Making Church Matter

Church Change

July 1, 2011

As noted in the previous post, the number one project this summer is getting “the book” done, a project my associate Tom Corcoran and I have been working on for the last year.  It will be only a little book (about 60,000 words) but one that tells our story and what happened to us and what we’ve learned about doing church in a very changing landscape.

Through the course of this project I have been surprised to learn how many books you have to read in order to write. We were advised early on that we should be diligent in making sure we read as much as we can of what has been written on the topics we’re discussing. And we’ve tried to do that.  One author who I have come across recently who deals in a general way with our topic is Seth Godin, a best selling author and business blogger.  I have not read all his books, but his recent book “Tribes” brings a lot of terrific insight. Godin makes the point that religion, of any kind, at its best, is a support system for our faith.  But at its worst it is a bulwark and defense of the status quo, often at the expense of faith.

We can serve the status quo of our religion, even as we see its demise all around us.  Or we serve and build our faith, by challenging and changing the culture of our religion. In fact, as Godin argues, in order to survive and move forward in the world of rapid change we now live in, in order to lead through this change we have got to challenge the status quo of our religion.

Godin writes that the status quo is persistent and resistant.  It exists because everyone wants it to.  Everyone believes that what they’ve got is probably better than the risk and fear that comes with change. When it comes to churchworld, the status quo gets wrapped up with the will of God, challenging or changing anything is equated with challenging or changing God! That’s why from time to time we come across visitors who walk into Nativity and angrily ask, “Is this a Catholic Church?” They’re not being mean, they just think they’re defending their faith…when in fact they’re defending the culture of their religion.

Every single industry and business and religious culture eventually fades and changes. The lesson we are learning currently is that this process has accelerated everywhere, for everything…the music industry, journalism, mid-Eastern dictatorships, fast food, TV programming, communication, everything.  Everything including churchworld.

Churchworld is changing, like it or not: one in three Americans have walked away from the religion of their birth.  The third largest religious identification in America is “former” Catholic. Obviously something extremely positive is happening at Nativity, amidst a climate of demise and failure in much of the Catholic Church and organized religion.
We can help lead change in this situation; its not about changing the faith, its changing the culture of our religion.

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  1. I so agree with this…”the status quo gets wrapped up with the will of God. Challenging or changing anything gets equated with challenging or changing God.” I am going to have to look up this author. Looking forward to your book. Please stop talking about how small it is going to be. It is the message that makes a book worth reading, not the number of pages it contains!



  2. Fantastic post. Navigating change while holding fast to those things that matter takes attention, courage, and willingness to bear harsh criticism and attack. Thank you for the encouragement of the vision of Nativity.

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