I was just reading a post by Paul Fromont at Prodigal Kiwi(s) in which he notes the following shifts that have occurred (in the last 50 years or so) in the church’s relation to culture. While such lists are always overgeneralizations, I thought this was worth reproducing here as a way of helping us think about Peacemeal.
From the centre to margins: in Christendom the Christian story and the churches were central, but in post-Christendom these are marginal.
From institution to movement: in Christendom churches operated mainly in institutional mode, but in post-Christendom we must become again a Christian movement.
From majority to minority: in Christendom Christians comprised the (often overwhelming) majority, but in post-Christendom we are a minority.
From settlers to sojourners: in Christendom Christians felt at home in a culture shaped by their story, but in post-Christendom we are aliens, exiles and pilgrims in a culture where we no longer feel at home.
From privilege to plurality: in Christendom Christians enjoyed many privileges, but in post-Christendom we are one community among many in a plural society.
From control to witness: in Christendom churches could exert control over society, but in post-Christendom we exercise influence only through witnessing to our story and its implications.
From maintenance to mission: in Christendom the emphasis was on maintaining a supposedly Christian status quo, but in post-Christendom it is on mission within a contested environment.
One of the hard questions that arises from this is how to sustain a community that is no longer a centered, settled, privileged, maintained institution. All of those things, while they may be problematic in relation to following Jesus into homelessness and radical discipleship, do help us sustain communities over time. Can we keep a marginal, sojourning, missional movement alive without the stabilizing forces of institution – buildings, budgets, staff, etc. Or do we need some of both? And how do we do both without doing damage to the witness of a marginal community that sees is renunciation of power (and thus its renunciation of security) as part of the call to follow Christ and be instruments of peace?