The Problem of Church Trends – Part 2 (of 3)

Continued from here.

The article – Intro

Reading the introductory section to the article’s discussion of the 5 trends, it seems that the author has a somewhat myopic view of the church, as I had already expected, and begins with some other questionable presumptions, including his opening statement, “If you do not make assumptions about the future, then you are not leading.” First, everyone has assumptions about the future. The key is basing your presumptions on something solid. Making presumptions based on an analysis of the past year or two may be fine for some things, but questionable when you’ve got two thousand years of church history to draw from. Again, look at trajectory. If you’re only concerned with the next 2 or 5 years, then a short-term analysis is fine. Even then, you’re like the kid hearing Clint Eastwood ask, “Do ya feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya?” At what point do you start trusting trends over an historical-analytical approach?  How lucky do you feel?

Rainer also states that “Good leaders are also willing to change their assumptions,” and compares still having Y2K-era thinking (Seriously, 2000 is old school?  It’s not like we’re still wearing Flock of Seagulls hairdos!) to giving your kids Pokemon cards for Christmas. (It should be noted that in certain pockets, Pokemon is still quite popular.) Of course, to a twenty-something, 13 years is half a lifetime. Again, the issue is scope and perspective.

One of my critiques of the contemporary American evangelical church is not that they don’t have assumptions about the future, but rather, that they lack knowledge and appreciation of the past. Again, you can’t address true trends without understanding past trends. And if a contemporary church is not firmly attached to its historical and theological roots, than a hiccup could indeed be a death rattle.

The next problem presumption was in Rainer’s comparison of leading a church to Ford’s assessment of consumer demand and expectations. His point is that in assessing future consumer demand, they have assessed current global trends.  Now I am not saying that there is no value in knowing what’s going on in the world; however, the danger is in applying a marketing approach to church. Looking at historical examples, we can see that following cultural trends has not been that successful; in fact, often quite the opposite.  In fact, we don’t have to look back more than a few years to see numerous failures resulting from trying to be “relevant.” Five years ago the “emerging” church thought they were on the cutting edge of the church; but where are they now? Turns out “emerging” was not a trend, but merely a passing fad.

Next, a look at the 5 Trends discussed in the article.

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