A few years ago I wrote the following as an introduction to my final paper for a graduate seminar on Metaphor in/and Theology. I was trying to paint a picture of “religionless Christianity” as Bonhoeffer put it. I’m now putting my money where my mouth is. I’m going to spend this summer in an organic house church environment. What happens after the summer is anyone’s guess.
Imagine a world in which the church buildings, cathedrals, mega-churches and other structures used for Christian gatherings are no longer, or at least less often, the places they once were. Now these buildings are museums, community centers, homeless shelters, theaters and so on. The people that once filled these buildings gather there much less frequently if at all. What now occurs are smaller gatherings in homes, coffee shops and bars that are unique expressions of the Body of Christ in each particular city, culture and nation; expressions of faith that seek to express and work out what it means to follow Jesus in their specific contexts. Large numbers of Christians have left the traditional practices and structures of going to church for the option of being the church, taking seriously the metaphors of being salt and light. Large portions of the Christian community have intentionally gone underground, not because of persecution, but for the purpose of pursuing and modeling Jesus Christ through a cruciform life. This cross-shaped life calls for a discipline unrivaled by some mystics but also a giving of oneself in love to share in the suffering of others. This desire to commune with God leads to a love of the world on all levels. An ever-expanding network of simple, flexible, mobile fellowships, with no central headquarters, that seeks to be the parable of Jesus Christ for others in the world.
Could this be a possible future for the church in America? in other parts of the world? Is the era of the mega-church over? I’m interested in your thoughts.