10 Steps towards a redefinition of church

Thanks for the comments and feedback here and on other blogs on the past three posts around “Emerging church a manifestation of our sub cultural weakness”. I thought I would try and bullet point a few of the key issues and where we have got to so far incorporating the discussions we have had along the way.

A Manifesto Calling for a New Way of Being and Defining Church.

1. The first reformation gave the bible back to the people and we need to give church back to the people (not just christian people).

2. This will take a redefinition of church NOT just a change in style.

3. The churches sub cultural weakness is a leaning towards evolution over revolution, hence style over definition.

4. Theologically there are many examples of revolutionary steps or leaps in thinking, eg Peters vision, Jesus new covenant and so redefinition is plausible.

5. Any redefinition that is put forward needs to collapse the old ways of being that distinguish between church/worship/prayer and the whole of life, BUT hold the tension that whole of life may not be church. (which is where intentionality comes in)

6. The redefinition we are offering of Church in the post- Christendom west is a way of being and living that is a series of chaotic but intentional encounters with God, one another, and the world, founded on the holistic teaching of Christ, and encompassing the whole of life.

7. This encompasses the critical outcome of the imagery of church used in the bible, this being that all the bibles images of church include “attitude and course of action”.

8. This whole of life process is not about walls, rules or fences but about wells, mutuality and redemptive processes.

9. The theological processes and reflections offered so far are consistent with the biblical tradition and can be seen to offer an authentic and consistent redefinition of church.

10. DO-BE-DO, offers one practical way of putting this redefinition into action.

21 thoughts on “10 Steps towards a redefinition of church

  1. This is good stuff.

    I have some thoughts/reflections….

    Giving the church back to people, all people, makes me thing of Base Communities (liberation theology stuff)

    Ryan Bolger has some interesting stuff to say on the role of ‘church leader’. I’m sure I read somewhere else (can’t remember where – sorry) someone talking about rediscovering the role of a parish priest. I think Ryan makes good points about the role of church leader/priest/youth worker??? as someone who helps to create spaces for people to come together intentionally – to meet with God, and with others.

    It’s a shame I can’t post pictures as comments, I’ll try and do it in words. This network kinda thing is something I’ve been thinking about as we look to create some kind of vision for the development of the youth work here at church – the open youth club as some kind of central hub around which there are various interest based groups, spiritual exploration possibly as one of these. The role of the youth worker is then to facilitate these groups, interactions, encounters etc…

    Could you maybe expand on DO-BE-DO? (or point me to somewhere that does) I’m not v familiar with that.

    It’s worth saying again though – this is good, thought provoking stuff.


  2. I have to wonder about the legitimacy of this, starting with number 1. Why would the church give the church back to people? Who else has it?

    Secondly, why would we give the church “back” to “not just Christian people”? Did they ever have the church? I can’t recall anything in Scripture that the church was anything other than Christian people.

    And why would we suggest giving it to non-Christians? What would they do with it? The church is a unique organism, built by Jesus Christ. It is not ours to give away to anyone, much less to people who are not a part of it through faith in Jesus Christ. One of the major problems with the modern church is that unbelievers have had too much say in what goes on. It has distorted the church from its biblical mission and has come close (and even succeeded) in distorting the gospel. To “give it” to non Christians would certainly be a redefinition of church. It would also be a radical departure from the Scriptures.

    I don’t think we need a redefintion of church. We need a return, yes, a repentance, to the definition God gave us of the church in His word.

    Richard, I am not sure what sparked this, but I am completely unconvinced of its legitimacy or usefulness for the biblical church. Is there any insight into what sparked this “Manifesto”?

  3. Great work…very insightful….people need to realize that the winds of change are a blowin’, and we better start doing something about it instead of sitting back and resisting it all.

  4. I think this is a really good start and I’d love to share this kind of idea with my young people but the language is a bit less than inclusive because it’s rather specialised. The DO-BE-DO sounds promisingly like a resume (actually it sounded like a Frank Sinatra lyric to me I’m sure it must mean something else!). Can I repeat the request for an explanation of DO-BE-DO?

  5. Two commetns up Larry says “Why would the church give the church back to people? Who else has it?”. I am sure you would agree that the church should be a ministry of all members. It strikes me that it has become the ministry of the few to the many. We desperately need to re-think or re-imagine exacty what and how good church can be.

