Spitballing the Future of the Church: Small and Rural Edition


On The Verge: A Look Into The Apostolic Future of The Church is a book written by Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson.  In it, Hirsch posits that the church became the power structure and lost it’s status as a vital movement.  Essentially, the church becoming the power structure – at about the time Constantine saw his cross in the sky – meant the church was doomed from there.  This is a gross generalization, but it’s accurate.

My original thoughts about this was that the church should take drastic steps to reclaim their “movement” status.  The more drastic, the better.  Throw out memberships rolls.  Remove denominational markings.  Detach memorial nameplates from the furniture.  Hirsch and Ferguson caution against that.

I am currently a student in seminary.  Being that seminaries need churches to need pastors – and given the current decline the church is in – my seminary is especially focused on the subject of “church renewal.”  In fact, I am taking a class on it.

In it, we are discussing any and all strategies and ideas for renewal of the church.  We also discuss why the church is declining.

One intriguing thought is that Jesus is still very popular with al kinds of people, but the church – in all its different forms – is not.

So, one of the overarching questions is: how do we reclaim the popularity of Jesus for a latter-day (sorry evangelicals and Mormons) “Jesus Movement?”

I think it begins small.  In the small, rural church – with the pull of large, evangelical and non-denominational churches dragging many people out of town on Sunday morning – how does church renewal look?  It begins small.

For instance, the Forest United Methodist Church is one that has been well cared for over the years.  The same people have been taking care of it, but the building is in incredible shape – with a large and functional fellowship hall that could easily be used for other purposes.  It is in a small – getting smaller – town, but there are still plenty of people who need to hear the gospel.  Likely, they are intimidated or otherwise turned-off by the modern-day church.

In short, there is a beautiful and functional building that could easily be used to form a new faith community.

What do I mean?  Of course, it would happen under the auspices of a pastor under appointment of a United Methodist bishop, but this would be a whole different community.  A “Jesus Movement” that existed on the fringe for people living on the fringe.  The music would be modern.  The setting would be informal.  the preaching would be vital.  Call it a church within a church – but not THAT one (Google it for further context).

I think this can and should happen.  I am taking it to the administrative council next month and I hope we can make it happen in the new year.  Not many of my parishioners read my blog, so it will be news to them.

Rather than go softly into that good night – to poorly borrow a phrase – let’s use the Spirit’s presence within us to at least go out with a bang.

Thank you for letting my spitball here online.

P.S. I would like to thank Jim Farrer – of Mesa First UMC – for letting me bounce some of this off of him.

3 comments on “Spitballing the Future of the Church: Small and Rural Edition

  1. Chris
    October 25, 2012 at 7:13 PM #

    Starting a second service eh? Good luck.

    • Chris Tiedeman
      October 25, 2012 at 7:55 PM #

      Sort of. Less a “second service” and more “new faith community.” If it weren’t so experimental and in-house, I’d call it a church plant.

      It’s aimed at ministering to those who have shied away from the church and live in rural areas – might as well just identify them as “bedroom communities” anymore. As our small, rural congregations get older and skirt the idea of closing their doors, there is still need in those communities for the gospel. These churches “as is” aren’t equipped or ready to minister to those people – or has proven incapable so far. These churches are being hit with both post-Christian society and shrinking, rural towns and villages. Radical transformation is needed. This will be an attempt at it.


  1. Saturday salmagundi - November 4, 2012

    […] Pastor Chris’ ideas in “Spitballing the Future of the Church” echo some of Scott Paeth’s ideas in his “Church for Freaks” series. Chris, […]

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