Someone pointed out an article in Thursday’s Winnipeg Free Press concerning the recent conference with Leonard Sweet. I don’t like to violate copright and all, but unfortunately this paper does not make even archives available online to anyone but subscribers. (Arrgh.) Fortunately, if you have access to it, you can email the full text to anyone you like. To save doing this for all interested blog-readers and trying to figure out who’s interested and who’s not, I’m taking the unusual step of flirting with copyright violation and pasting the whole thing below. Just imagine you’re reading it via email and we’ll all be fine, okay?
Winnipeg Free Press
Thursday, January 19th, 2006
Lay clergy dared to create ‘un-church’
Thursday, January 19th, 2006
By Carol Sanders
MORE than 150 church leaders and lay ministers from across Manitoba and northwestern Ontario were dared yesterday to “de-evangelize” and create an “un-church”.
“People don’t want to be in church,” said Brian Gold of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada in Manitoba and an organizer of a two-day leadership seminar in Winnipeg that ended yesterday.
“We have to find out how to do things in a different way,” said the Flin Flon pastor.
Christians from all denominations at the seminar heard U.S. author, futurist and university professor Leonard Sweet describe how to revive churches in the post-modern world.
“No one in our culture wants to get ‘churched,’ ” said Sweet, who is based in New Jersey. Tim Hortons and Starbucks have taken over from churches as “the third place” where people meet, he said.
“Seventy-five per cent of the churches in the U.S. are dying or declining,” he said. Another 24 per cent are growing, thanks to the “Wal-mart-ization” of churches — smaller congregations moving out of residential neighbourhoods to big buildings on the fringes of suburbia, which has created a class of “migrant worshippers.”
One per cent of churches are reaching the “un-churched.” The other 99 per cent “don’t have great expectations and aren’t taking a leap of faith into the future,” he said.
“Seat-occupying Christianity is our precise problem,” Sweet said.
Churches that aren’t engaging people in a conversation on an emotional level are a dying breed, he said. Making church more comfortable and appealing to people physically and intellectually won’t be enough.
“This is a culture that wants to — needs to — feel it.”
He dared the church leaders to explore “de-evangelism” — not to do a hard-sell for Christ, but to try a more provocative approach. One minister at a church in Bowling Green, Ky., tells potential congregants: “Be prepared for the unexpected.”
And that’s not an empty promise. Rather than following a routine, the services there are unpredictable. And so are the church’s members.
“There are more convicts than converts,” Sweet said. “It even has a smoking section.”
Â© 2006 Winnipeg Free Press. All Rights Reserved.