    The kind of manifesto Richard has published here is the kind of conversation started that will help us do just that. It is a way of repenting. Going back and starting again. You seem to agree that the church is far from what it should be. I think clearing our mind of all the religious dogma and thinking again about what church should be is very helpful.

  6. I will explain DO-BE-DO next time at the moment I am responding on a couple other blogs, like Larrys
    Hi Larry

    In some ways your question as to where I am coming from answers part of your other questions about the who. My background is community based detached youthwork and mission. This led to growing a kind of relational discipleship group with young people who did not read or could not. Its a long story but we had to start finding new ways of being church with these young people who for one reason or another were not accepted or could fit in with traditional churches. (one reason could be because they were part of a group that burnt one of churches down on the estate). So the people for me stems from my first book which sought to make sense of the years on the estate before the whole emerging church scene started to happen and the follow up, an idea I explored in a book “Off the Beaten Track” of new approaches to mission that collapse the gap between mission and church and draws from a idea in Vincent Donovans Christianity Rediscovered. “In working with young people, do not try to call them back to where they were, and do not try to call them to where you are, as beautiful as that place may seem to you. You must have the courage to go with them to a place that neither you nor they have ever been beforeâ€?
    In many ways i agree with your points about being an authentic church and in doing so I think andrew has said it well all I would add it to remember that we (the people) are a part of that resource.

  7. very much warm to this and will be picking it up on my blog when I’ve digested it some more. I particularly warm to the “needs to collapse the old ways of being that distinguish between church/worship/prayer and the whole of life,” -have to really as I write about it in my book ‘Praying the Pattern” under the heading of lifestyle prayer.

  8. Very interesting. However, I’d seriously question the idea of revolution as preferable to evolution. You say:

    “3.The churches sub cultural weakness is a leaning towards evolution over revolution, hence style over definition.”

    I’m not at all convinced that ‘style over definition’ is a legitimate sequitar from ‘evolution over revolution’.
    And you go on to say:

    “4. Theologically there are many examples of revolutionary steps or leaps in thinking, eg Peters vision, Jesus new covenant and so redefinition is plausible.”

    True. But I think that one of the biggest problems the Church has faced is this idea that it can undertake a revolution. Revolutions take huge amounts of energy, and are typically based on ideas of speedy, violent over-throw – and on charismatic leaders who claim to have a new fool-proof manifesto. I think too much time has been wasted on these ‘revolutions’ that claim that ‘this is it.’ I’d far prefer to see an organic, gradual yet meaningful change happening bottom-up…. As brilliantly outlined in my soon to be Christian classic book a href=”http://thecomplexchrist.typepad.com” rel=”nofollow”> ‘The Complex Christ” – ha!

  9. ref ‘evolution over revolution’…

    I would suggest that we have been going thru a number of social revolutions in recent years – I think of the dramatic change in overall community attitude to, for instance, homosexuality – there was no “speedy, violent over-throw” and no “charismatic leaders who claim(ed) to have a new fool-proof manifesto” – rather this and other social revolutions have taken place as organic bottom-up movements.

  10. …Which means we are probably getting into semantics. What you have described above, I would describe as an ‘evolution’ rather than a social ‘revolution’. The definitions being difficult to pin down, I thus think point 3 in the manifesto is unhelpful. However one would like to describe it, I think ‘organic bottom-up’ is going to be far healthier than the ‘programmatic top-down’ that we have suffered before.

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  12. “The first reformation gave the bible back to the people and we need to give church back to the people (not just christian people).”

    This sounds really great until we realise it that Jesus is the head of the church. I prefer the Holy Spirit than the wisdom and good intentions of people.

    Lets take small steps first. Lets give surgery back to the people not just surgeons and see how that goes first. If that works well we should prayerfull talk some more.


  13. thanks kester and gordon. I think your both right the idea i was trying get at with Revolution over Evolution is, in part the reluctance of the church to rework the definition. I think change does come bottom up at its best, but I think the emerging church has reached a certain point where defintion becomes important to help the process continue. The sticking point is that there will be a reluctance to redefine big doctine like church. maybe the semanics would be better like “through evolution to redefintion” What do you reckon?

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