Journal Entry – 'A New Kind of Christian'

New Kind of ChristianThis week for Emergent Gathering we are focusing on the first five chapters of A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren.  I want to specifically look at chapter two.

The character in this novel, Dan, is a pastor who is basically tired of the politics of church.  He is fed up the fighting within his congregation. He is also fed up with the criticism he is receiving.

“Leadership is hard, but it’s next to impossible when the leader isn’t sure of where he’s going.”

This statement from Dan’s friend Neo is what I want to focus in on, and even more specifically modernity vs. post-modernity.  Both of these terms, modernity and post-modernity, can lead to heated discussions within churches (and church leadership).  But what I appreciate about what McLaren wrote is that if you fall into one camp you are not automatically anti the other.  And this is where I think we are missing the mark in dialogue with one another and in our own theology/philosophy.

We live in a post-modern world whether we want to admit it or not.  We are moving out of the “age of individualism” and returning to a more community focused way of living.  Evidence of this can be seen in the way movement away from big box stores and the return to local sourcing.  It’s not enough anymore to have access to a large quantity of options, we want to know where and HOW these options were sourced.  We want to know who manufactured and produced the products we are consuming.  And all of this is clashing with our desire for instant gratification when we purchase a product.

In our churches we can see themes of modernity being outdated also.  For example, the “institutionalization” of congregations was once an appealing trait for prospective members.  Membership is no longer a priority for most, people are not seeking a civic organization to join when they are looking for a faith community.  People are seeking a religious experience that is more intentional and less staged.  We want to be part of the process of creating a religious community and not expect to assimilate toa community.  We want the community to value us and our skills; not becoming reliant upon the “skills” of the institution.

When the institution becomes the priority, our experience can become disillusioned.  If our favorite trait of the institution disappear then so does, in the eyes of someone holding on to the institution, the institution itself disappears.

However, in a post-modern world we cannot discount or push aside everything we gained during modernity.  The key though, in the church-world, is to find the balance that works best for your community AND the members of that community.  The focus first must come off of the institution, removing the institutional label,  and be placed on the individuals that make up the community.