The Rural Revolution

I think the next era in church growth and renewal will be in the rural areas. Church growth started in this century with urban churches. More recently, we have seen the explosion in church plants and large churches in suburbia. I think the next explosion will be in rural America. Of course, it will look very different. One of the ideas that I think can be transplanted there (and will need to be reworked because of the context) is the multi-site idea. There are so many empty church buildings in rural areas. Also, the population is small and cannot support full-time staff members. However, most Christians have been exposed to professional church now... large, expansive worship teams/bands/choirs with professional videos, dramas, and dancing that come with a top-notch motivational speaker and slick card stock everything all complete with a perfect landscape and parking lot. Now I am not advocating for all of these things... however, there is a longing in all of us for some of this. Churches in the rural areas have never had any of these things and they long for at least some of it. They would love to worship in their native melody and tongue and learn from top-notch pastors.

The multi-site concept could lend very well for such a task. In fact, the multi-site idea could be the post-modern version of the denomination. Of course, only time will tell.

What Is Church? 1.1-- Eucharist & Gospel

Much controversy has surrounded the Eucharist throughout the history of Christianity. Often basic theology classes divide the beliefs into 4 basic categories: transubstantiation, consubstantiation, Reformed (Calvin), and Memorial (Baptist/Mennonite). The first two categories take the phrase, "This is my body," very literally; whereas the last two take it non-literally. The first two see it as a means of grace from Jesus Christ. The last two see it as commenmorative only.

I believe the basic premise behind each of the categories is wrong which leads to a total misunderstanding of Eucharist. Jesus stated, "This is my body." I take this to be completely true and literal-- but not in the way of the first two categories. When a group of people eat the bread in the practices of the first century church as described in the previous post (It was a whole meal with a blessing of bread and cup in the middle of the dinner. It was a table of confession of belief and sin, a table of forgiveness and peace, a table of mutual participation in pain and hurt, and a table of survival), then indeed it is his very body and blood because it is a community that actually places its body and blood on the line for the sins of the whole world. We imitate our saviour by giving our lives for the forgiveness of sins in daily life. The meal does not just commemorate this idea-- its not meant to be a ceremony-- instead the meal should embody all of this. It should be a true table of grace and forgiveness where grace is bestowed by the people of God towards all who come in repentance. In doing so it is the very embodyment of "the New Covenant in my blood." Not a represenatation but the very literal Body and Blood of Christ.
When we eat the bread and drink the cup


What Is Church? 1.0

With this post, I begin exploring the nature of the church (also this same post is is being discussed on another blog I contribute to called A New Kind of Church, which is being rebirthed so give it time). As we know, the church has looked very different in every age and, if we were willing to admit it, had a very different theology in each of these ages. The goal is not to find our ideal model in some other era but to recapitulate the radicalness and revolutionary ways in which gospel changed the world during these various times. Thus, I start off my journey with the first century and will begin working my way forward through history.

One of the first things that I see as we start in the first century is the Eucharist/communion/breaking bread/common table fellowship. This was at the heart of the community. It was a whole meal with a blessing of bread and cup in the middle of the dinner. It was a table of confession of belief and sin, a table of forgiveness and peace, a table of mutual participation in pain and hurt, and a table of survival (possibly the only meal anyone would have especially in the impoverished and highly persecuted areas).Such a scenario does not work very well in most areas of western society, although it is still very much alive and viable in other areas of the world. So, what can we in the west draw from this way of doing church in our day to understand how we can act in order to change lives and world?