Why We’ve Got Bigger Things to Worry About than the Death of Denominations: Community and Ministry in a Post-Denominational World


Congregations in a Post-Denominational World

We live in the most mobile, and often the most disconnected culture in the history of the world. Young people are told from an early age that success in life requires a college education. After graduating college, often with a mountain of student loan debt, young people find themselves in the awkward position of having to find jobs less according to vocational and personal compatibility or prospects for advancement or even for geographic proximity to family and friends than for whether a job will pay them enough to pay back the back.

Consequently, with few exceptions, we’ve created a society that requires the possibility of mobility as the price of admission. Follow the money.

“It says here that you are exceptionally well qualified for this position. If we offer you the job, are you prepared to move to our Schenectady branch?”

“Do you have anything in the midwest? I’d kind of like to stay closer to my family.”

“Next.”

This mobility has resulted in paradox of young adults who aspire to independence, yet eagerly desire to maintain interpersonal relationships. This paradox places a new set of demands on the church.

Congregations must recognize that young adults aren’t looking to “join.” They appear less interested in community as a tool to accomplish some other purpose than in community as a place to make and keep friends. This raises challenges for congregations in what appears to be a post-denominational world seeking to provide a safe place where friendships can be made and community can develop among young adults.

On its face, this attachment to friendship for its own sake can cause alarm in older generations in the church who’ve traditionally understood church to work in almost the exact opposite way. In the past denominations helped provide the kind of social stability I’ve been describing, a world in which friendships endured because people tended to stay in the same places.

Denominational loyalty was a hallmark of this social stability. After becoming a part of a denomination, either through birth, conversion, or transfer of membership, people tended to identify with that denomination indefinitely. There was a time when it was common to hear someone self-describe as a “fourth generation Methodist,” for example. Today, denominational loyalty seems a quaint bit of nostalgia, like the gilded memories of neighborhood soda fountains and day baseball.

The religious stability that existed as a result of denominational loyalty served as a foundation for a stable world in which people could count on friendships that endured over a lifetime. Emerging generations, however, tend to have much less invested in particular denominations than older generations, viewing churches through the consumerist lens of cost-benefit analysis.[1] They care much less about denominational history or doctrinal purity. As a result, they certainly seem to care less (shockingly so to longtime denominational stalwarts) about the survival of the traditional denominational bureaucracies that underlie mission work and educational initiatives.

A Conversation (Brief Interlude)

I had a conversation recently with the new co-chairs of our outreach ministry. Both women had joined our church and our denomination within the last five years. As we reviewed the budget, one woman looked up and said: “What is this line item?”

“Oh, that’s the money we send to the denomination.”

“Really?” she said. “That seems like an awful lot. It’s over half of our outreach budget. What do they do with that money?”

“Well, that money goes to support the mission work of the denomination.”

All that money goes toward mission?”

I was getting a little uncomfortable. “Not in the strictest sense, no.”

“In what sense then?”

“Part of it goes to overseas mission. Part of it goes to mission here in the U.S., our advocacy for justice, support for ministries of compassion. Part goes to education. Part goes to support ministerial search and call. Part comes back to the region. Part goes to cover the administrative costs.”

“Sounds to me like a big chunk of it goes to paying people’s salaries to administer programs that have nothing to do with the kind of ministry we’re trying to do right here.”

Really uncomfortable, I said, “Look, we have a historic commitment to support the initiatives of our denomination. That’s just the way it works.”

“Fine. So, what do we get in return?”

“Lots of stuff.”

“Like what?”

“Well, we get the satisfaction of supporting and belonging to something on a national, even a global level.”

“Hmmm … I’d like the satisfaction of actually doing ministry. That’s a lot of money for something that sounds curiously like institutional maintenance. Just think of the amazing things we could do right here with that kind of money.”

“You’re just going to have to trust me on this one. Ask ______ and ______. They’ve been around forever. They’ll tell you we’ve got to do this.”

