“The People Formerly Known as the Congregation”

I just came across Bill Kinnon’s marvelous little piece called “The People Formerly Known as the Congregation.” Barna called them Revolutionaries, but Kinnon has called them “TPFKATC.” Playing off a phrase coined by Jay Rosen (“The People Formerly Known as the Audience”), Kinnon describes a segment of the Christians population that has grown weary of passivity … church hierarchies … building- and program-centeredness … exclusivity … basically, the church as an organization.

It’s not unlike what Barna describes in Revolutionary, except it’s shorter, punchier, and free, thereby making it a more powerful presentation of the realities that exist. Realities they are, by the way: A couple years ago, I felt like I was taking crazy pills for thinking that the church needed to break out of its walls into every crack and crevice of our society. I had far more enemies than friends in conversations about the nature and mission of the church, and how the contemporary church has missed the mark (as it always will, to some extent).

But now, you need only look as far as the blogosphere to see that many, many people are simply discontent with passive “church membership.” They don’t want to join another program or give another dollar to a building project. They want to model in the very realest way the life and mission of Jesus Christ, who, by the way, was the original “revolutionary.” Or, if you prefer, part of the original “People Formerly Known as the Congregation.”

Oh, and if you haven’t watched this yet, do it! (then come back and share what you think about Kinnon’s piece and the flea video)


12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by priest on April 11, 2007 at 10:40 pm

    yo Steve, is TSK holding a gun to your head? i jokes.


  2. Posted by priest on April 11, 2007 at 10:42 pm

    I meant Ryan Bolger–my bad.


  3. I guess the flea thing should not be surprising. But not just in the church way. It is not that difficult to crush the spirit and imagination of people. I remember a famous story of Joseph Stalin. He was demonstrating how he could maintain control over people. As a visual aid, he picked up a chicken and proceeded to rip each one of its feathers out. He placed the traumatized chicken on the ground and offered it corn, which it then ate from his hand. His trick was to traumatize then give a little something back. Before long he had total control over chickens and people.

    I think that the same could be said for members of religious communities, citizens, consumers, and many other groups of people. I am not sure that the limiting of potential is always done intentionally, but the harm is the same regardless.

    It is exciting to share zeal for a new way with many people and I hope that what comes of it will be vigilant of not falling victim to similar fates.


  4. Posted by Steve on April 12, 2007 at 8:37 am

    priest – shhhh….

    houston – great points. there are SO MANY things that hinder us, not just churches. (Miller T had a great post about that) As for your last paragraph, I think that as long as we’re putting our complete trust in the “author of our faith” rather than our models or institutions or just “being different,” we will be far less likely to fall victim to the fate of so many supposed movements before.


  5. true, but I think that was the same safe guard in many religious movements…. “Christians only, but not the only Christians”….


  6. Posted by Steve on April 12, 2007 at 9:07 am

    The Restoration Movement was not centered primarily on Jesus, but on how to “do church.” It was (and still is, to some extent) an ecclesial movement — a movement about how to “do church.”

    And to be fair, some in “emergent” circles today seem to be doing the same thing. But I’m not talking about those people. I’m talking about those who, in order to center their lives on God and his mission more fully, have to leave institutionalized religion altogether.


  7. I know, but I still think that many people in the Restoration Movement were doing what they did out of a deep rooted belief in throwing off the baggage of religious traditions. Trying to be people who were the church they read of in the Bible.

    I understand that there are differences between the Restoration Movement and the “emergent” thingy [not calling it a movement =)]. I just think that if people are not careful they will not be making a lifestyle change, merely a switch in ecclesial forms.


  8. Posted by Steve on April 12, 2007 at 9:35 am

    Unfortunately, I think you’re right, Houston. The “emerging/emergent” thingy started out as primarily a new way of doing church, and for many, that hasn’t changed. (which is why I have, in the past, shyed away from using those terms)

    But there is as much frustration in church services with candles and couches as there is with pews and big budgets. The natural progression in this line of thinking is the discovery that it was never primarily about church services to begin with, but about lives wholely committed to God and his mission.

    When this is the singular focus — not ecclesial forms — then we may be led to leave our particular ecclesial form because it is not conducive to our sigular focus. This is Kinnon’s sentiment, I think. With God at the center, everything else falls into its proper place, not least “church.”


  9. Just to throw in a few cents…

    After reading Brian McLaren’s Generious Orthodoxy and The Secret Message of Jesus, it is difficult to NOT see Christianity in a fully lived way. I echo your sentement that church should be more than building campaigns, UPWARD basketball, and “worship services.”

    It would be a shame for the world to see community as something merely done in a large comfortable building during the “next appointed times.”

    I am becoming more and more convinced that “Christian” is a wonderful noun but a terrible adjective.


  10. Steve and Houston:

    I just dropped in to say: I love it when you two dialogue! What blessings you two are. If I had two sons, I would wish them to be a blend of you both!!

    Please keep your passions for Jesus alive, and your Q & A on the front burners. We need young whipper-snappers like you to carry the flame! (And possibly me, when it comes to the moment I slip out of my rocker.)

    Sorry I haven’t had time to read your links here (but I will — they look great!).


  11. Steve, you said, “I’m talking about those who, in order to center their lives on God and his mission more fully, have to leave institutionalized religion altogether.”

    i’m wondering if we don’t need to leave institutionalized life?



  12. “It’s not unlike what Barna describes in Revolutionary, except it’s shorter, punchier, and free, thereby making it a more powerful presentation of the realities that exist.”

    A good idea expressed in a decent sentence. Props.


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