The pressing question of how we, in the church, confront the changing contexts of the 21st century continues to spark debate. Should we batten the hatches and wait out the storm, changing nothing? Should we take to the decks, and reorganize everything? Or will we need a different idea of what this ship is?
In the most recent Vestry Papers Ken Howard suggests that a wholly different paradigm of church is needed.
As congregational leaders, we must confront the fact that our churches are dying. While we may wish they were timeless and eternal, at the core our churches are living human organisms, and dying is what all living organisms eventually do. But first they are born, live, adapt, create new life, and pass on their DNA to the next generation. We cannot insulate our churches from death without isolating them from the very process that would empower the next generation, not just to survive but also to thrive.
To guide our churches into a vital future, vestries and other church leaders must help our congregations to embrace their organic nature – to see death not as the ultimate failure but as the door to greater life. We need to help our congregations learn how to die in a way that plants the seeds of their resurrection. But how? How can we as congregational leaders learn this radical response and walk this counterintuitive, paradoxical path? How do we help our congregations live into a more incarnational Christianity that values organism over organization?
If we as leaders are to help our congregations change their ways of doing Church, we first have to recognize that our old and familiar paradigm of Church is fading away, and that a new and unfamiliar paradigm of Church is emerging. And because the new paradigm is not yet fully present, we have to help our congregations learn to explore its pathways and boundaries.
Read it in full here