Part of the reason we are in a post-denominational world, and part of the challenge facing mainline denominations going forward is wrapped up in that discussion. It’s going to be harder and harder to make that argument to people who have no broader sense of the scope and breadth of denominational history or it current vision for mission. As ______ and _______ grow older and become less involved in the life of the congregation, the people capable of making the argument for maintaining the institution will be fewer and fewer.

Couple that with emerging generations that have very little denominational loyalty and very little in the way of an impulse to join institutions, and you have a recipe for increasing difficulty for denominational survival—if what you mean by survival has to do with maintaining structures, with their administrative and personnel costs.

Back to Congregations in a Post-Denominational World

In the denominational world older generations often saw participation in the church as a necessity for salvation, as way to get involved in a worthy cause, or as a socially approved activity. In other words, the church was viewed as instrumentally useful in the service of larger projects (i.e., getting to heaven, doing the work of compassion and justice, networking, etc.), and friendship was an outgrowth of associating with other people to achieve these other ends.

Older generations, because society and one’s social networks tended to be more stable, could count on friendships that endured over a lifetime due to geographic proximity. You could make friends in kindergarten, graduate high school, and go to work together in the factory, mine, or quarry. If you didn’t work together, you went to work on the farm, and your friend started up down at the family drug store in your hometown. Or, if everyone went to college, you and your childhood friends often returned home to set up shop, hang out a shingle, or join a practice among the same familiar faces. You could often count on knowing the same people, having the same friends over the course of your life. Chances are that, after having grown up, you belonged to the same church you and your family had always attended.

In other words, older generations didn’t need the church to make friends—they already had a whole network of friendships developed early on. People could join churches based on a variety of factors—denominational loyalty, worship style, doctrinal purity, commitment to justice, or connectedness to desirable social networks—and trust that friendship was available, whether from the institution or among their antecedent social networks. I call this affiliate community. People affiliate with a group based on some prior commitment to
an ideal or project.

“You guys do VBS? Great! My kids are little hellions.”

From these affiliations community can grow as people join together around some higher calling.

“This place is great! I see your kids are hellions, too. Maybe we could get them together while we go to Krav Maga. It’s the official self defense system of the Israeli Defense Forces, you know.”

That’s not to say that older generations didn’t make friends at church via affiliate community; they did. Recognizing the implicit expectations of social stability among older generations, however, helps to point up the different need the church fulfilled in the past. Church, for older generations, is where you go to get stuff done, and if you make friends along the way, so much the better. But if you can’t count on social stability to make and keep friends, the church becomes a different kind of place altogether.

Young adults, because they live in a world where social stability can no longer be assumed, need to be more creative about developing and sustaining personal relationships. I call this kind of association attachment community, where people come together because of a need to attach themselves to a group of people for the purpose of cultivating friendship.

“You guys drink beer? Outside of work , I don’t really know anybody in this city. I’ve got to find some people to hang out with. Otherwise, I think I’m going to go Krav Maga on somebody. It’s the official self defense system of the Israeli Defense Forces, you know.”

The church has an opportunity in this itinerant culture to be a place for making friends.

“That’s not what the church is for.”

Why not?

“Because, the church has more serious business to attend to than whether some young person has anybody to go bowling with on Friday night.”

The smart-aleck response that comes to mind is: “Really? How’s that working out for you? Got young people knocking down your doors to get in?”

The more measured response is: “Perhaps, the church in a post-denominational world needs to imagine itself differently. Instead of understanding itself as an institution that needs to attract people to get things done, it should begin to see itself as a gathering where God promises to be, and where people can flourish as the communal beings God created them to be.”

A gathering where God promises to be, where people can flourish as the communal beings God created them to be.

What do I mean by that?

The gathering, of course, has to do with the deep yearning for community I’ve been describing. The purpose of this gathering is to draw people God loves together so that they can draw strength from one another as they seek to find their lives, which allows them not only to live but to thrive.

