My view on the church has changed


My view on the church has changed and it hopefully it will continue to change. Whatever regular readers I have left will have noticed that my attention has moved on my the emerging church scene to things like the environment. Could the whole emerging church thing be a just another fad that captured my attention? I think the answer is yes and no but more yes than no.

There are real problems in the church today. It was nice being part of a conversation that acknowledged that. However the purposed solutions are geared more towards disaffected church people than making a difference in the world. That isn’t entirely bad as there are a lot of disaffected Christians out there who have a real difficult time with conventional churches. The sad truth is the conversation has more depth in its critique than in its solutions. It has more success in creating buzz through conferences, books and new media than making a measurable impact in the world. For the vast amount of people who really just want to reinvent church for themselves this is adequate.

What does it really mean to be faithful in the 21st century. A few centuries ago slavery was accepted as normal in the church. Until a hundred years ago women were considered inferior to men inside and outside the church. Eventually someone discovers there is an inconsistency between our accepted cultural norms and God’s heart on the matter. We don’t see it because we are a part of that culture.

If in the 19th century slavery was the issue and in the 20th century gender equality was the issue what is the 21st century issue? I think it is our individualistic consumer driven living that is destroying our environment and creating injustice throughout the world by proxy. If everyone in the world lived like we did in North America we would need 4 planets full of resources to sustain us. In order to maintain our standard of living we must gobble up the natural resources of the developing world. This creates the impetus for governments and corporations to use violence and oppression to ensure there is supply for our ever increasing demand. It provides an economic incentive to ignore the environmental impact of our activities. It leads us to borrow in order to acquire more and more material things.

Reality is about to hit. The one resource we use to make this all happen is in increasingly short supply. Hydrocarbon energy in the form of oil and natural gas has enabled us unparalleled growth and economic expansion. Unfortunately the easy times of the oil era are about to end. The North American supply of oil and natural gas is in decline. The world supply of conventional oil probably peaked in 2005 and the world supply of all liquid energy sources is coming soon. Not far behind it is world production of natural gas.

Petrochemicals play a central role in transportation, heating, materials, and agriculture. Most chemical fertilizers are made from natural gas and pesticides/herbicides are made with oil. Trying to imagine a world with a declining and increasingly expensive supply of oil and natural gas is mind boggling. The ramifications of this reality are so broad and so far reaching it makes questions about mega-churches or seeker services seem silly. For the church to have relevance in this era it needs to model a different approach. It has to be willing to pay more for goods that were created with methods that are environmentally sustainable and under fair trade conditions. It has to be willing to pay more for renewable energy. The people have to be willing to forgo their purchase of the next gadget. Ultimately we will need to become a community that cares and shares with each other. Not only must the sacrifice impact our wallets but our strident individualism must also be left at the alter.

The way of Christ includes the way of sacrifice. Sacrifice in order to bring spiritual reconciliation to a broken world and sacrifice to promote peace and justice.

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