I believe it was George Bernard Shaw who is reputed to have said “I went to church today and for once was not depressed!” My recent experiences have sadly not been so positive!
To quote the home page of this site-
“Unbounded Church is an idea – The idea that the church needs to be set free from the rigid, cumbersome and change-averse ‘Christendom’- influenced forms and structures in order to be –
‘A church as we haven’t known it
for a society as we haven’t known it’”
For various reasons I have been frequently travelling away from home in recent months, including in the UK, and as we generally try to do when Sunday comes around we visit a local church, often with the friends we are staying with. A variety of recent Sunday experiences have strongly reinforced my belief that the need for the ‘Church to be set free’ is greater than ever! Most of experiences seemed more like-
“Church as we like it for society as we used to like it’.
Indeed the experience was like a ‘great leap forwards’ – into the 1990s! Or , in the case of one church we used to be part of a long time ago, into the 1980s!
The form of the services were little altered from the last century with no explanation for the uninitiated, the language level was also from the last century or even the one before. Some songs even had lyrics in Shakespearean English, this in the advertised ‘contemporary service’! Service leaders frequently referred to people by their given names as though we should know who they were. All this seemed highly excluding for anyone who had made the significant effort to ‘try church out’ for the first time that day. One wondered if they would ever come back!
One of the key requirements for an ‘Unbounded Church’, the church set free, is ‘Cultural accessibility’ something my recent church experiences significantly lacked. This highlights one of the main causes I believe for our missional weakness. This is a serious failure to grasp the fact that the multiplicity of parallel universes where non-Christians live (and that includes those who already have a spiritual hunger) are culturally alien to the ‘church’ universe. The 21st century church must not only seek to access those parallel universes in mission but be accessible to their inhabitants in the sense of reflecting, using and relating to the cultural forms of, styles of and the ‘street’ languages of 21st society. Such requires significant effort to ‘exegete’ the alien culture of the pagans. This quite frankly is ‘mission basics 101’ yet, as my recent experiences evidenced, this seems to have largely dropped off the radar of many local churches.
As this site makes very clear, I do not believe that the Sunday-centric model of church will actually be able to achieve our missional task (except to a decreasing portion of society) but if our (limited) aim is to attract non-Christians to hear the gospel we might at least make the effort to create a Sunday service that is accessible to them! The depressing thing is that my recent experiences all gave the impression that ‘church’ is largely all about ‘’our church family” (I lost count of how many times I heard that expression). “Yes sure we’d love non-Christians to join us, we’re just not interested in making it easy for them!”
As said above I don’t have much belief that the SIC (Sunday-centric, In-Drag, Christendom-form) model of church will become capable of succeeding in the task of mission to our culture. So why was I depressed by these experiences? The answer is-because they demonstrate a mindset, a mindset present in the majority of churches which will continue to shackle mission, and firmly entrench the ongoing across-the-nation decline.
This bondage to an inward looking, culturally inaccessible, anachronistic journey towards yesteryear, highlights the urgent need for expressions of an ‘Unbounded Church’. Such will be a church set free from its bondage to ‘church as we like it’, to be a church which is a true expression of the ‘New Humanity’ for which Christ died, so we might see the restoration of the glorious army, the army of missionary disciples Jesus calls us to be, so that brandishing the weapon of the gospel we will set free those in darkness from their Satanic chains-all to the glory of God!
Now there is a reason not to be depressed!