“Put that way, the whole thing sounds like another attempt to use the church to meet individual needs—in this case, the need for community.”

I can see how it might first appear that way. Bear with me a moment, and let me see if I can be more clear about this.

The kind of reorientation of purpose I’m describing—one that views the church first as a gathering seeking to live out its purpose as human beings created for friendship in community, I think more nearly describes the kind of church described, for example, in Acts 2:44–47:

All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke break together at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the good will of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Now, it may very well be that this earliest description of the church is nostalgic, an idealized account of something that never really existed, except in the imaginations of those who longed for a church that only seemed possible in simpler times. This charge is not particularly damaging to what I’m trying to describe, however, because the “ideal” is precisely what I’m after. If the question is “What should the church be?” it seems plausible to go back to the earliest idealized accounts of what the church was supposed to look like.

The idealized church in Acts 2 describes a group of people, the primary description of which underscores the desire to be “together.” The impulse to congregate makes a great deal of sense for the early church when you consider that this newfound faith left them at odds—both with the Jewish faith of their childhood (which very often meant from their families and friends) and with a hostile political culture (which had just made a political example of their leader/rabbi by a very public execution).

Moreover, the author of Acts draws attention to their common life together, characterized by their willingness to share everything. When referring to this passage many commentators focus on the economic component, particularly the phrase indicating that the community, which “had all things in common” would “sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” This inclination to pool their goods is extremely important and shouldn’t be glossed over. However, I think the passage is speaking about more than just the willingness of the early church to run church sanctioned yard sales.

Sharing all things in common apparently also included their time and their affection for one another. The text continues, pointing out that “day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the good will of all the people.” In other words, they became friends.

They hung out together. They ate food together. They sought one another’s company.

What came out of all this congregating? That is to say, what is the progression of events set down by the author of Acts?

Those who believed came together. They shared a common life, including their resources, their time, and their affection. They spent “much time together,” breaking bread and enjoying one another. Out of all this togetherness emerge two things: worship and expansion.

It seems important to note that worship appears, at least in part, to be the communal response to God’s having called these people to share “much time together.” Having broken bread together with “glad and generous hearts,” the first thing the author of Acts says they do is start “praising God.” Worship, at least in this telling of it, breaks forth from a people who love each other and take every opportunity to be together.

What happens next? People see all of this comity and friendship and fall all over themselves to be a part of it. The opportunity to make friends, to find shelter from an often hostile world, to be a part of a community held together by something greater than a collection of individual interests appears so attractive that “day by day” new people show up and want in. In this way, the church isn’t just a collection of individuals seeking to get their social needs met; it’s a polis that helps people to identify what their truest needs are.

It strikes me that the church today might take its cue from this earliest idealized description of the church.

What Do I Envision?

In a mobile society I believe the church needs to begin to think first about how to bring people together, to cultivate relationships that are difficult to form as people grow older. That is not to say that churches need to leave behind their commitment to worshiping God or to seeking justice or to educating and forming the faithful. It is to say that those things can be the product of communities called to together by God, rather than places that seek to form communities for the purpose of accomplishing those things.

Am I saying it’s wrong to gather people together to accomplish some greater goal, or that working together can’t produce community? Absolutely not. At times when people can assume a stable culture where friendship and community is a durable product of being located in a single place over time, I think associational community can work just fine. But in a time when the culture seems to force dislocation and rootlessness, when friendships are often fleeting and difficult to cultivate, being a place where the initial appeal revolves around getting things done is going to be a hard sell to emerging generations.

Something like a pub or coffee house ministry—almost cliché in some circles and misunderstood in others—if not viewed as just another slick marketing tool to bait and switch a desirable demographic into the church, has the virtue of providing a non-threatening space in which people can gather to make friends. The focus is first focused on creating space and not on creating new members.

“Fine. But what if those people don’t ever join the church?”

