Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Are we dinosaurs? churches in Western culture

On Friday I’ve been asked to speak with the South Australian Heads of Churches.  The topic I’ve been given, for 90 minutes, is the question: Are we dinosaurs? with particular focus on the future of the church. It’s a pretty significant opportunity and my colleagues have been teasing me about the need to dig out my tie and suit!

I thought it might be helpful for the leaders if as part of the presentation (one of three parts), I sought to summarise the range of approaches being advocated. So here’s a first crack at this, in which I am playing with the dinosaur theme. What do you think? Is it a helpful framework? What approaches might I be missing?

a) Theologies of extinction

These in many ways assume that the dinosaur will die.  That is accepted and is legitimised through theological reflection.  An example might be Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. Or it might be various theologies of exile, which are suggesting that the church is moving to the margins, and so link that with various Old Testament motifs. The danger of these is (IMHO) that these are in fact assuming that the “now” is in fact not actually home.

b) Go back: good old days theologies
These encourage a looking back in time.  It might be the good old days of the 1950’s. Or it might be the early church, say pre-Constantine or in the book of Acts. It might be a moment of liturgy, for example the Radical Orthodoxy movement and the Tridentine mass. They often trade on a fairly romantic notion.

c) Climate changers and Culture-makers
These include words like “Fresh expressions” and “Missional Church.”  They point to a changing climate and encourage the church to adapt.  Often they have a missionary view of history.  One way to categorise them is in terms of theology and missiology. So much of the Emergent church conversation in the US is a call for a new theology, while much of the fresh expressions conversation is a call for a new missiology.

Posted by steve at 12:07 PM


  1. How about adaptors, survivors and evolvers…

    Comment by Paul Fromont — September 1, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

  2. Thanks Paul. Are you thinking of those as instead of my three? or as well as?

    I’m actually trying to avoid the word evolvers, given the diversity of those who are coming and where they might play out on their understanding of Genesis 1 🙂


    Comment by steve — September 1, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

  3. Seems to me you might be missing a category of “she’ll be right” or “God will look after us” approaches … do nothing, but don’t in any way attach that to extinction. While that might seem an uncommon frame of mind to some of us, I wouldn’t be too surprised (through no real knowledge or experience mind you) if there were a reasonable chunk of the Catholic Church that falls into that category. And is by no means unsupportable theologically.

    Comment by IainM — September 1, 2010 @ 3:58 pm

  4. In addition to yours. “Adaptors & survivors” would make the same points I’d also include under the heading “evolve”. All the best for the paper – would be nice to listen in on it 🙂

    Comment by Paul Fromont — September 1, 2010 @ 7:17 pm

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by emergentkiwi, Achtung Aeon. Achtung Aeon said: sustain:if:able kiwi » Are we dinosaurs? churches in Western culture […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention sustain:if:able kiwi » Are we dinosaurs? churches in Western culture -- — September 2, 2010 @ 3:18 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.