A New Kind of Church?

Article by Scott Bader-Saye

Last spring the Nashville Convention Center played host to both the National Pastors Convention and the Emergent Convention. While the former was largely geared toward evangelical baby boomers, the latter catered to Gen X and Millennial evangelicals (and "postevangelicals") who are trying to come to grips with postmodernity. Though the two conventions intentionally overlapped, that …

Chapter 1: Disease and Diagnosis  in  The Gospel and Our World

Book Chapter by Georgia Harkness

What are the diseases that infect our churches? Inadequate numbers, unhealthy divisions, meager financial support, unprophetic leadership, lethargic congregations — but at the root of them all lies the fact that the very thing for which the Church exists — the proclamation of the gospel — is being in our time so feebly done.

Chapter 1: The Thick Gathering  in  Congregation: Stories and Structures

Book Chapter by James F. Hopewell

A congregation, undeniably Christian, nevertheless uses forms and stories common to a larger world treasury to create its own local religion of outlooks, action patterns, and values. I have begun to see how astonishingly thick and meaning-laden is the actual life of a single local church. Ministry in even a small church occurs in a much more abundant world of signals and images than I and, I suspect, many others had assumed.

Chapter 2: Househunting  in  Congregation: Stories and Structures

Book Chapter by James F. Hopewell

There are four approaches from which one examines a potential dwelling: contextual, mechanical, organic, and symbolic. To consider seriously the capacities of either houses or local churches, in other words, is to view them as textures, mechanisms, organisms, and means of signification. While all four perspectives are in play in any single instance of inquiry, one of the four generally dominates.

Chapter 3: The Gospel of the Churches  in  The Gospel and Our World

Book Chapter by Georgia Harkness

If the conservative churches are producing more personal religious vitality than the others perhaps the primary factors are: 1. The church going habit is earlier and more persistently associated with religion. 2. The emotional part of worship is more vivid and dramatic. 3. Greater demands are made on church members. 4. Concrete instruction in Christian doctrine is given. 5. In some matters, greater emphasis is put on the essential heart of the Christian gospel.

Chapter 5: The Layman and the Gospel  in  The Gospel and Our World

Book Chapter by Georgia Harkness

The vitality of the church upon the world is in the hands of the laymen. Their economic and political life must be guided primarily by the Christian gospel; the Christian faith must be communicated to them in language they can understand. Each layman must do something about this himself perhaps through channels of fellowship, study, action, prayer, and personal witness.

Chapter 6: Christian Faith and Ethical Action  in  The Gospel and Our World

Book Chapter by Georgia Harkness

The three great doctrines of Christian faith are examined: Creation — The most elemental meeting place of the Christian with the secular mind is at the point of the doctrine of creation. Judgment — At the point of doctrine of divine judgment the modern mind finds both easy corroboration and an almost insurmountable stumbling block. Redemption and the Kingdom — The Christian doctrine of redemption, like the closely related concept of the Kingdom of God, is viewed in several polar relations, in which the omission of either aspect of a fundamental duality introduces distortion.

Chapter 6: Exploring World View  in  Congregation: Stories and Structures

Book Chapter by James F. Hopewell

Certain correlations appear between a member’s world view position and other church activities: a. Constant attendees highly correlate with the mean orientation of the congregation. b. Pastors close to the mean enjoy a more satisfying relationship with congregations. c. Persons on the periphery are often marginal to the life of the congregation. d. Lay leaders are not necessarily representative of the mean.

Chapter 9: Storytelling  in  Congregation: Stories and Structures

Book Chapter by James F. Hopewell

Telling the story develops the identity and mission of a congregation by establishing the setting of the story of a local church, its picture of the world; narrative proclaims corporate nature. The congregation in story is not permitted to reduce itself to numbers of individual contributors of money, names added to the church rolls, or ticket holders at congregational programs. Story instead weaves a living fabric of common episode.

Chapter12: Wiltshire’s World Story  in  Congregation: Stories and Structures

Book Chapter by James F. Hopewell

Whatever external investigators and consultants may accomplish in a congregation, its specific future still depends overwhelmingly upon its reaction to the information it gains about itself. It matters more what a congregation tells itself than what it is told. Deft analysis or intervention can, at best, resource the attempt of the local church to understand or change itself. Transformation requires a different order of knowing than that which outsiders provide.