What if they don’t? They weren’t scratching and clawing to get in anyway. Why not just do it because it’s the right thing to do? People who have no other community need a place to belong. Whether the church ever benefits from it, why not just provide it as a service because we’ve been called to minister to a world struggling to keep its head above water?

In a post-denominational world, the church is going to have to learn to love ministry, service, loving people because that’s what we were created and called by God to do. It should quit spending all its time figuring out all the angles by which it might benefit from ministry. Ministry is not a marketing tool, designed to sell something; it’s a vocation, a way of life.

Whether or not denominations survive intact should be of less concern to us than that the gospel is lived out. And if our highest priority is living out the gospel, then we’re going to have to spend more time thinking about how we can produce great and interesting ministry out of the stable foundation of community, and less time worrying about how to prop up flagging institutions.

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24 thoughts on “Why We’ve Got Bigger Things to Worry About than the Death of Denominations: Community and Ministry in a Post-Denominational World

  1. I’m not sure what you mean by “post-denominational,” but it sounds rather apocalyptic. Are you proposing the end of denominations?

    What makes you think the Church of Acts 2 was “idealized”? Acts was written probably in the early 60s — when many of the first Christians would still have been living. If the description is “nostalgic,” it’s only because there is truth in it.

    You also left out some pretty important verses there, describing the Apostolic Church’s community:

    And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.

    They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. This isn’t just talking about hanging out and eating together. The “breaking of bread” is the Eucharist, Holy Communion. This is talking about a fellowship, a communion in Christ, a community – a unity together – through his Body.

    Community – helping people connect – is important. Lord knows it was my biggest problem with church growing up. But one doesn’t find it through a positive social atmosphere. One finds it through communion with Christ and with the other members of His Body.

    My biggest issue with churches today is not that there are denominations, but that there are so many denominations. And even more “nondemoninations.” Denominations – and even before there were denominations, the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church – are not just associations for “getting things done.” They are supposed to provide some semblance of unity to the faith. You may think that Acts 2 is “idealized,” but we are still supposed to be following that model and “believing in common.” There are now more tha 40,000 Protestant denominations, and many of them can’t even sit down at a table together, let alone worship God together. Rather than just failing to help some young people make friends, our bigger crisis is the failure of our Christian unity. And proposing the end of denominations seems only a recipe for hastening the disintegration of the Body of Christ.

    • Joseph,

      You raise a lot of important issues. Let me see if I can address a few of them.

      First, I’m not saying that the Acts 2 account is idealized. I said that that charge “may very well be true.” But it might not. My argument, however, doesn’t turn on the church actually having been that way. (I’m happy to believe it was that way, for what it’s worth.) My point is that what’s significant is the way that the church was *portrayed* in Acts–that is, as heavily centered on community.

      Second, I left out those verses not because they contradict what I’m saying about the centrality of community, but because they characterize the kind of community early Christians lived in (another post). I don’t want to be misunderstood to be saying that community per se is an unqualified good (there are bad communities). Instead, my point is that people typically don’t scout out the strongest doctrinal stance, and make a decision on community based on that. They generally find community, and grow into an identity shaped by “the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

      Third, neither am I suggesting that churches are associations whose sole purpose is “getting things done,” without respect to good theology. My argument is a nuanced one that claims that what draws people to the church is not purity of doctrine–again, not that it’s not important–but that pure doctrine can become (and often has when viewed more as a relic than as a living tradition) a dead husk used to beat people with whom one disagrees.

  2. Thanks again, Derek.

    I think that your analysis is sound and though-provoking, when we consider the post-postmodern age of existential disconnectedness in a hyper-integrated world. I wonder what this critique might look like through the lens of imperialism.

