Church Education Trust

This journey of the mixed marriage of church and culture begins with truth recognised, evolving to truth de-emphasised and leading ultimately to truth rejected, simply because, according to post modernism, truth cannot be absolutely known.
If truth cannot be known absolutely, then the church, if guided by post modern influences, is already on the way to decline; if that is the case, why bother to build a church that has nothing to say to the real spiritual needs of humanity?

Once the church moves from the position of orthodox truth  to propositional truth, truth is then being shaped not by God but by social location, even regional truth, that truth being only the sum total of the human experience.  The church, if built on this philosophy may well be physically alive but is on its way to spiritual death.


Scott McKnight on his web site quotes LeRon Shults’ potent comments on post modernity’s influence on the development of the 21st century church.From a theological perspective, this fixation with propositions can easily lead to the attempt to use the finite tool of language; an absolute presence that transcends and embraces all finite reality.
Languages are culturally constructed symbol systems that enable humans to communicate by designating one finite reality in distinction from another. The truly infinite God of Christian faith is beyond all linguistic grasping, as all the great theologians from Irenaeus to Calvin have insisted and so the struggle to capture God in our finite propositional structures is nothing short of linguistic idolatry.[1]
3.3 Conclusions.
Evangelical traditionalism will always be in conflict at some level with the MCM over theology, method and practices.  Donald E.Miller offers a more progressive and at times provocative analysis of what he believes American Christianity will be like in the future.  He travels into unfamiliar places as a liberal Episcopalian trying to unravel and give a positively critical appraisal of the MCM through his evaluation of three major mega church movements.
As we conclude this chapter it is worth reflecting on how Miller views the development of the MCM. Clearly he believes that the MCM or new paradigm churches are at the very forefront of radical change in the way the Gospel message is proclaimed in a post modern world.Like Warren, Miller clearly defines the reasons why traditional churches are declining and new paradigm churches are growing. 
He has been able to evaluate post modern pastors` ministries as having similarities of message, method and practice reflecting 1st century church experience. Given his strong Liberal Episcopalian and non literalist biblical views, he still maintains that this new paradigm is an apparatus for hope in the fight of the church for relevance and survival.
While his book is well researched and balanced, it should be remembered he stepped from the confined environment of liturgical worship with all its magnificence of form, order and refined preaching into a religiously foreign environment of worship.  The fact that he had to venture into three different groups i.e. Vineyard, Calvary and Hope, must have had unconscious influences on his ability to cope with the complete otherness of these new paradigm churches.
Yet there is a significance in the way that he has been able to grasp the essentials of what was happening in each of the three environments which would give the reader of his book a sense that a critical and positive interaction had taken place giving conclusions that are worthy of deep reflection.
Miller’s overall argument is that these new paradigm churches are in effect reflecting a “second reformation” which is not a theological but a methodological reformation.  It is primarily a reformation that confronts and challenges bureaucracy, structure and leadership roles plus the worship practices of the mainline church expressions of Christianity. His arguments are clearly propagating the idea that any church that will grow numerically and spiritually will have to reconnect people to the sacred by reinventing traditional worship while redeveloping institutional forms.
Miller invites debate over the suggestion that the new paradigm churches have opened up the door to post denominational Christianity which is radically “changing the way Christianity looks and is experienced”. [2]  What Miller considers the characteristics of traditional Christianity are discarded by this new movement, as it introduces “contemporary cultural forms” while creating a “genre of worship music”. [3] 
Miller suggests that MCM also reconstructs its organisation in such a way to facilitate the priesthood of all believers. This new formed ecclesiology introduced in new paradigm churches creates the environment Miller suggests for churches to become more involved with community which causes them in most cases to become “seeker sensitive”.[4]  
Miller connects this conclusion with Saddleback’s amazing development.  He also clinically deduces that to be seeker sensitive means that a completely different approach to worship is needed.  For Miller worship changes did not happen by chance, but where designed carefully to attract the non believer into the context of worship.
Miller suggests, “while I had never accepted biblical literalism of these churches, I did discover the power of contemporary music to communicate the sacred and I found myself genuinely moved by the members` stories of personal transformation and healing”.[5] He argues that what was missing in Liberal Christianity is the newly discovered principle that worship involves the whole of the being i.e. body, soul and spirit.
Head knowledge is insufficient in and of itself for real connection with the sacred. He reflects that real beliefs emerge from experience of an intimate relationship with God and not the other way around.[6]  He suggests that the new paradigm churches are keeping in line with post modern cultural changes thereby becoming effective and relevant in ministry.  He formulates the belief through his enquiries that new paradigm church members have responded to “therapeutic, individualistic, and antiestablishment” themes of counterculture.
Therapeutically, people seem opened to honest relationship that create fellowship which is real and genuine. Individualistically, the idea of private interpretation of the scripture is very much at the heart of new paradigm church worship.  Interacting with God personally in prayer and visions, while professing personal salvation, develops strong personal faith and commitment.  Connected with this is the idea of personal accountability to God and fellowship, particularly realised in the small group situations.
Miller concedes that within the development of the new paradigm, churches have a tendency to be hostile to institutions and bureaucracies.  The disregarding of symbols which are seen as oppressive and human in origin are considered false and a hindrance to spiritual development. 
This is an extreme view and could be argued that the New Paradigm churches create their own symbols of Christian expression; their symbol-free environment may in itself be a symbol. The development of literature, use of CD`s etc all have pictorial embellishment, which are in a sense symbolic of the beliefs of the system.

[1]Scott McKnight,, February 2007, Quote LeRon Shults.

[2] Donald E. Miller, Reinventing American Protestantism, 1.
[3] Miller, RAP, 1-2.
[4] Miller, RAP, 1-2.
[5] Miller, RAP, 8-9.
[6] Donald E. Miller, Reinventing American Protestantism, 8-9.

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