Monday, April 29, 2013

The Parish is Perishing (PART IV)

The Parish: A Spider in Disguise   
Because St. Louis is predominately made up of Catholic and mainline churches built in parish-style fashion over 100 years ago, the way of the typical St. Louis parish was to attract and serve its surrounding community (consisting of several blocks or miles).  They served the influx of German, Irish, and Scandinavian immigrants that were calling St. Louis home.  The churches simply built their parish and the community attended.  This went on for years.  The members came to hear from the Priest or Pastor, and understood that he was the spiritual authority of their given Parish.  This mentality of outsourcing their faith experience meshed within Modernism.

This Modernist-Outsourcing mentality fully embodies itself within St. Louis by what Shenk names in his lecture, “The Long Shadow of Christendom,” as: the common belonging, belief, and behavior paradigm, as it puts the onus on the shoulders of the paid professionals and spiritual elites (Shenk 2011, lecture at Fuller Theological Seminary).  Over time, the paid professional’s faith became the faith of its congregants.  The highly traditional styles, preference, and liturgical setting of the early 1900’s, which was determined by the paid professional, now was the future setting of the community.  Likewise, the kids programs, education, and discipleship that worked in the early 1900’s became the standard for the future of the St. Louis church.

The Pastor and Priest as the Spider’s Head
Shenk discusses the common belonging was that of the paid professional’s dictation.  The pastor determined the leadership model, the initiation of citizen to members, and the overall size of the congregation (Shenk 2011, lecture at Fuller Theological Seminary).  He would control all methods and models that worked with or, conversely, threatened his understanding of what “church” should look like.

Shenk argues that the common belief determined what was to be believed of all things – civil, state, and religious.  The notion of a common belief created a rudimentary approach to what was understood – that we all knew it to be true (Shenk 2011, lecture at Fuller Theological Seminary).  Because churches in St. Louis had placed this role of determining these sets of rudimentary knowledge on the paid professionals, it is now up to them to define the belief of all of it’s congregants, and also to protect it, by calling whatever belief’s that threaten his rudimentary belief as heresy.

Shenk also argues that a common belief deems what is both appropriate and enforced.  The church can act much like a civil court when disciplining behavior (Shenk 2011, lecture at Fuller Theological Seminary).  When the Catholic and mainline churches decided to outsource its local influence to the paid professionals, the Priest and Pastor is now the chief enforcer for all things behavioral.  

In The Starfish and the Spider, entrepreneurs Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom show how traditional organizations, which have rigid hierarchy and top-down organizational structures, are fading in the new post-modern world.  They analyze a number of organizations and corporations that have resisted changing into more “starfish,” or networks-based and user-generated structures, and find that the traditional model is ending and is no longer efficient.  Just like the spider, once the head is removed from the body, the organism perishes (Beckstrom and Brafman 2006, 6-74).  So it goes with the traditionally structured church.  When the paid professionals no longer are in congruence with their communities, the belief, behavior, and belonging also dies.  This is the diagnosis of the typical church in St. Louis.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Parish is Perishing (PART III)

HOW DID WE GET HERE? (The Structures of Modernism and Outsourcing Faith)

You don’t have to look much further than the tags on your clothing, computer, fruit, or vehicle to understand that the cultural practice of outsourcing is alive and well.  Outsourcing is the mechanism that allows us to continue to live out our deeply consumer tendencies.  Outsourcing came to being as its modernist society embraced a systematic way of doing life.  Rather than spend time and money to understand and accomplish a trade or task, one can outsource that trade or task, and still call the final product, his or her own.  It can certainly speed up production and efficiency, but outsourcing isn’t all positive. 
As numerous the reasons not to outsource may be, as demand rises and consumers are willing to pay, it is the inevitable consequence.  But this is not merely a phenomenon of the for-profit sector.  This is a cultural reality that began in modernism, became pervasive in the church, and is now finding itself crashing into the post-modern church. 

The notion of outsourcing one’s faith is alive and rampant in St. Louis.  Because of the structure that runs the Catholic and mainline denominations, this attitude of expectancy, commodification, and consumerism has engulfed the church and plays out no different than in private companies.  Our “church shopping” culture has somehow forced the hands of leaders to play into the power of the executive business models, where we now treat ministry as an assembly line.  The more people we can turn on and turn out, the better off we are.  It’s a numbers game, and quantity seems to be the driver. The church, unlike the rest of the world, has often turned the inclusive vision and call of being Jesus’ hands and feet to the world, into an executable machine, with certain 10-step programs guaranteed to grow your congregation.  But this isn’t completely a get-rich-quick scheme of the church.  Its not an evil plot sought out by seedy church leaders.  It’s a deep and interconnected problem that society expects and the church caters to.  The modernist structures simply do not work with post-modern individual thinking, learning, communicating, and relating.  The result is a growing un-churched population that sees “church” through a definition of the past - one that thrives on outsourcing development, discipleship, and engagement to the paid professionals. 

