These times in western society are truly momentous, indeed a time such as this has never before been in human history and so it can truly be described as unique. The major characteristic that marks this uniqueness is rapid and constant ‘Change’. It is a time in which we are seeing the slow-motion collapse of western civilization, a civilization shaped by a Christendom that is now but a distant echo. There has appeared a wormhole in the fabric of history that has sucked most of western society out of its Christendom universe into a mosaic of socio-spiritual cultural universes ‘where the church is not’.
In these times of change that is not only rapid but accelerating, there is a serious Missional Malaise gripping the Australian Church. The evidence for this is the now well documented decades-old decline in Church attendance and membership, the reduction in Gospel influence in society, and the catastrophic reduction in those acknowledging Christian affiliation.
In the context of the current and ongoing cultural meltdown, the idea that a church model that developed for the pastoral maintenance of existing Christian congregations, and that thrived in a Christianized European society, can continue to be the main vehicle for 21st century western mission would seem to be highly improbable to say the least.
It is this chronic missional failure of the Church that makes obvious the urgent need for ‘Something Completely Different’, a need that has led to the concept of the ‘Unbounded Church’.
The reasons for this lack of missional fruitfulness are of course complex but the thesis underlying the ‘Unbounded Church’ concept is that the need is for a radical ‘Paradigm Shift’ to ‘Something Completely Different’. This means ridding ourselves of the largely unsuccessful missional strategies of the 20th century, and also any residual idea that maintaining a Sunday-Centric, In-Drag (aimed at bringing (dragging) non-Christians from their worlds into our church services), Christendom-form (SIC) church model can be made to achieve better missional results.
It is as if most of Western society has moved from a Christianized “Cultural Earth’ to a very distant and retreating neo-pagan ‘Cultural Pluto’. The urgent need is for a new missional vehicle specifically designed to journey into the pagan micro-cultures in which most people now live. This is something mainline western churches have never done, or even thought they had to do, ‘in their own culture’. It is this that underlies the concept of a church set free, unbound, from its traditional forms, styles, missionally anachronistic thinking, to be a reimagined, redesigned vehicle for local mission, an ‘Unbounded Church’ comprising Missional Community (MC) networks totally separate from the standard denominational church model.
For this to take place requires-
• A ‘Mindset shift’, a quantum leap to a ‘new level of thinking’, a beginning to strategize as if we are faced, as we in reality are, with evangelizing a pagan Africa of 200 years ago, or the Northern Europe of the Celtic missionaries of the 5th and 6th centuries.
• A ‘Radical change’ that will essentially involve ‘redirecting of resources’, financial, staff etc. away from the SIC church model to more fruitful missional endeavours.
• A ‘New Paradigm’, a new missional vehicle that owes nothing to the structures and forms of Christendom.
To achieve this requires the embedding of ‘Missional Communities’ (micro-churches) in the kaleidoscope of ‘Live, Work and Play’ universes inhabited by the now largely Neo-Pagan members of society. Such can manifest themselves in a myriad of settings, shapes and sizes, from clubs and pubs to coffee shops, from playgroups and youth groups to workplaces, from community centres and craft groups to self-defence classes, from skateboard parks and walking clubs to book clubs to name but a very few.
This requires the replacement of traditional ‘Go and Bring’ (into Sunday services) strategies with ‘Go and Stay’ (in the community) strategies. i.e. taking ‘church’ into the ‘universes of the lost’. The motive for this is the ‘Love of God’ which we have received through the death and resurrection of Christ, Love which God expects us to disburse into the lives of those drowning in spiritual darkness.
The answer to the question ‘Why Unbounded Church?’, lies in the brute reality that the Church is in a Crisis and, in terms of missional effectiveness, the current standard church model and associated missional efforts simply has not worked, is not working, and cannot be made to work. Hence the need for ‘Something Completely Different’.