A pastoral perspective: on the emerging church

SEATTLE?In the mid-1990s I was a young church planter trying to establish a church in the city of Seattle when I got a call to speak at my first conference. It was hosted by Leadership Network and focused on the subject of Generation X. I spoke on the transition from the modern to the postmodern world and some of the implications this cultural shift was having on the church. Other participants spoke on the various ways that emerging generations were changing and how the church might faithfully respond.

That conference shifted in focus from reaching a generation to larger issues related to being the church in an emerging postmodern culture. The general consensus among us was that a transition within the church was taking place. Local churches were moving either from a Church 1.0 to a Church 2.0 model or from a Church 2.0 to a Church 3.0 model.

Church 1.0 is traditional, institutional, and generally marked by the following traits:

?The cultural context is modern.

?The church holds a privileged place in the larger culture.

?Pastors are teachers who lead people by virtue of their spiritual authority.

?Church services are marked by choirs, robes, hymnals, and organs.

?Missions involves sending Americans and dollars overseas through denominations and mission agencies.

As the Church 1.0 model becomes less popular, the Church 2.0 model becomes more prominent. Church 2.0 is cont1:PersonName w:st=”on”>temporary, with the following traits:

?The cultural context is in transition from modern to postmodern.

?A culture war is being fought to regain a lost position of privilege in culture.

?Pastors are CEOs running businesses that market spiritual goods and services to customers.

?Church services use 1980s and 1990s pop culture such as acoustic guitars and drama in an effort to attract non-Christian seekers.

?Missions is a church department organizing overseas trips and funding.

Today, the Church 2.0 model is the dominant American church form, but is being replaced by yet another incarnation of the church. The Church 3.0 model is emerging, missional, and bound together by the following traits:

?The cultural context is postmodern and pluralistic.

?The church accepts that it is marginalized in culture.

?Pastors are local missionaries.

?Church services blend ancient forms and current local styles.

?Missions is “glocal” (global and local).

Out of that conference a small team was formed to continue conversing about postmodernism and the overarching concern of what mission work would look like in the United States, including the implications for how theology and church are done.

Until that time most of the discussion regarding missions related to Americans sending their missionaries and dollars overseas to interpret and convert foreign cultures. But, our small team believed that America was becoming as thoroughly secular and foreign to the gospel as “foreign” cultures and therefore needed its own missiological agenda. It was at this time that we began combing through the works of such noted missiologists as David Bosch, Lesslie Newbigin, and Roland Allen. We also began traveling the country speaking to various groups of Christian leaders about what it would mean if Americans actually functioned as missionaries in their own culture. We also had many informal conversations with Christian leaders who were asking the same sorts of questions regarding the content of the gospel and the context of church ministry.

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