Where is the best place to look for the church in a Post Christendom context?
In the context of persecution, to find the church you must look in the concealed and secret places. Indeed the survival of the church relies on being unseen and hidden. Not that the church is inactive, but rather the location of gathering is undisclosed.
In the context of Christendom, the church is much easier to find. When it is an institution of respect and favour, the church is located in obvious places. It meets in the open and makes its presence known. It looks for the best exposure so that location is easy to determine.
Mennonite Church Canada and its Area Churches have begun to explore what it means to be a family of faith across the country in a Post Christendom context. From its congregations to its Area Churches and National Church, our Canadian context has necessitated that your family of faith discover a new way of expressing itself. A newly formed Future Directions Task Force is seeking to better understand and respond to this significantly changed context.
The first teleconference of the Future Directions Task Force was planned for a mid-week afternoon. This created a conflict for me. I had promised transportation for my family during that same afternoon. We determined to leave a little early and that I would connect for the teleconference from my vehicle.
That afternoon I transported my family to the event and parked myself at the edge of a nearby parking lot. As I discussed the need to discover how to be a national family of faith in our changing Canadian context I watched the world of commerce stream by. I watched school children walk by. I watched people return from work. Ordinary life bustled in front of me.
In the context of persecution the church is removed from view. In the context of Christendom, the church seeks key locations of exposure. But where is the church to be found in a Post Christendom context? In such a context the church is not persecuted, but neither does it enjoy the place of honour and respect. It can remain in obvious places of exposure, but it is disregarded. It can advertise its location but the welcome is ignored.
As I reflected later on that teleconference experience, I couldn’t help but smile at the irony of it. Family schedules needed to be accommodated. And the work of the church was taking place in the parking lot of ordinary bustle of life. Maybe there is a message in that experience. Perhaps this is best place to find the church in a Post Christendom context.