Greetings on this Easter weekend. At this point I want to give my faithful readers, visitors, and subscribers, a glimpse into where I intend to go in my forthcoming blog posts, … just in case you want to tune-out, un-subscribe, … or maybe join me in the journey. The very writing of these blogs has been surprising to me in that I have received comments from around the globe, even from persons in nations and cultures hostile to the Christian faith.

I want, now, to begin to share my reflections on the church, not in terms of institutions, or place, or sanctuaries, or clergy, … but: in terms of relationships. And I want to do it on behalf of the generation now emerging, who, though followers of Christ, are not into church institutions and all the primary dominant patterns and paradigms that have defined the church for so much of the church for the past millennium and a half.

As an old guy, I am fascinated by so much of the freshness, the creativity, the willingness to tamper with venerable old traditions, and to break old rules, in order to bring about something new and more energized and purposeful. This emerging generation is formed by a totally different set of dynamics than former generations. The exponential explosion of knowledge, and their ease in dealing with all the global connected-ness, with artificial intelligence, and so much more leave me marveling at their potential. Yes, and their capacity to conceive things that would have been beyond the wildest imagination of their parents (my bunch).

Add to that their quest for meaningful relationships. The need for human community has always been lurking in the human psyche, but with the emerging generation it is expressing itself in all kinds of new ways, and with all kinds of new components. That said, for all the wonderful expressions of Christian tradition in church institutions, they can be (and frequently are) impersonal so that one can be a participant and be totally anonymous. Our created nature which is designed to live in community, often finds no resource in venerable church institutions. Every young person with an iPhone has access to more resources and teaching that the most prestigious theological libraries, and profound teaching than is imaginable, not to mention social media. So, comes the question: Where do we go with this?

Note that in the creation story of that primordial peaceable kingdom, God created humankind in his own image so that they could relate with intimacy with himself without any barriers: the creature with the Creator. Then God, sensitively, noted that: it is not good for man that he should be alone. There we see the origins of one’s need for relationships, and for the human community. That original pair “were naked and not ashamed.” They had no need to hide. They were free, and intimate. Human community and intimacy, thus, were part of their true humanity. Until … the intrusion of the temptation to be their own gods, to be autonomous—and from that point ‘everything went south.’ But the Creator-God wasn’t left wringing his divine hands. Right away he gave a promise that “the seed of a woman” would emerge and bring about a new creation.

In these blogs, I am going to propose, and explore with my readers, that the church’s purpose, through Christ, is to be the recreation of the human community to be what God intends it to be, and which becomes also his dwelling-place by the Holy Spirit. As God came in Christ to reconcile the world to himself by, so the church is given to be a community of reconciliation. As Jesus expressed the love of God to his disciples, so the church is to be a community of that kind of self-giving, forgiving, authentic, and loving relationships—true community. … Something in that direction is where I intend to go. This may not even register with those formed by former church patterns, … but it is not them for whom I am writing. Stay tuned.

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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