique I would find it interesting.
Please do not post stories of abuse and disillusionment by any of these movements. Please do not use my sincere inquiry as a dartboard to throw around scriptures like 2 Peter 2, or Matthew 7:15-23. Besides missing the point of my question, I'll feel the sting of the darts since I stand in solidarity with the body. Cutting off branches is not the work given to me. :-o