Tuesday, February 2, 2010
The Spirit to the Churches: "Disestablish Yourselves!"
In "Metamorphosis: From Christendom to Diaspora,” (possibly one of the most important theological essays in the past decade) theologian Douglas John Hall argues that Western Christianity in the late-modern period is being slowly and painfully weaned from the triumphalism, elitism and unhealthy conflation of Christian discipleship with cultural and social power that marked the church of modernity. Hall asserts that the Spirit's message to the churches today is: Go ahead and finish the job—disestablish yourselves.
In my recent interactions with seminary students around Hall's challenge (and some related themes put forth in Soong-Chan Rah's The Next Evangelicalism), I have a sense of hope for the future of the church. Many of our present and future (can I say, "emerging"?) leaders recognize the problems, admit our weaknesses, and desire to move forward in creative and more authentic ways. Hall is right that such honest recognition and admission is the first (and necessary) step toward renewal. If we can learn to envision the church differently, learn from communities different from our (or your) own, and listen deeply to what the "spirit is saying to the churches," we just might find a fresh movement of God in our midst.