Writer’s Blocks, Blue Screens, and the Future of the Church

Writer’s Blocks, Blue Screens, and the Future of the Church
July 28, 2017 Rick Chromey

by Rick Chromey

I’ve got a serious problem.

I’m suffering from a terrible case of writer’s block. I wrote an entire column and scrapped it.  Good stuff, maybe great stuff, but needs more simmering.

So I’m going to take a different approach.  Let me write from the heart.

First, I love God’s Kingdom and I think the Church is His Best Idea.  It’s definitely up there with humans, sunsets, naps, and baseball.  However, I don’t narrowly define—as some do—the Church into particular truths or tests, frames or flavors, camps or corners, dogmas or denominations. I believe God’s True Church is bigger than my theology, preferences, biases, and desires. I also believe God will reconcile the differences, shortcomings, misapplications, heresies, and injustices that we all feel. It’s easy to be baptized by our brand, but that doesn’t mean we’re always right.

With that said, I also wonder if the Church could be nearing a blue screen moment.

You know, that horrific blue message that states “system failure.”  It’s only natural. We’ve had 2000 years of reformation, renovation, revival, and restoration. The Church has adapted and adopted, reframed and refreshed, changed and converted.

The problem?  Most of these alterations and assimilations were reflections of wider, emerging cultural contexts.  Constantine’s church looked like Rome. Luther’s church looked like the academy.  And the American church looks eerily like our political, commercial, and entertainment institutions.  Like with a well-used computer, we’ve added hardware, software, and firewalls, but every computer eventually says “enough.”

The statistics suggest an “enough” moment is coming.  It has to.  What we’re doing probably isn’t sustainable.  In a timeless, mobile, cyber culture that’s 24/7/365, the Church is still trying to do business like it’s 1995.  The clock is ticking.

So what’s the answer?

Perhaps what we need is a reboot.  We need to operate more like AD 35. We need to refresh the Church by restoring the original operating system.  We see this OS explained in Acts 2:42-47:

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

From this passage we can draw several applications:

– They were “devoted” to interactive, experiential discipleship (not buildings, attendances, programs, marketing, “personality” staff, or budgets).

– The four reasons to gather: to learn the apostles’ doctrine, fellowship, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer.

– All the apostles impressed everyone. No one apostle was central, lead, head, or spotlighted. Unity was a distinguishing mark.

– The result? Happy, contagious people who gave all and met every day, attracting daily

– People “churched” (gathered) in homes for discipleship and worship, but then operated publicly (temple courts) to preach, minister, and evangelize (Acts 5:12-16).

This ancient ecclesiological DNA was modeled by Jesus and practiced by the primitive Church until Constantine’s legalization of Christianity in the fourth century.  This primitive Church was decentralized, home-based, and autonomous. Service times, parking lots, staff, or facilities didn’t confine it.

So perhaps we go forward by getting back.  Smaller is taller.  24/7/365.

Wow!

And now that I’m fired up to write about it, my word count has expired.

But at least my writer’s block is gone.

Rick has a Doctorate of Ministry and is the author of Sermons Reimagined.

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