*Originally posted at my Houston Chronicle Belief Blog – Sacred Duty
A few weeks ago there was a “wikiconference” of Christians in Katy.
Wondering what that is?
The term “wiki” was popularized by the ever popular site Wikipedia that allows users to add and edit content on the site in a collaborative manner.
A wiki conference is more than conference, it’s about collaboration.
This wiki conference in Katy is a collaboration of sacramental mission leaders and church planters hoping to come together to learn, collaborate and grow for the sake of the mission of the Christian church. It’s called Five Two, based off the idea that God provides what the church needs for mission (as he did in the story of the five fish and two loaves – Mark 6:38).
Predominantly made up of Lutheran attendees and a few others from mainline and non-denominational churches the Five Two wiki conference promises to serve as a “missional matchmaker seeking to connect you with the people who have been where you want to go. We desire to help you reach God’s lost people in a sacramental, community-focused way.”
The Lutheran church, particularly the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod of which many of the participants at this wiki conference are members of, is typically made up of a pretty traditional and conservative bunch. To say the least, the LCMS is not popularly known for its contemporary worship styles, its community oriented programming or major mission focus.
Billy Graham once called the Lutheran church in America the “sleeping giant,” implying that if it woke, revival was sure to come to the whole Christian church in the U.S.A.
The leaders of the Five Two network who are putting on this wiki conference are hoping to inspire, coach, collaborate with and connect various sacramental (read “predominantly Lutheran”) church planters as they seek to reach out to their communities and grow the church.
Such an undertaking comes with its fair share of challenges.
I had the opportunity to ask Bill Woolsey, a member of the Five Two leadership team and Sr. Pastor of Crosspoint Community Church here in Houston, what the greatest promises and greatest challenges are for Five Two, the Lutheran Church and other sacramental church planters in the years to come.
The greatest challenge Pastor Woolsey could identify is what he called a “post – even pre-church culture” that is “not church-centric” and generally beyond or not familiar with Christianity. He noted that if the Christian church, and in his context specifically the Lutheran church and its congregations, did not recognize this “culture shift” then there would difficult times ahead for the church’s mission in the world. Churches would die. Church planters would struggle. Numbers would dwindle. The sleeping giant would slip ever deeper into its comatose sleep.
David Campbell and Robert Putnam in their comprehensive tome on the state of American religion, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, note that following a shock (the cultural liberation of the 60’s) and two aftershocks (rise of the Religious Right and a backlash against) the present American culture is quite adverse towards mainline churches (Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians and Lutherans). According to many sociologists the mainline church is on decline and its churches are dying amidst a culture that no longer cares for its message or finds community within its walls. The LCMS, and its fellow mainline brethren, face an uphill battle if they desire to grow in the years to come.
Nonetheless, Woolsey didn’t leave the conversation on a sour note. Instead, he spoke of the great hope he had in “grace” oriented church planters who understood that it is God who takes the initiative in our relationship with him and in the mission of the church. He shared that a group of grace oriented believers armed with a “no ‘buts'” grace-oriented theology would see miracles happen in their community as they grew and matured together as a community Church.
Certainly, his is a hope-filled vision in the face of a difficult cultural context.
There have been other attempts at mission advancement and revival in years past. There were various challenges present then as well – theological challenges, practical impediments and cultural hurdles. Many mainline churches, in their struggle to be more missional and yet hold on to their sacramental, or more traditional, practices often wind up with two camps in their tribe: one ready to bravely step into the culture around them with their Christian message and another who is happy to maintain the status quo, even it means dwindling numbers and eventual church closures.
They will have to navigate not only the external culture of their community, but also an internal culture that may not go along with such a mission focus.
Only time will tell if this missional movement within mainline denominations like the LCMS will effectively take hold. The Five Two wiki conference is a brave attempt by a group of like-minded folks hoping to stem the tide.
This week as the Five Two folks get together to collaborate they will be sure to discuss what promises, and challenges, lie ahead as they attempt to awake a sleeping giant and redeem what they see as an ever secularizing culture around them.
As can be assumed, waking a sleeping giant is not an easy thing to do. It’s big, it’s ugly and it’s fast asleep. The Lutheran church, and mainline churches like them, are all sleeping giants well sluggish in their slumber; no minor movement and no little effort will awake such a beast.
*I must admit that this blog verges into the territory of our Houston Belief Lutheran pastor/blogger Pastor Charles St. Onge and his blog Lutherant. I encourage you to check out his blog and learn more about Confessional Christianity from a Lutheran perspective.