One of the ICs in town is moving forward.  They’ve started something “new,” a Sunday night service called “The Outpost.”  It’s for “new believers, those who aren’t yet believers, and jaded believers.”  In conjunction with this new approach, they have a marketing director, a communications specialist, secretary and a media relations liaison.

My hat is off to this outfit in one sense.  They may not yet be able to articulate it, but what they’re sensing and seeing is that people are leaving the institutional church.  The “emperor” has no clothes.  They’re seeing gaps.  Deficiencies.  Boredom.  Marginal relevance and nominal effectiveness.  So they’re trying something new.

Or are they?

A closer look at Faith Community’s (pseudonym) “new” format reveals that free food, upbeat music, free childcare and a Q and A session aren’t all that “new.”  It’s the same package in different wrapping.

Carefully choreographed, the evening essentially revolves around a religious CEO: the pastor.  The music is led by a “professional” worship team or guest band.  Congregants are encouraged to attend and participate, but leading and initiating is left to the “professionals.” Attendees write or text questions to one person – the pastor – which are answered by one person – the pastor.  Because the one person with all the answers – the pastor – can’t answer them all, the longer dissertations are posted on the church website.

Someone described The Outpost as “Sunday morning with jeans.”  The format perpetuates the myth that only paid professionals are qualified to handle spiritual matters and answer theological questions.  While The Outpost offers a more casual setting, its methodology and mentality is still rooted in passive spectatorship and top-down hierarchies.

Still, you’ve got to give Faith Community credit.  At least they’re trying.    They seem to sense what has become clear in Europe and Asia and elsewhere: the IC is on its way out.  What’re the odds that Faith Community will discover something so old, it’s new?

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