Back in 2000, Episcopal priest, William Dopp and his wife, Janet, were on their way to Kisoro, Uganda to be part of a special celebration at St. Andrew's Cathedral in that remote part of east Africa. They stopped over in London, where they had the opportunity to attend Sunday worship at St. John the Baptist Church in the Kensington section of London. The contrast between the two churches inspired this book.
The old gothic church in London was nearly empty on Sunday morning. One week later, the Dopps took part in worship in rural Kisoro where the 1200-seat cathedral was not large enough to hold the crowd. The church in London had on its literature, "Preserving Holy Worship." The church in Kisoro, Uganda proclaimed on a sign, "Jesus is our living hope." One church lives in the past; the other is in mission proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. These two churches are the symbols of what Dopp calls the old chapel church, the OCC, and the emerging missionary church, the EMC. Congregations of all denominations fall into these two categories. Through engaging ministry experiences backed up by current statistics, he illustrates how the emerging missionary church transforms the lives of people.
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The Tale of Two Churches
By William Floyd Dopp
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2009 William Floyd Dopp
All right reserved.
Chapter OneToday's Church, OCC and EMC
A few years ago at a Bible study I was leading, one of the students asked the group, "Why is the church so divided?" We had just read how Jesus said that he and the Father are one (John 10:30 RSV). The question was a good one. If Jesus asked us to be one, just as He and the Father are one, why do we not follow his instructions?
I liked the way the discussion followed. We agreed that the unity of the church comes in our unity in Christ and that our unity with God the Father comes through Jesus, but at first we failed to come to a conclusion on how we are to be unified with each other when we honestly have differences and disagreements.
Our final thought was that our differences do not mean that we are not united. One person noted that Jesus never said we had to agree, he said we have to love each other. That, we agreed, is much more difficult.
The church has always had its different camps. The divisions sometimes have kept the church from doing its work here on earth, but in other times the divisions have led to greater understanding and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, a renewed faith.
The tale of two churches goes back two thousand years, maybe even further. When Jesus walked thepaths of the Holy Land there were two main lines of Jewish teaching, the Law and the Prophets. Jesus came in answer to one and to fulfill the other. The union of the two was completed in the Resurrection and was set into motion as a new relationship with God at Pentecost.
The early church quickly divided into two groups, Greeks and Jews. St. Paul came along to unite these two. Later the church divided into east and west, Greek and Latin. That division still remains, although the division has softened into mostly cultural identity rather than theological differences.
Over the centuries there have been endless divisions that have separated Christians from one another. In 1517, Martin Luther published The Ninety-Five Theses, not to divide the church, but rather to reform it. With all of his good intentions, the western church was divided into Protestant and Catholic. That division still remains, but it too has softened. Most of Luther's ninety-five points have been generally accepted by Protestants and Catholics alike.
Luther would be so pleased that Roman Catholics today can receive communion in both the Host and the Cup. They sing hymns in worship, as well. Mostly, he would be pleased that the practice of trying to buy your way into heaven through indulgences has faded away. Luther's understanding of salvation by faith alone has become a universal teaching. The Roman Catholic Church has even forgiven Luther and some have praised him for his reforms.
Other divisions have come and gone. My own Anglican tradition had its high and low church liturgical styles. These traditions have led to new denominations such as the Presbyterians, Puritans, and Methodists. Again, these differences have softened. Most mainline churches have become very much alike. The average Presbyterian these days would feel comfortable in any of the other churches and most likely would not know the difference except for a few favorite hymns and some traditional prayers. Today people easily move between one denomination and another. Church leaders are very much aware that today there is very little "denominational brand loyalty," especially among young people.
Today there are differences in churches that I would not call divisions, but rather the diversity of the universal church. Traditional and contemporary worship, even conservative and liberal theology, are not necessarily divisions in the church but rather are expressions of the faith. It is only when these things become the central focus of a congregation or group of churches that Christian orthodoxy (true belief) is breached and division happens. This is when mission is usually lost.
A friend of mine says that it is when we worship our worship style, or when we worship our political correctness then we are separated from the Body of Christ. I think she is correct. Our biggest problems in the church today happen when we begin to worship an idol, whatever it may be.
There are wonderful liberal-thinking congregations, usually in big cities, that are reaching out to the marginalized. These churches often are a voice for social justice in their communities. They have led the way for human rights and they are in mission to those who suffer in today's urban jungles. They take Christ out into the world so that he will be known to those who would other wise not find him. These are the EMC.
Likewise, there are also wonderful conservative congregations often found in suburban areas which are keeping the faith among those struggling with the complexities of our changing society. They have stood up for family values at a time when families are failing. They are bringing faith values back to people who have lost their way in the secular world. They also make Christ known to many who would not otherwise know his love and grace. These too are the EMC.
