The technological revolution, transformed economies, capitalism, globalization, decentralization, individualism, commodification, fragmented communities, fragmented identities, alienation….
At the end of the 20th century these transformations converged creating a radical shift in social culture. (94)
Many churches have tried to respond to these changes with a greater emphasis on programs, structures, and new initiatives. Yet time after time, these things seem to fail. According to Alan Roxburgh, structures aren’t the real issue, it’s the narratives that lie behind the structures that are the real issue. So what churches need is not to restructure (though that may need to happen), but what needs to happen first is that there needs to be a shift in the narratives by which these organizations are working with. We need to understand the stories and narratives that have shaped the changes around us and those that have shaped the structures we currently use. This will take greater use of our imagination and the greater use of experimentation. Without experimenting it will be hard to “discover” the new story lines that need to take place. But most importantly what we need is to follow the Spirit’s leading. Throughout the history of the church, the Spirit has helped to change hearts and reinvigorate imaginations, even when the church seemed to get stuck in a rut.
Part one of this Structured for Mission lays out the changes in society that the church is addressing and lays out a theory of structures and legitimating narratives that shape those structures. In part two, Roxburgh makes a case for the kinds of shifts that need to happen if the church is going to move in health into the future.
I think Roxburgh is on to something important, that may church leaders need to hear: the problems the church is facing cannot be changed by merely tinkering around with our programs and structures, a deeper change is needed. Hopefully many will heed these wise words of Roxburgh.