Post-modernism is rising from modernism and the changes are significant.  These changes will require rethinking and re-ordering the way we go about, and lead in ministry, and will eventually create a broader dialogue that can shift this culture away from its modernist, outsourcing, and consumerist tendencies, and begin to create a healthy, user-generated, creative, and dialogue-driven environment, participating in missio dei.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Who's Most Social?

Postmodernism has brought us social media. 
We're more plugged in than ever before. 
But how well do you know social media and its users?
And how does social media impact the church, our communities, and humanity?


Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Parish is Perishing (PART II)

Church Culture in St. Louis, MO (2012)

St. Louis, Missouri is an interesting city when it comes to analyzing church data.  It is not necessarily a microcosm of the greater United States, because it is intensely populated with Catholic and mainline denominations.  However it is the context, with which I am doing ministry, thus it is of great importance to have a clear understanding of its churches, demographics, and leadership structures.  

St. Louis has the highest, per capita Catholic presence in the United States.  The St. Louis metropolitan area, which is approximately 2,878,255 residents, is home to 198 Catholic churches ( planning/research/census-reports.cfm, accessed November 19, 2012).  It is also no surprise then to see the next highest church population filled by highly liturgical, mainline denominations (Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.).  One can conclude that when it comes to church attendance, if you don’t fit the Catholic mold, your options are still mostly of the high liturgy style, theology, and structure.  Though there is still a Baptist, Evangelical Free, Assemblies of God, and non-denominational option, these churches remain mostly on the fringes, and do not represent the average St. Louis church.

To accompany this data, it should also be understood that the average St. Louis church is growing older at a much faster pace than it is growing younger.  The average age of a typical St. Louis churchgoer is 61 years old ( 435553/article-1G1-59620360/q, accessed November 19, 2012).  Conversely, the average age of a St. Louis resident is 38 years old ( departments/planning/research/census-reports.cfm, accessed November 19, 2012).  There is a 23-year disconnect.  The average St. Louis church no longer resembles the community, which it exists to serve.  This is a critical flaw that must be studied, understood, and corrected - because the Church is in transition.

CATEGORY                                                                 DATA
St. Louis (Metro), Missouri - Population                     2,878,255 residents
Average Age                                                                 38 years old
Average (churchgoer) Age                                           61 years old
Catholic Churches                                                        198
Mainline Churches                                                       105
Other (Christian) Churches                                           38
Percentage of “churched”                                             43%
Percentage of “un-churched”                                       57%
Table 1.0


Monday, April 15, 2013

What? / How? / Why?

What is the postmodern priesthood?
How do I get involved?
Why should I contribute?

**Please leave a note in the comments section if you want to contribute to Postmodern Priesthood.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Confronting Our Beliefs.

What do you believe?
How do you believe?

Peter Rollins speaks to how we must confront our beliefs...


Monday, April 8, 2013


I've often felt that our faith has been domesticated. But more recently, many of the artists I run around with have shared that one of the major reasons they have "left organized religion" is the fact that the faith they once held dear has been watered down, ripped of its danger, and made vanilla.


"it seems like Christians are uncomfortable with how earthy the Bible really is. They feel the need to tidy up God...God’s message was not meant to be run through some arbitrary, holier-than-thou politeness filter. He intended the Bible to speak to people where they’re at, caught up in the stark reality of life on a fractured planet."

I couldn't agree more!

We attempt to expose a life-altering faith with our peers, but often times all that's experienced is a temperate, mundane, safe, far-from-revolutionary, nominal, set of beliefs that aren't much more than ideals we don't ever really expect to fully-believe, critically examine, or stand for in the face of any kind of scrutiny.

We've overcome the grit of broken lives with our choir robes and 3 chord praise songs; concealed the pain and doubt of life with freshly produced 1 hour services that tell us what we want to hear, so that we sleep better at night knowing we're right and they're wrong; and push us to dream only as big as we have left overs for.

I'm sorry, but when I open the pages of the scriptures, I just don't find a rationale for this domestication that's become the gold standard of church. I'm beginning to believe my friends that have walked away from faith were onto something, and the Church needs to reclaim what's withered.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Welcome to Postmodern Priesthood

Welcome to POSTMODERN PRIESTHOOD...a forum for connecting the dots between faith and postmodern culture.

The "priesthood of all believers" has been a framework and cultural-mechanism since biblical times (1 Peter 2:9).  Its notions are tremendous, and post-modernity might just be the most suitable cultural phenomenon to coalesce its strength.

Tough questions, notions, doubts, fears, hopes, and loves, will be debated.
We'll tackle theology through process, journey, and narrative.

I hope you'll stay tuned for conversations, ideas, and tools to create culture!