In the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina, an Interagency Performance Evaluation Taskforce (Sills, Vroman, Wahl & Schwanz, 2008) was created to study and identify the causes of failure and poor performance in order to utilize new knowledge in the repair and reconstruction of the levee system. It was suggested that instead of utilizing the prior traditional approach, a risk-based approach was needed to allow for the explanation of uncertainty where there were multiple integrated components involved. As a result of the new knowledge generated by this study, changing design methods are being put into practice and will continue to evolve in order to address the storms that lie ahead.
In some ways, the story of Katrina could be the story of the Western church. The traditional systems which guided the establishment of most of our congregations are being overwhelmed by the storm surge that cultural and generational change has placed upon them. Like the pre-Katrina levee systems, our philosophy and methodology was based upon a performance, attractional approach. In like manner, our attractional approach has been slow, unwilling or unable to respond to the uncertainty that so many changing dynamics have place upon us. The results have the potential to be catastrophic for the Kingdom as a majority of our traditional, attractional congregations are plateaued or declining and younger generations are exiting our congregations in mass. In view of these dynamics, it seems that we, as the greater body of Christ, should begin to evaluate our antiquated systems and ask if there are fresher methods and philosophies that need to be implemented in order to address the storm surges of the present and future.
This book was written as a response to that notion. As we look to the future, it is important to understand that the world in which we now live is growing weary of the performance based philosophy that guides many congregations and our commitment and dependence upon the brick and mortar structures that house those congregations. The Gospel in the future will be best proclaimed by compassion and servanthood lived outside those walls in the love of Jesus. Congregations will be most effective in reaching their communities when they exit their buildings and engage their communities as the Incarnate Jesus.
This is an excerpt from my book, Church in the Middle, being released in Spring, 2014.