Today we were treated to a session with Stuart Murray Williams who gave us his session on Post-Christendom. This is the idea that the place of Christianity is slowly changing in western culture as it ceases to be an "imperial religion" and is transformed into a marginal movement.
I've heard this talk before, but it was good to hear it again in the context of local ministry. Many people agreed with his analysis and were quite excited about the implications this has for church...
Here are my brief thoughts on what post Christendom may mean for local ministry:
1. It will be about knowing Jesus rather than claiming authority. Local churches will not be able to claim any special status or a right to speak out on any issues - but they will need to think about how a relationship with Jesus can affect their lives. Knowing Jesus will inspire them to act and speak in ways that they won't be able to by themselves.
2. It will require churches to be theologians rather than passive recipients of ministry or ideas. The ability to reflect theologically at local level will enable church members to offer meaning to their networks and neighbourhoods. They need to become theologians so that they don't fall into the trap of becoming dependent clubs gathered together against an apparently alien society.
3. They will need to seek peace rather than security. Rather than hide behind walls trying to protect their own interests they will need to follow the example of the Judean exiles and seek the peace/shalom/wholeness of the communities in which they are resident aliens.
4. They will need to develop relational networks rather than formal communications. Mutual support will be more significant that hierarchies of control.
5. They must value marginal voices since God often speaks through those who are apparently on the edge. It will be tempting to seek safe and comfortable standards, but God calls us to embrace the eccentric, the difficult and the down-right odd. Local Ministry Teams will need to excel at including those who are challenging or different.