Post Christendom

Stuart murray.JPGStuart Murray spoke on Post Christendom at the book launch. He provided the best snapshot of our post-christian (or on the verge of post-christian) paradigm that I’ve heard yet. You could buy his book, but in case it’s useful (and especially so I can find it again), here are my notes:

What does post-Christendom mean?

One of a number of a words being with ‘post’ that are being used to describe our current cultural position. And all they are saying is, ‘we are not where we were” and we don’t know where we are or where we are going.
We are left with more questions than answers but it is key that first we look back at what Christendom is, and what the term refers to:
= Geographical region (the rest of the world was “heathen”)
= Historical period from 4thC to “well when?”
= A civilisation and culture … all built around the faith
= A political arrangement (state and Church)
= Ideology and mindset
Christendom was both brutal and brilliant, terrible things like cohersion and violence BUT good stuff too.
Post Christendom is the culture that emerges as the Christian faith loses coherence within a society that has been definitively shaped by the Christian story ………..
Post Christendom marked by 7 transitions (which we are currently in):

1. from the centre to the margins
2. from majority to minority
3. From settlers to sojourners (pilgrims or exiles)
4. from privilege to plurality
5. from control to witness

6. from maintenance to mission
7. from institution to movement
Note that the first 5 are happening regardless ….. the last two are choices we need to make, they are optional in one sense BUT to not choose to do them, means the Church will fade in post-christendom landscape.
(You can see how the church did maintenance and left mission to the specialists)
We are not in the same place we used to be
What used to work, no longer does
We have Challenges and OPPORTUNITIES
Three reactions that Murray has observed to these issues.
1. Old or trad churches: nodding then, “isn’t there a way back?” RETURN
2. Younger network churches: Blank looks then “it’s not to do with us (we are being raised up to replace the Christendom of dead Anglicans etc) REINVENT
3. REVIVAL (don’t throw this gloom at us, God will revive christendom)
All three of these responses push us back to an old way of thinking not embracing the challenge and opportunity of post-Christendom.
As we explore this cultural moment, The Story of EXILE may be a good metaphor for where we are and reflecting on what this place means. Exploring the loss and pain of Psalm 137 and looking at Jeremiahs message to the exiles.
We have a role to allow grieving that Christendom is over BUT also to allow a Party that some of the ghastly stuff is OVER. Rejoice that we have an opportunity to rediscover the Jesus story …………. Not the Jesus that we fitted into Empire.
Post Christendom is a useful lens to look at the issues and at what is going on.
Question: WHAT does it mean to live on the margins?
Three pointers to what faith in a post-christendom paradigm might require:
1. Sifting through the legacy
2. Fresh ways of thinking
3. Re-imagine Church and discipleship

7 Replies to “Post Christendom”

  1. Very useful to have these on here… though I still kinda like my notes (especially with doodle embellishments!) Good to see you again so soon chum!

  2. Good to have some notes as I couldn’t be there, but was is youthwork meant to look like in this new age? or do I need to buy the book?

  3. Mark,
    One of the tensions is that Youth Ministry … particularly missional aspects operate more in light of post christendom than the churches that the mission is from. So some of our work is already operating in this paradigm BUT where are we headed, what are the changes we need to embrace, what do we need to let go of?
    The book looks good and I’ll review fully when I’ve read it.
    Nigel looked back at the Bohemians as a movement and drew some paralells with our opportunity as we find ourselves more at the edges. He suggested:
    •Be creative
    •Propagate new ideas
    •Fuse multiple concepts with traditional perspectives •Express community •Promote subversive approaches •Connect with contemporary culture •Experiment with new ideals •Be anti-establishment •Abandon ‘sentimental considerations’
    •Incorporate a certain positive dysfunctionality •Be confrontational •Be impious •Promote an element of discord with society •Withdraw from conventionality

  4. Very helpful set of notes. I was at at a retreat that Stuart led the next day and we got handouts, but I will probably lose those. I’ll bookmark this page instead.
    At one point he emphasised Christ over Ecclesiology (always useful) and something else that I can’t remember (Ecclesiology coming first in Christendom). Any idea what the something else was? (it wasn’t on the handout). We were dredging up the old ‘penal substitution’ chestnut at the time.
    I’m assuming that Stuart covered much of the same material (knowing that none of us would have been at the book launch).

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