I wish that liberals and conservatives would take the time to see the value of the other's role in the greater church. Both are desperately needed.
Finding Common Ground
In May 2009, President Barack Obama addressed the graduates at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. As he made his remarks he was facing protesters who disagreed with his pro-choice stance on abortions. In a May 18, 2009 Washington Post report he was quoted, "As citizens of a vibrant and varied democracy, how do we engage in vigorous debate? How does each of us remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side?" The president posed a great question.
Liberals and conservatives listen to him. We do not need to agree to be in love and charity with each other. Obama went on to say, "Let us find the common ground." In his remarks he suggested, "Let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions."
A Roman Catholic neighbor of mine commented on the president's address. She said, "I like his way of looking at abortion." She added, "I don't agree with him because I am pro-life. That is my religious conviction, but I think what the president is saying is that we should get women to choose life not abortion." She looked at me and asked, "Does that make me pro-choice?"
I didn't answer her, but I was thinking to myself that it made her neither. Rather, she is pro-understanding. I think the church could use some pro-understanding these days. We need to find common ground, especially when we have major disagreements. The search for common ground should be a mission of the EMC.
Other EMC Examples
Dealing with another issue of our times, there are exciting congregations, sometimes called mega churches, telling the good news of Jesus Christ to a new generation. These are the EMC. Thousands, if not millions, of unchurched people these days are seeking to find meaning in their lives. More than half of those under age thirty do not attend church, yet their generation is searching for something resembling faith. The mission church is answering the call.
Finally, there are growing community churches, such as the one I had the honor of leading, where retired persons are learning how to be disciples alongside young children. These are the missions where everyday people are learning about doing meaningful ministry. These are places where the ministry of the laity is being raised up. Neighbor helping neighbor, friend to friend-the church is learning to do ministry in a very practical way. These also are the EMC.
These community congregations are the churches in the front lines of the battles facing people in the economic downturn of 2008-2009. As the economic downturn has meant the loss of jobs and the loss of homes, the mission church has responded with practical ministries, helping people cope and helping them find practical solutions to their problems. One Lutheran parish in Ohio is helping some people find employment by teaching them new marketable skills at the same time they are teaching about the power of prayer in dealing with problems. All of these mission-minded congregations are what it means to be the EMC.
The Two Churches of Our Times
The two churches of our times, old chapel churches and emerging missionary churches, view the world very differently. The chapel is the church that looks inward and the mission is the church that looks outward.
The OOC is the church of most of the past sixteen hundred years. From the time of Constantine in the fourth century, it has kept the faith and it has been a place of God's love and grace. It has been a chapel, a holy sanctuary where people have come to pray, and, I must point out, it has been true to the faith. The problem is that by its very nature it is unable to meet the demands of the post-modern and post-Christian era, in which just being a place of God's love is not enough to bring new people to the faith. Our times demand more than the chapel can give.
Archbishop William Temple, in the 1940s, told his people in England that the church is the one organization that exists for those who are not yet members. The OCC congregation seldom reaches beyond it own members. I think Temple would understand why this style of church is dying. His words were timely. Since World War II the church of our parents is not necessarily the one we attend.
We quit going to the local OCC, not because it stood for anything we didn't believe or that it wasn't filled with nice people. We stopped going because we became mobile. We went out into the world and we discovered the chapel wasn't relative in the world we live in. It has failed to attract others to Christ. And, for many of us, we married someone from a different style of chapel. The OCC we knew wouldn't do for either of us.
Marks of the OCC:
1. Congregations look inward and are centered on their own existence.
2. They fondly remember the past, ignore the present, and fear the future.
3. They feel helpless and hopeless.
4. They are declining in ministries, members, and attendance.
The EMC, on the other hand, is thriving. It thrives because it reaches out to all people, it ministers to those in need, it cares about bringing the faith to a world in chaos, it is energized by its diversity, and it understands that the great commandment to love and the great commission to bring the faith to all nations are the callings of the mission. The EMC upholds the orthodox Christian faith and the eternal truth of God's word. What is orthodox and true is that the church must be in mission to lead others to Christ.
The EMC is the church growing to meet the complexities of the post-modern world. It is fully engaged in the mission of the church. The central task of the EMC is to lead others to Christ, help them grow in the Lord, and then to send them out to lead others in the same way. It is being led by the Holy Spirit, emerging to its full potential for our challenging times.
A Mission For Our Times
We now live in a world that cannot be considered Christian even in places where Christianity is still the major religion. We have become a global society where we live next door to someone who is probably from another geographic area and most likely has a different religious belief. The old Polish neighborhood where my wife grew up, and the German neighborhood I knew, no longer exists. In today's world it is the EMC that can bring order to the chaos of a society that has turned to secularism when the chapel failed.