Community as a Way Of Life

Article by Peter W. Marty

In July 1995 Chicago was wrapped in a deadly heat wave. For days the mercury hovered in the three-digit zone, with heat indices reaching 120 degrees. In that period 739 Chicagoans died of heat-related causes. Emergency teams reported finding inadequate or nonexistent ventilation in the residences of the dead. Persons living with cardiac or pulmonary …

Congregation: Stories and Structures

Book by James F. Hopewell

(ENTIRE BOOK) James F. Hopewell provides a definitive study of congregational life. His thesis: we must understand each congregation’s unique story that catches up and gives pattern to a church’s local culture — its beliefs, its mission work, and its everyday administrative transactions, because it also reveals God’s intention for that community of believers.

Editor’s Foreword  in  Congregation: Stories and Structures

Book Chapter by James F. Hopewell

Hopewell found that local churches had the capacity to hold together in the face of strains and pressures, and he found little accounting for this in the appropriate literature. This ability of congregations to persist is examined here and an attempt is made to find coherence, if not unity, to the great variety of ways congregations are analyzed and apprehended.

Imagining a New Church

Article by Glen McDonald

As the organizing pastor of a suburban congregation, I have experienced firsthand its faltering first steps, its seasons of growth and drought, and the Spirit’s persistent attempts to help us identify and embrace the vision of God’s own choice. Quite frankly, we’ve resisted the vision. We’ve settled for many comfortable “second bests” until prodded, pushed …

Introduction  in  The Gospel and Our World

Book Chapter by Georgia Harkness

The churches of America, though far from decadent, are doing much less effective work than they might be doing with their resources, and the major cause of the difficulty lies in failure to present the meaning and claims of the Christian faith in terms that seem vital to the common man.

Jesus Is Lord

Article by James K. Mathews

1. Up the Rejang River in Sarawak in Northern Borneo the Ibans, a primitive but emerging people, dwell. I was there once. I do not claim to know their language, but one phrase I did understand. A group of little boys and girls in my presence lifted up three fingers and said, "I sa Ke …

Multiethnic Mix

Article by R. Stephen Warner

Book Review A Mosaic of Believers: Diversity and Innovation in a Multiethnic Church. By Gerardo Marti. Indiana University Press, 242 pp.   Ethnic particularism, in the official form of admissions procedures and ethnic studies programs and the unofficial form of students’ seating choices in the cafeteria and the library, is a powerful force in American …

No Faith Is an Island

Article by Robert McAfee Brown

Traditionally, the period of Lent has been a time for "turning inward." We examine our lives, our faith, our degree of dedication or lack thereof, and we determine to make amends in various ways. Lent is thus always in danger of being overly individualistic. Accordingly, it may be worthwhile to remember, as Lent begins, that …

The Church and Social Responsibility: Where Do We Go from Here

Article by Dana W. Wilbanks

Our years of warfare in Indochina and, more recently, the Watergate affair have ushered in a period of national self-examination and self-criticism. Not just radical critics but establishment types too have begun to ask, Where did we go wrong? So we sharpen our analytic tools and try to discover what those disastrous experiences tell us …

The Problem of the Mainline

Article by Nancy T. Ammerman

For at least the past generation, mainline Protestants have been worried about declines in membership. One camp has taken up the rallying cry of conservatives (and some vocal sociologists) who claim that theological “strictness” and clear church-culture boundaries mark the path to reversing this decline. Others have claimed that the church’s aim is not to …

Time Out

Article by Norman Wirzba

When I was a child I could hardly wait for Wilhelm Roepke, my grandfather, to arrive at our farm. Though he had formally “retired” after a lifetime of farming in Poland, Germany and southern Alberta, he couldn’t stay away from the fields and the barns. His fields and animals had a hold on him, a …

Transforming a Lukewarm Church

Article by Edward Farley

Since the mid-1960s, the mainline Protestant denominations have declined in membership, numbers of churches and church attendance. Statistical decline, cultural marginalization and religious displacement from the center is the recent story of the mainline churches. Conservative Protestant movements now occupy the religious center and constitute a good portion of the mainline denominations. These rapid social …