Saturday, July 09, 2005

We know more than our Pastors – Tim Bednar

A blog I read regularly, Jollyblogger, posted a link to a report by Tim Bednar called, “We know more than our Pastors.” I haven’t yet had time to read the entire article, but you can here, if you have Adobe Acrobat.

But the list provided by Jollyblogger really touched me and set me to thinking. I want to quote Jollyblogger directly, which is what I’ll do for the rest of this entry:

When he says that "We Know More than Our Pastors," he doesn't mean that any single blogger knows more than any particular pastor. He means that bloggers networks extend beyond the reach of a single pastor. On page 39 he says:
In the process of blogging, we have discovered that our emerging network is smarter, more responsive and more creative that our churches, pastors and denominations. Michael Boyink interprets it this way rephrasing a point from Cluetrain Manifesto, “People in networked congregations have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another that from [their churches].”
Tim contends that bloggers have access to more information of all types than their pastors realize and that they are far more sophisticated than their pastors give them credit for. This knowledge goes beyond biblical and theological knowledge, although I think this would be included in the sense that bloggers can find out things they need to know online. On page 30 Tim mentions a lady who was able to bust her pastor for plagierism through the internet as an example of the expansive knowledge that bloggers have.

Bloggers are creating their own community and this means that they expect to participate in the creation of community in the church. Bloggers aren't looking to follow the pastor's vision, but are looking for the pastor to be a co-creator with them of life in the church.

Tim summarizes the partcipatory church in this way:
• The traditional church conceives of itself as an exclusive community and determines who is a “member” and who is not. It believes that it owns these definitions. This is no longer true. Christianity is an open conversation by those following Christ. Those involved in the conversation define the terms, not the church.

• Conversations are all around us. Christianity is one of many.

• Christians get information for their conversation from multiple sources that include, but are not limited to Christianity. We no longer pursue spiritual formation within the bounds of a single tradition, church, pastor or denomination. We are having hyperlinked conversations that subvert traditional hierarchies.

• Every Christian is a creator. We no longer have to wait for church authorization to think or act or speak in the name of Christ.

• Christians belong to multiple congregations.

• Participation in the conversation is spiritual formation.

• Congregations are conversations. They have a human voice. Congregations are getting smarter and more informed as they talk to each other. Participation in this new kind of networked congregation fundamentally changes people.

• Churches are not congregations. They do not participate in the conversation of their congregation. In fact, churches spent most of their time, energy and money creating parallel conversations and get frustrated when no one participates in them. In this new reality, churches sound hollow, flat and literally inhuman to their congregations. They do not speak the same language because they do not have a human voice.

• Churches that think they do are kidding themselves and missing an opportunity.

• Congregations are more important than churches.

• Most churches and pastors assume they build congregations. This is not true. Rather they belong to congregations. In this new era, congregations (like conversations) are all around us—we are in search of churches (and pastors).

• Congregations credential pastors they trust and invite into their conversation. Pastors emerge by building a reputation from within the congregation based on consistency and transparency. Pastors add value to congregations as they add connectedness.

• Successful pastors and churches of the future will enter into co-creative covenants that help congregations deal with complexity. They see themselves as benevolent keepers of Christian tradition who enable Christians, embrace emergence and foster learning. They do not see themselves as gatekeepers or arbiters of membership in the church.

• Pastors are not primarily preachers. Sermons are no longer teachings, but learning experiences. Goal of preaching is to learn not teach.

• Congregations are looking for pastors who serve them and offer the Sacraments. We are not looking for a vision.

• Church planters are people who are called to find and eventually pastor emerging congregations.

• The participatory church intimately connects with the real storytellers of Christianity, namely the congregation. Pastors and churches no longer tell the gospel story. All truth statements are co-created by congregations through the process of emergent conversations.

• These new participatory churches work on a gift economy. This means that Kingdom work is the reward not financial remuneration or power.

• Relational authenticity and longevity--not attendance--equals success in the participatory church. A church’s primary value to the congregation lies in its ability to connect Christians in conversation, service and sacrament. Connectedness equals healthy spiritual formation.

• Participatory churches provide more meaningful and memorable experiences because they participate with congregations. Even if Christians do not contribute to the conversation, they still expect a better experience because of the participation others.

• The participatory church is diverse in viewpoints and traditions. The new ministry of the pastor is to co-create systems that help congregations manage complexity.

• The greatest skill a participatory pastor will possess is the ability to listen.

• Congregations are their own watchdogs because they are the real stakeholders. Churches and pastors no longer need to screen their congregations for orthodoxy, arbitrate membership or filter their conversation. Orthodoxy will emerge. Call it emergent orthodoxy.

• Orthodoxy is not determined by a single source, but is distributed throughout the congregation. Neil Cole, a leader in the organic church movement observes, “The best solution to heresy in the church is not to have better-trained leaders in ‘the pulpits’, but better-trained people in ‘the pews’.”

• What I am trying to describe is a new kind of church created by believers

Wow. Whether you agree with Tim Bednar or not, this really should set your mind to thinking. Is your church really engaging the culture? Does the administration of your church understand how to minister to its people and its community in this post-modern blogging, cell phone, PDA, and I-pod era? Or is it fast becoming irrelevant?

Thanks for reading -- Tim
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