The 2008 study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life offered an interesting conclusion to their 36,000-person survey. They noted that most people (about ninety percent) believe in God and that most people observe a moral code based on basic religious principles, but more than half have no loyalty to a particular denomination. Most have a variety of religious beliefs not grounded in a particular tradition.
A 2009 AOL News poll with more than 90,000 responding shows that seventy-two percent of the people in the United States call themselves Christians, yet only one in four of them regularly attend a church.
It is interesting to note that denominational loyalty has continued to decline for several decades. Back in the '80s and '90s, author and professor Wade Clark Roof studied the religious traditions of the generations since World War II. He found a rapid change in the way people viewed their traditions. Denominational loyalty in the '80s was already on the decline, but in the years since Roof's study disloyalty is becoming the norm.
When I read the words of the Prophet Isaiah, I can't help but feel that he was writing about our times as well as his own when he noted how his generation abandoned their faith, lost their temple, and were exiled to Babylon. His words have eternal truth. But the good news is that the prophet saw hope for the people of Israel; after all, they were God's chosen people. In time God led them back into his good grace. The same hope is ours. If we are faithful and follow, God will lead us back to where he wants us to be.
Today, religious formation is often based on secular values shaped around people's own ethical beliefs. For most, the hope of their future is a personal thing and the salvation of their soul is something they do not understand at all. Like the people of Isaiah's time, many today are wandering in exile from a temple they never knew.
It is for these people that the EMC is so important. One can not be in communion with God and neighbor by one's self. The community of faith is not about being a place where one comes to pray alone. It is about coming to know Christ in a communion of faith and then becoming one of his followers (a disciple) who enters into a union with other believers to be the Body of Christ, doing God's work here on earth. This is the mission of the EMC.
Marks of the EMC:
1. Congregations look outward for opportunities to serve in the name of Christ.
2. They join together to seek ways to ways to lead others to Christ. They share God's love in formation, worship, prayer, ministry, and evangelism.
3. They look to the future with optimism.
4. They are increasing the ministries they offer. Membership and attendance are growing.
The Mission Church in Books
A long list of wonderful books has been written about the mission church. Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Community Church in Orange County, California, wrote the definitive book on the subject, The Purpose Driven Church (Zondervan, 1995). In it he cites: fellowship, discipleship, worship, ministry, and evangelism as the keys to the mission church's purpose. He calls for people to be transformed. He offers what he calls the five circles of commitment from people who come into the church. They are: 1. reaching out to the community of the unchurched; 2. bringing them into membership; 3. forming them into a congregation of regular members; 4. getting them to be committed; 5. and empowering what he calls the core members. The subtitle of his book is, "Growth Without Compromising Your Message and Mission." He holds up the basics of the Christian faith in calling for mission.
Warren has contributed to the transformation of the church from chapel to mission. His more recent best seller, The Purpose Driven Life (Zondervan, 2002), deals with personal transformation. Both books have changed lives.
I will not try to redo what Warren and others have done so well. Rather I will reflect from personal experience on what the mission of the EMC means to the person in the pew and the disciple out in the mission field. As congregations have been transformed from chapel to mission I have witnessed the transformation of people. People's lives have been renewed and they have entered into the Peace of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit simply because their congregations have become empowered to be missionaries.
A Woman Made New
This is the story of a person in the pew who was made new through the love of Christ shown at an EMC. For her privacy we will just call her Rose.
One Sunday I was filling in at a parish while the priest in charge was on vacation. Usually at times like these a visiting priest only gets to visit casually with the people. This could have been one of those times except for a woman I cannot forget.
Rose was not a regular at this particular church, but I didn't know that. She came up to me after the service and asked if she could have a word in private. This happens often to clergy; people have the opportunity to see you on Sunday and they want to talk. After shaking hands with a long line of people, I suggested to Rose that we share some coffee. We took our cups and sat at a table in the parish hall a few feet away from the rest of the people. She couldn't wait to tell me her troubles.
Excerpted from The Tale of Two Churches by William Floyd Dopp Copyright © 2009 by William Floyd Dopp. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
CHAPTER ONE: Today's Church, OCC and EMC....................1
CHAPTER TWO: The Power of the EMC....................15
CHAPTER THREE: The Holy Decline of the OCC....................29
CHAPTER FOUR: EMC, Education of the Faithful: Christian Formation....................39
CHAPTER FIVE: Worship in the EMC....................51
CHAPTER SIX: EMC, Ministry to the World....................63
CHAPTER SEVEN: The E-word, Evangelism in the EMC....................73
CHAPTER EIGHT: Measuring Our Course....................83
CHAPTER NINE: Motivating the EMC....................97
CHAPTER TEN: Celebrating the EMC....................107