As a pastor, one of the things I am privileged to do is walk with people (shepherd them) through the stages of grief. As every pastor has experienced, some people successfully journey through these stages over time, while others get trapped along the way, often leading to dysfunction in their life.
I would suggest that the church in North America is going through the stages of grief as it comes to grips with the end/death of Christendom. As the church grieves the loss of its once held societal power, cultural influence and moral authority, it needs guidance and direction. The church is in need of pastoral shepherds who will help guide it through these stages into health and effectiveness within its new reality – post-Christendom. The challenge of this generation is to lead the church through the stages of grief, emerging with health and the reengagement of mission within its new environment.
The fact is, all churches and Christian traditions in North America are going through this grieving journey; however, they are all at different places in it. Consider the five stages of grief:
- Stage 1: Denial – There are churches that are still stuck in denial. They believe that culture has not changed. They are still doing ministry in the same way they did at the height of Christendom.
- Stage 2: Anger – Churches in this stage are angry at the change our culture is experiencing and have focused their attention and energy at expressing that anger. These churches are often known solely for what they are against, rather than what they are for.
- Stage 3: Bargaining – Churches stuck in this stage believe that if they do ______ then things will go back to the way they use to be. In many cases, there is a focus on recreating past programs and ministries in a futile attempt to recreate past results.
- Stage 4: Depression – Churches in this stage believe all hope is lost. They are beyond denial, anger or bargaining but the weight of the challenge ahead has brought depression, manifested in hopelessness.
- Stage 5: Acceptance – Churches who have successfully journeyed through the previous stages end with acceptance, beginning to think through what it means for effective ministry and mission in our new post-Christian environment.
The church in North America is in a unique situation and journey. It needs men and women who are committed to God’s mission, seeing the whole Church bring the whole gospel to the whole world. The challenge ahead is for church leaders to be committed to Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, helping congregations, denominations and movements journey through these stages in order to begin meeting the unique challenges of our changing world. A post-Christian culture will need radically different ministries, need to ask profoundly different questions, and will need very different paradigms. The Church needs to move beyond conversations that simply grieve the loss of once was, to conversations of what could be, as it engages in God’s global mission. These conversations are why organizations and movements like Lausanne, Missio Alliance, etc. are vital and important for our time in history. The Church in North America is at the precipice of possibility and Jesus, the head of the Church, is leading His Church forward with hope and mission.
|Picture taken by Gordon Govier
Recently, I had the tremendous opportunity to participate in the Lausanne North America Young Leaders’ Consultation in Madison, Wisconsin. For those not familiar with Lausanne, it is an evangelical movement birthed in Lausanne Switzerland at the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelism in 1974. The following description is from the Lausanne website:
Lausanne is a global Movement that mobilizes evangelical leaders to collaborate for world evangelization. It grew out of the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization convened in Lausanne, Switzerland by Rev. Billy Graham and Bishop Jack Dain. The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (October 2010) in Cape Town, South Africa, brought together 4000 Christian leaders, representing 198 countries. The resulting Cape Town Commitment serves as the blueprint for the Movement’s activities.
Lausanne’s vision is to: See the whole church take the whole Gospel to the whole world. If you have never read the Cape Town Commitment, I would encourage you to do so, it is breathtakingly beautiful in both language and tone.
I am a big believer in what Lausanne is about and what it is doing. Too often we see only part of the church (inevitably, our part) take only part of the Gospel (the part we are most comfortable with) to only part of the world. The Great Commission is so much greater than this and is only possible if we put our denominational differences aside and humbly work together. We can never see the whole church take the whole Gospel to the whole world if we keep ourselves and our organizations isolated in safe and comfortable denominational silos. This is where Lausanne has been a catalyst movement, breaking down the silo ministry mentality and facilitating mission bridge-building and collaborative partnerships to see world evangelization happen. This is the context and backdrop of the consultation I had the privilege to be part of.
|Picture taken by Gordon Govier
The North American Young Leaders’ Consultation involved the consultation of 120 select thought-leaders and change-agents from across North America to discuss key elements of the Cape Town Commitment from a North American perspective (there will be several other Young Leader Consultations in different parts of the world culminating in a world consultation at some point in the future). Within the consultation, I had the privilege of being in the Media and Art’s Working Group (my passion and growing area of expertise) where we discussed the areas of the Cape Town Commitment related to the Media and Arts.
In terms of reactions, my time in Madison was phenomenal on several fronts:
- The people I met were amazing, resulting in the creation of some life-long friends, partnerships and connections.
- The discussions were profitable, fruitful and honoured Jesus.
- The experience was incredibly hopeful. I meet some amazing change-agents, authors, and leaders, resulting in an extraordinary hope for the future of the church in North America. My new friend Adam Jeske (@adamjeske) skillfully expresses this hope here.
- The collaborations and discussions that occurred will lead to catalytic partnerships, ministries and future dialogue that will have an enduring impact on world evangelism.
My participation in Lausanne (this consultation in particular) has helped to re-orientate my life, ministry and passion around the mission of God to see the whole church bring the whole Gospel to the whole world. It my joy and privilege to join with others to serve our Triune God in His mission for His beloved world and for His glory alone.