One of my favorite authors is Stuart Murray. If you are a pastor – specifically a church planter – and are not familiar with Murray, you are undoubtedly missing out on some significant thought on how the church today must relate to a changing culture. Murray is a practitioner who has written several books on church planting, urban mission, and the challenge of post-Christendom. One of his books I often recommend for church planters is “Church Planting: Laying Foundations.” It is one of the few books on church planting that deals meaningfully with the theological foundations of planting.
However, the Murray book that has had the greatest influence on my ministry would be “Post-Christendom: Church and Mission in a Strange New World.” While the majority of the book provides a very helpful historical overview of the rise and fall of Christendom, Murray also discusses the significant change in thinking that has to take place for the church today. The church must recognize that the world is a very different place. Part of the change in thinking involve understanding seven significant ecclesiological shifts from Christendom to post-Christendom:
From the center to margins: in Christendom the Christian story and the churches were central, but in post-Christendom these are marginal.
From majority to minority: in Christendom Christians comprised the (often overwhelming) majority, but in post-Christendom we are a minority.
From settlers to sojourners: in Christendom Christians felt at home in a culture shaped by their story, but in post-Christendom we are aliens, exiles and pilgrims in a culture where we no longer feel at home.
From privilege to plurality: in Christendom Christians enjoyed many privileges, but in post-Christendom we are one community among many in a plural society.
From control to witness: in Christendom churches could exert control over society, but in post-Christendom we exercise influence only through witnessing to our story and its implications.
From maintenance to mission: in Christendom the emphasis was on maintaining a supposedly Christian status quo, but in post-Christendom it is on mission within a contested environment.
From institution to movement: in Christendom churches operated mainly in institutional mode, but in post-Christendom we must become again a Christian movement.
Which of these shifts do you think is most important to grasp? How have these kinds of shifts influenced the way you engage mission in your context?