    We live in a country that was a formal apartheid state barely a generation ago. We live in a nation that has a legacy of chattel slavery and disenfranchisement for vast swaths of the population. Our government grants the “rights” of corporations to exploit not only its citizens, but poor folks around the globe, and funnels tax dollars to foreign dictators through military channels, who brutally oppress their citizens. If we were to do a critique of church in or after Nazi Germany, South Africa or the USSR, for example, we would undoubtedly consider the context of the anti-democratic State, as we should. Why do we ignore it here? Surely, we have the advantage as Americans of free speech, of free association, but that should not render legitimate the power structure of this country’s appalling human human rights violations. We may enjoy unprecedented freedom to speak truth to power, but I argue that to choose not to use it is offensive and morally reprehensible. I wonder if a framing of the church as a voice for God within an empire that is antagonistic to the will of God and the Kin-dom helps us to see how we’ve been divided and controlled along artificial “cultural” lines.

    In other words, perhaps if we saw ourselves as compelled by the same imperative that held the early church together in the heart of the brutal Roman empire, we’ll find previously unobserved avenues for unity and common purpose. I’m not going to suggest that your vision of church in coffeehouses or bars is a misguided one, because I don’t think that it is. We definitely need to create new spaces. But I see that as a “how” to the “what.” The “what” is not a pub-church; the what, I believe, is a community of resistance. I think that if we can touch a nerve in people and show them how they are being socially divided and controlled by a power-structure that does unconscionable things that they would never consent to if they saw the whole picture, they’d join the resistance of God’s community to overthrow it and clear the way for the kin-dom of God.

    Much appreciation for THIS space to let the love of God flow through!

    Just a thought. 🙂

    • …and for the FBI eyes that troll the Internet, when I say “overthrow,” I mean, peaceful, nonviolent overthrow. I mean a community of people who open themselves up as channels to let the flood of God’s love, justice, healing, peace, justice, righteousness and hope flow into the world so that all God’s children are free to reflect the imago dei like a shining star throughout all time and space.

  3. Derek, I have found the “Where Does Your Money Go?” Report from Disciples Misune sion Fund to tell the story of how much/little mission they are supporting.
    I really love your articles. They push me to be more & more attune to where God is leading in 2012 toward the future!! Thank you!

  4. I like much of the thrust of this article, which is about forming community. But having just dropped my kids off at summer camp, and having had an amazing outpouring of support from my region so that I could take a sabbatical last year, and having just attended a seminar on entrepreneurial skills for missional pastors, and having already planned to go to “Playing With Fire”, an exciting retreat for missional church leaders in September, I have no problem explaining what we get for the money we send to our denomination. And I usually also also mention that without the denomination you’d have no way to know how to find a pastor, or whether that pastor is adequately trained and prepared, or whether that pastor might be a pedophile with a criminal record, and you’d have no way to provide a pension for that pastor, and your health insurance options for you pastor would be very limited. Yes, I have no problem explaining why we need the denomination. If we didn’t have it, we’d have to invent it. And it would cost more.

    • Steve,
      Steve,

      I hear you. I’m not saying that the denomination isn’t important, or that I am unwilling to make precisely the same argument you make about its usefulness. I’ve benefited from it myself.

      The larger point I’m making is that, whereas there used to be any number of denominational loyalists in any church who could make that argument, there numbers are fewer and fewer. And one of these days soon, those who are left won’t be able to hold back the tide of newcomers who’d much rather hang onto that money for local mission work.

      I was merely trying to be descriptive, not necessarily evaluative on that point. Whether I like it or not is another issue entirely.

  5. Thank you Derek,
    at 26 yrs old, and as a pastor, I am painfully aware of the fact that, had I not felt the call to ministry and pursued it professionally….I probably would only be in church twice a year.

  6. Derek,

    I thought a lot about the conversation you had with your new outreach co-chair, and what I might say if I were in your situation, because I have definitely been in that same sort of situation–where I’ve had to explain those benefits to folks who come to me and ask me why the heck my parish is in the Disciples of Christ anymore. I definitely feel for ya!

