Are things Changing?

For anyone paying attention to trends in the Western church these days, it's clear that there is a lot of interest in change, especially among the Millenials and Gen-Xers--starting "new" emerging future-church movements, getting back to the ancient way of doing things, or both. Maybe it's just what every generation does--making it's mark on the shape of the church once it has enough power and intelligence to do so--or maybe it's the fruit of a generally un-restful time, or maybe I'm just noticing these trends for the first time, and projecting them onto the Church as revolutionary.

In any case, I think there are several interesting trends that popping up in lots of different places in the Church. There's the "new monasticism" of many emerging churches, where people are choosing to live in "intentional community" rather than separated apartment or suburban-style living. The "new friars" of overseas and urban mission--choosing to live among the poor in the spirit of St. Francis, radically renouncing possessions and privilege, at least for a time. The "new pilgrims" (which was a topic of discussion at an Episcopal young adult gathering that I attended last night) who travel on Caminos and Walkabouts in order to find God away from the regularity of day to day life, and who view their spirituality in terms of voyage and pilgrimage, "on the way". There are "new liberals" I think, who aren't as skeptical about the supernatural as the old liberals were, but who share a deep post-modern uncertainty about religious things, don't interpret Scripture in static/absolutist terms, devote themselves to social action, and are often post-evangelicals. I even think there's something to be said for a sort or renewal of the concept of the parish church--a reorienting of the church as a center to serve the community, rather than as a business selling salvation.

I don't know how it all adds up to: a lot of it to me seems like getting back to our counter-cultural basics as Christians: viewing life as meaningful, rejecting models of success which focus on popularity and money, and pursuing the great commandment--loving God and loving neighbor. It might also, I think, signal a sort of resurrection, at least among the mainline churches, after a period of hopelessness and numerical decline, and after a (fortuitous, I think) loss of social influence and power. Christianity is a religion of resurrection through death, and in many ways I think that's what we're experiencing.

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