Yesterday I heard someone say that era of deconstruction of the church is over. That is good to hear. I think.
Between five and ten years ago, a lot of us began to dissect the church and its place in history and culture. For most, this was spearheaded by the Emergent Church movement and by authors like Brian McLaren, Dan Kimball, Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, and even Rob Bell, Mark Driscoll, Donal Miller, and Shane Claiborne. Many people began to ask questions that needed asking and which no one had ever asked before. Has the church been too influenced by materialism and consumerism? Has the church been too influenced by modernism, rationalism, utilitarianism, foundationalism, and the enlightenment? How does the church adjust to postmodernism, relativism, and pluralism? What do we do when our tradition language and style of communicating the gospel is irrelevant and incomprehensible to the culture? Are our beliefs about politics, nationalism, economics, war, and crime really based on the heart of God? What is the purpose of the church? Why do we do church the way we do it? How much of our understanding of God and the Bible is based on our culture rather than revelation? Over the past ten years every element of Christianity has been examined: ecclesiology, soteriology, eschatology, sacraments, leadership structure, interpretation of scripture, missiology, tradition, and on and on.
We have also seen more examination of the culture than ever before. A new value has been placed on demographic research in the church giving us incredible amounts of data and understanding about what people believe, their attitudes toward Christianity, and the way they are changing. The shift from modernism to post-modernism has caused us to understand the failures of enlightenment and foundationalist thinking. We are beginning to see the profound effects of technology on people’s thinking. We are coming the understand that dramatic changes are taking place in the way people communicate and relate to each other and to the world around.
For many people in the church, this questioning and deconstruction was a disturbing trend, and it received a lot of condemnation. Some of the criticism of the church has been excessive, but all of this examination has produced some terrific forward movement.
Because of the deconstruction, we have come to understand how much foundationalism has shaped the thinking of the church. We have become more open to questioning and testing our faith to be sure that it is built on truth and revelation. From the middle of this examination of the church has emerged the missional movement, which has deep biblical foundations and is sure to shape the future of the church. We have learned that it is okay to adjust the way we communicate the gospel. We have seen the value of some tradition, but also learned not to hold too tightly to it.
Yes, it does look like the deconstruction is winding down. It looks like the height of the Emergent Church is over. It seems to me that God has done all this to help us make some important transitions , solidify some values, and now we are ready to boldly move forward.
Many Christians, though, never realized that this shake up was taking place. (Maybe you are one of them.) Many are still doing what they have done for years without any adjustment. I’m glad that the deconstruction is about over, but it seems to me that we still need some personal deconstruction. Some of us still need to do some questioning, searching, and adjusting.