The Future of Church

I have written and spoken quite a bit over the last several years about the decline of institutional religion in general and the implosion of institutional Christianity in particular. The attendance trends over the last four to five decades paint a clear and undeniable picture of an institution that is leaking members slightly slower than the Titanic took on water. Every intervention is a case of too little, too late. Even the evangelical mega-church that appeared to be the future of Christianity during the 1980s and 1990s is now bleeding members at a shocking pace. Clearly, Elvis has left the building. Equally clear from the data is that people still seek spirituality but reject the imprisonment, exclusion, and manipulation of doctrine and dogma.

Institutions, like cruise liners, make course corrections slowly – far too slowly to keep pace in the Internet age. As institutional religion seeks to stop the bleeding and right the financial Titanic it has become it has also chosen to focus on what people do with their genitals to the exclusion of almost everything else. Rather than address the pain and suffering of the world, the Church seems hell bent on increasing it. There can be little wonder why conditions aren’t improving.

It’s very curious that many people still seem to believe that the Church can assume responsibility for social programs. In an era where only one in five Americans attend church regularly the institutional Church is struggling to keep couches open. The money – and personnel – needed for the Church to run social programs simply does not exist. In fact, it may never exist within the institution again.

The good news is that an alternative is arising. Organizations like The Universal Anglican Church (UAC) and The Inter-denominational Conference of Liberation Congregations and Ministries (ICLCM) are working together within structures that are not top heavy and that emphasize cooperation over competition. After all, with eighty percent of America in need of community and spiritual services there is more than enough work to go around!

We can learn to work together without insisting that we be exactly alike. Common cause and similar visions rather than doctrine or dogma can and should be the focus of our journey of cooperation. We can afford to do the work we have been given to do by being fiscally responsible, by putting our funds not into empire or monuments to ego but rather into well conceived programming that makes a difference in our communities. By using groups of smaller organizations working together rather than building institutions we can remain flexible to adapt to the rapidly changing needs of contemporary society.

It’s not difficult to develop such visions. We simply need to give ourselves permission to think outside the box. We also need to have the courage to let go of forms and methods that were good for their time but are not best practice for today. Finally, we must hold our plans loosely so that we can make the necessary adjustments as we journey together into what is to come! It’s an,exciting time to be alive.

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