    I basically tell them that while I respect the rise of nondenominational/postdenominational churches, my belief is that the church shouldn’t just go it alone, and that we can make a bigger imprint on the world through our outreach by having a denomination that can help coordinate the global mission efforts of 3,500-some congregations. But if that doesn’t work, I make it more personal–like, say, about HELM (the amount of scholarship money I received from the denomination to fund my seminary education was easily in the five figures, and I tell them without that, I might not even be the pastor here) or our region’s transformation ministry to revitalize congregations (which my parish has certainly benefited from).

    Not every effect from ministry has to be visible to actually have that direct effect on the world–the steps it took from the Disciples’ aid to me in seminary to me being in my current pastorate are multiple and complicated. But it is still a vital part of my church’s life now.

    Just my $0.02, that’s all. =)

    Blessings,
    Eric Atcheson

  7. Thanks for the great thoughts, Derek!

    This is echoes a lot of what I have seen in my past several years of young adult ministry. It does make for a challenging ministry reality. Some of our young adults are so mobile, that our efforts to use their gifts in church life ends up being frustrating. By the time we get their okay to be on a committee or serve in some other capacity, they move. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just our reality.

    I think church does need to be a different kind of community. Acts 2 continues to capture our imagination because it is different. There does seem to be wrapped in that image room for a community of resistance, community of support, and community of spiritual growth. How do we balance those? How do we position our community so as to have multiple entry points for people who are on completely different spiritual paths?

    I obviously recommend Carrol Merrit’s Tribal Church here as a great read that goes along the same lines you are looking for here. A good read.

    And I remind us – someone pointed out once that during the Great Depression, a lot of denominational staffs were super small. It was a necessity and reality. Perhaps we are going through a period like that again. I really don’t know.

  8. I suggest that if the viability and character of a community is affected by the mobility of individuals, then both their definition and evocation of community is too small. An “Acts 2” community is not bound to a place or a particular constituency. The Good News is about how we live with ourselves, with each other (regardless of when or where or for how long), and with God – and how it makes empire irrelevant and even unnecessary. The first and primary responsibility of clergy is to model the Good News – not preach it – to live in, be, evoke, and provoke the Kingdom of God. Citizenship and leadership in the Kingdom of God cannot be provided by any seminary. It comes from a mature, deep, rich individual relationship with God. In contemporary parlance, a congregational clergy person is an agent of change. If you are not going to be an agent of change, do not enter into congregational ministry – your calling is somewhere else. An “Acts 2” community is not a utopian commune based on an ethereal premise. An “Acts 2” community is a family relationship among people who have been resurrected and transformed. Without the resurrection and transformation of the character of each participating individual, an “Acts 2” community is impossible.

    The Good News has 3 inseparable messages:
    1) The universal accessibility of the personal and persistent unrestrained love and unconditional grace of God; and
    2) The feeding quenching clothing healing visiting welcoming compassion and the reparative rehabilitating restorative justice of the Community; and
    3) The inclusive hospitality and joyous generosity and healthy service of the Individual.

