If the Religion Singularity is true… If denominations and churches are growing/fracturing at a considerably higher rate than the worldwide population of Christians, driving a massive downturn in the size of those institutions… What is the future of religion? What is the future of faith?
Author Phyllis Tickle, called by some “the chronicler of the emerging church,” once suggested that the institutional church – in all its various forms – had perhaps an 18 month window in which to adjust themselves to the emerging paradigm of Church. Quite a bold prediction, don’t you think? I thought so at the time (I was inclined to be more gracious…24 months at least). And maybe she thought so, too, since this is what she said immediately after:
In general, short-range predictions are fairly dangerous things. Like loose boards on an aging country porch, they tend to fly up and hit one in the face. I try to avoid them for that very reason. On the other hand, sometimes something is not only compellingly obvious in and of itself, but so too is the need for its telling. Whether I am accurate in my observations or not remains to be seen … very soon, in this case … but the possibility of error does not eliminate the obligation to speak the truth as one sees it, any more than it defuses the urgency.
I’m feeling in a similar emotional space myself, since I now believe that Phyllis’ 18 months window was itself optimistic, and my analysis of the Religion Singularity is that there are two windows. One of those windows remains open and the other actually closed at least two decades ago. I seems to me that the window for denominations is closed and they will collapse sooner than we expect, certainly by the end of the century. But for those faith-based communities willing to do the hard, transformational work necessary to become more lean, agile, and experimental, a narrow window of opportunity remains open.
And what of those faith communities that would rather die than change?
I think that they will achieve their preference.
So the question is not wether to become a lean, agile, and experimental congregation…but how?
And that is a question for next week’s blog post.