Sunday, November 23, 2008

Redefining "Normal"

This week as I stood in a boarding line at the airport, a businessman from Chicago engaged me in conversation about the economic crisis and the possibility of an automakers’ bailout. After sharing our mutual concern for a few minutes, he said, “Well, I hope things get back to normal soon.” To which I replied, “I wonder if we will ever again see ‘normal’ as we used to know it. I think we are in the process of redefining what “normal” is. Nobody really knows what that will look like, and so we keep throwing old arguments at new problems and using old models to predict a new future.”

It brought to mind an oft-used quote from Peter Drucker:

"Every few hundred years in western history, there occurs a sharp transition. Within a few short decades, society re-arranges itself: its worldview, its basic values, its society and political structure, its arts, its key institutions. Fifty years later, there is a new world. And the people born then cannot imagine the world in which their grandparents lived and into which their own parents were born. We are currently living in just such a transformation."

And then another, by way of warning, from Eric Hoffer:

"In the times of rapid change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists."

How is the church to respond in this time of change? The Missional Church Project of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is an attempt to help judicatories rethink the direction of the church. Some thoughts are set forth below. (Click here for full article)

“Out of this rapidly changing cultural context and declining church context has emerged what has come to be known as the missional church movement. The missional church movement takes seriously the need to recover the stories of our faith that we find in scripture. Rather than succumbing to the old problem of “theology divides, mission unites”, the missional church movement realizes that any healthy mission is theologically grounded. Belief and behavior cannot be separated. Theology and mission cannot be bifurcated. They are always linked, whether we can see that or not.

The missional church movement takes seriously the sociology of the massive culture shift we are undergoing. A cultural earthquake has rocked the very foundations of our society, and we find ourselves with more questions than answers. The missional church does not quickly discard the questions, or jump on easy answers. It wrestles with each question seriously, in light of scripture and prayer, looking for the new thing that God is doing in our midst.

The missional church movement realizes that we are no longer chaplains to a Christian culture. We must be a missionary people in our own land. Every congregation needs to be cross-cultural missionaries to its own community. We must move from the mindset that the church is a provider of religious services to Christian consumers to the shaper of an apostolic people on a mission to a fallen world. “

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