  9. I think I get the distinctions you are trying to make about types of community, and I am here to say, I *do* get the type of community of which you speak from my denomination, as well as in an individual congregation. I did when I was growing up in the denomination, and I do now, in the modern climate, as well. I have met and made friends in the secular world (as an adult) due to our individual affiliations, past or present, with the DOC. I have made friendships within the denomination, ones that are not even geographically based and therefore require nurturing, but have lasted years and grown deeper. Being free-thinking Disciples, some of them are friends I don’t really agree with doctrinally, but I love them for the sake of the quality of our friendship outside of worship.
    I have to admit I haven’t been checking any regional budget reports lately, so don’t know what the real numbers are on donations, and missions, and outreach, for debating purposes, but I know how much I value things like the summer camp ministries, the search & call process I have been involved in 3 times now, the regional and interim ministers who came and soothed and supported and provided rational mindsets in times of congregational strife (God bless you, Dr. Nunnelly, and Guy Waldrop). I feel partly involved in missions like Week of Compassion through my sometimes donations. I feel that our regional work is important in addition to our individual congregational ministries, and deserving of our support. I do not believe it’s mainly going to paper-pushing and institutional maintenance. Like many Disciples, I hope for the day of unity of denominations in one body, but failing that, I want to belong to my denomination. I want to make friends and keep community, both at the table, and just in fellowship outside of mission. Seriously, I can number friends on both hands and needing the toes, too, who were not made while “getting things done,” but simply through fellowship within my denomination. Actually, those times in community are some of my most treasured gatherings – because they are not the same as meeting a stranger at work or at a party. They are already “gatherings where God promises to be.” If you add in the connections I’ve made in the denomination while actually working on something together, I’m not even sure how many fingers and toes I’d need. Regarding outreach, I would hate to be cut adrift, a congregation floating on a sea of individual ministries tied only to the work we decide to pursue ourselves. I would be happy to talk to those co-chairs for you – I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable or like I was hedging at all, just enthusiastic in my love for my community. If we’re talking about why denominations and individual congregations are losing community in the modern climate, I’m not sure I’d blame the organizations for not providing a gathering place as an alternative to a “honey-do” list of projects to be shouldered. I think I’d lay a lot of blame at the feet of individuals who are either too busy, too self-absorbed, or simply don’t know how to be in community. They think they want it, they even sometimes go looking for it, but then they discover that community is hard. You have to open up to other people. You have to commit to following through on individual relationships over time. At some point, either initially, or at least at some point down the road, the interaction (in my opinion) has to take place face to face. You’ll have to get over bumps in the road, because community is worth not walking away. You don’t have to see someone every day or live in the same city to do this. But I think many people today grow up not knowing how to do it. I don’t know how to fix this other than to start at the beginning with teaching the ones growing up now. I’m flummoxed as to how to fix the ones already out on their own. I don’t think offering gathering opportunities is enough. They float in, they float through, they float out. Whether what you’ve offered is authentic or not. I am very, very, grateful I grew up learning community. Oh, the examples I had in my life. I am trying my best to show it to the generation I am raising. To surround them with people other than myself who know how to do it. And people their own age who are learning it too. It is really hard to do in the modern lifestyle. I’m not sure I’m doing as good a job as the ones before me. And I’m not sure where to go now with the rest of this post. Now I’m turning a lot of things over in my mind. So I’ll stop here and continue to ponder. Thanks for the stimulating prompt.

  10. Joseph – The term post-denominational is a common term used when discussing the current and projected future of the sociological trends within Christianity. I think if you ask many lay people you will find that denominational identity is of little importance. It is to me in that it helps me to find a congo that I’d not run out the door as if on fire. Frankly, I’d like to start a very generic congo to help people of like-mind. Examples – “Liberal Christian Church” & “Social Justice Church”.

  11. Pingback: New article on church growth…. « FIRST CHRISTIAN CHURCH – Auburn

  12. So… what happens when immigrants show up from the Global South and they are all Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, and Presbyterians… and we tell them denominations don’t exist anymore?

  13. Friendship is certainly a wonderful thing, but, since it requires an interior facing-in-the-same-direction, building our whole approach to being church on friendship seems rather wrong-headed. Looking at dating and the circumstances that help find Mr/Ms Right would be worthwhile on this point. Even coffeeshop and pub ministries depend on a prior agreement. The folks who come in either assume that visiting coffeeshops and/or bars is a fun thing to do, or they’re already with a friend. Gen Y folks might be desperate for community, but that desperation can also cut them off from community as effectively as fear of drowning can cut off a struggling swimmer.

  14. Hey Derek,
    of all the links and posts you have, you don’t have (or I couldn’t find) a way to properly cite the article in an academic paper. I did my best and even sent myself your article, but I think there is a way you can add a “citation” link that allows “us” to properly cite your blog and you get a link to who has cited you. If it’s already there, let me know where and how.
    Barb Jones (2 papers due tonight, two tomorrow)

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