Optimist Column

I spent yesterday with about 60,000 folks who wouldn’t be caught dead in most of our churches. I was at the Austin City Limits Music Festival listening to bands like Coldplay, Franz Ferdinand, Jason Mraz, The Decembrists, Wilco, and more. (Coldplay brought the sweaty, smelly, body-to-body crowd to its knees, by the way…). I’ll talk later more about this experience and its potential for evangelism, but first, I want to share a column that was in Friday’s Optimist here at ACU. Tell me what you think:

Mega changes to mega churches

By Steve Holt
September 23, 2005

Most ACU students won’t be attending churches that look anything like the ones they grew up in, according to two new books by respected Christian authors.

A growing number of people, especially young people, are rejecting their parents’ churches for non-traditional, participatory churches, writes George Barna in his upcoming book release, Revolution. Barna, founder and president of the Barna Group and pollster of thought and practice in American Christianity for more than 20 years, says 70 percent of Christian church-goers in America currently attend a “traditional” church, but that this figure will fall to 30-35 percent in 20 years. Moving in are emerging church models such as house churches, cyber-churches, family churches, and postmodern churches (which meet primarily in homes, coffee shops, online, in businesses, and in the marketplace) which are beginning to grow in appeal.

James Rutz reported some of the same conclusions as Barna in his recent book, Mega Shift, in which he claims we are seeing a worldwide movement of the “open church”–a church “with no vertical hierarchies which will change the future.” If Barna and Rutz are correct, many current ACU students will eventually find their place within this “open church” movement.

Many in the “church world” already are asking the obvious question in response to the research presented in these books: Is this a good thing? Should we celebrate or oppose the apparent decline of a church model present since Emperor Constantine nationalized Christianity in Rome in AD 325? Many undoubtedly become unsettled at the idea that a comfortable, predictable church experience might be on its way out, but millions are finding that the more outreach-oriented, participatory forms of Christian community are exactly what they’ve been missing all along. What’s more, the church has grown at its most alarming rates through similar movements in the first three centuries after Pentecost, and more recently under government opposition in China.

Here in the West, we haven’t seen anything yet.

This news should come as a breath of fresh air for those involved in the expansion of the kingdom of God in North America. After all, one of the tasks of the church amid Christ’s kingdom is to selflessly give its life up for the world.

Many will claim the recent trends are merely the latest fads within the church community, similar to the Jesus Movement in the 1960s, the worship revolution in the 1990s, and the emergent movement today. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth, as the “open church” movement seeks to re-define what “being the church” means in a way that is consistent with scripture and our context, not simply do the same thing a different way.

Barna correctly calls this movement a revolution that will “change not only the recruiting strategies of seminaries and Bible schools, but also radically question church building projects.” Rutz declares that the church is transforming itself from an organization to an organism, and “people are rediscovering the original forms and functions in an open, participatory system mostly consisting of house churches.”

A revolution is taking place in the kingdom of God.

You in?


Just an update to the above post…I just took a quiz on church structure. Are these results regarding my preferences a surprise to anyone??

You scored as Mystical Communion Model. Your model of the church is Mystical Communion, which includes both People of God and Body of Christ. The church is essentially people in union with Christ and the Father through the Holy Spirit. Both lay people and clergy are drawn together in a family of faith. This model can exalt the church beyond what is appropriate, but can be supplemented with other models.

Mystical Communion Model


Sacrament model


Servant Model


Herald Model


Institutional Model


What is your model of the church? [Dulles]
created with QuizFarm.com


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