Reflections from Pastor Mark
“If every human being disappeared off the face of the earth in an instant, the earth would still keep spinning and the planet would develop new life forms.” ~ Graham Nash
I recently attended a regional clergy meeting. Those in attendance came from various settings – some are hospital and hospice chaplains, some settled pastors, some interim pastors, some are pastors of new churches. The terms “Church 2.0” and “Church 3.0” came up several times. Church 2.0 is a reference to the church that emerged after the Protestant Reformations. The term 3.0 refers to the church that is being born in our midst – whether we realize it or not.
The fact is that 90 percent of churches in the United States are contracting or changing so dramatically that they are becoming something that hardly resembles what they were twenty years ago. Less than one-percent of those churches in the growing 10% are medium size, which is what most people perceive Second Church to be. More large and small congregations are growing. There are a number of reasons for that, but the primary reason is that these churches aren’t tied so much to tradition as they are to connection and building community.
This is where the Church 3.0 discussion comes in. The churches that are growing and living into the new paradigm aren’t using the same metrics we once used to gauge success. While worship attendance is important in both Church 2.0 and 3.0, Church 3.0 does not focus on numbers. The Church 3.0 focus is on “How many lives were transformed?” Put differently, the important question about worship isn’t “Did you go?” but rather, “How did it affect you?”
What we discovered with the decline of Church 2.0 is that a lot of people went to church but not many lives were transformed. In fact, it is clear that peoples’ prejudices were amplified through their church experiences. You can see what the implication for this is: Church 2.0 is partly responsible for perpetuating racism, sexism, homophobia, and other social maladies.
Several people from Second Church went to Super Saturday with 750 other UCCers from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island last week. They heard Brian McLaren talk about the emerging church paradigms of Church 3.0. He charged the gathered faithful to regain a bold faith that birthed the church as can be seen in Acts. McLaren said the modern church is called to do the following:
- Rediscover our core message (We are called to follow the way of Jesus.)
- Recognize the house is on fire (Keep doing Church 2.0 and you will die!)
- Engage the environmental crisis (This is the greatest moral issue of our lifetime! We have no credibility as moral leaders if we avoid this work.)
- Engage the crises of prejudice, segregation, and scapegoating (This is the ongoing work of Jesus.)
- Engage economic justice (The politics of Jesus demands that we attack the root causes of poverty.)
- Rediscover the “E” word (“evangelize,” which progressive Christians have misunderstood because it was so badly abused in Church 2.0.).
We just passed the one-year mark of the interim time at Second Church. I would like to announce the theme for the year, which is timely in that it comes during the Lenten / Easter season. It’s from John 12:24 where Jesus says: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
I’m guessing that every member of the Second Church Community has ideas about things we are doing that no longer serve us well – things that should die so that new life can come forth. Will you pray about those things and share them with me and other church leaders?
New life awaits us, if we are willing to die to our old selves so that God can use us in the Spirit-movement of Church 3.0. My prayer for us is that the Resurrection becomes something so real in the year to come that all have stories of the empty tomb to share … and that the “Hallelujah Chorus” becomes our theme song.