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The Great Unraveling

 
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Post The Great Unraveling Nick Park
This morning I received an email from the Secretary General of the European Evangelical Alliance with a link to an article by Alan Roxburgh.

http://themissionalnetwork.com/why/what-were-discovering/energiewende/?utm_source=The+Missional+Network&utm_campaign=955dc485ae-Newsletter_Aug_20&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_42a13c6df0-955dc485ae-16696813

Roxburgh argues that the very structures of organisations are changing worldwide, and that this has profound implications for denominational structures. If this is true, then the kind of tinkering with the edges of a system that lies within the power of a General Overseer and an Executive Committee is never going to be enough to cope with the changes that are coming.

Your thoughts?

Do you feel this is just another Chicken Little saying that the sky is falling?

Or are we facing an avalanche of change?
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1/12/15 8:30 am


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Post Very interesting read... Brandon Bohannon
Everything changes. The only constant aside from the change is Jesus Christ- the same yesterday, today and forever. But we all shall be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.

Change is inevitable. Even in the COG. I don't believe that this is just another Chicken Little.

One of the issues we face is that Like A Mighty Army became Like A Massive Cruise Ship. This isn't a speed boat trying to turn against the currents, it is a luxury cruise liner. It may or may not be the Titanic.

The COG continues to thrive and grow internationally on what we in the U.S. have always considered the mission field. Outside of a few southeastern pockets, we are not thriving in the U.S. Are we now becoming the "new" mission field?

A COG pastor in Honduras, now deceased, at a service I attended in 2008 or 2009 said during his message that Honduras was actively training up missionaries to send to the U.S. in order to share the Gospel in America. I had naively never considered that "we" were in need of missionaries. We have churches on every corner, especially in the southern states. Big churches too.

I have attended and/or worked on staff COGs in Georgia, New Jersey, Tennessee and Texas. I have evangelized in those states as well as Colorado, Oklahoma and the countries of Honduras and Jamaica. I love the COG! In my home state of Texas we have wonderful people, pastors and state leadership. Great people! We are not growing.

Like the rest of the U.S. COG we have navigated the cut of T.O.T. from 15% to 10%. We did away with the Evangelism and Home Missions Director position. Our State Overseer now chairs what was once the State Evangelism Board under the name Church Ministries Board. I served on this board from 2012-2014. In Texas, we shut down/closed/lost 31 churches in the last decade. We lost about that many the decade before. As a movement we have in many ways stopped or at the very least greatly diminished moving.

According to someone I spoke to at the recent COG Church Planters Conference in San Antonio, TX, the COG in Texas organized 2 churches last year. This person told me that this was more than some of the bigger COG states. If we organized 2 per year over the last decade, which we did not, we would still be shrinking. 2 organized for every 3 closed.

Denomination isn't the solution. Cleveland, TN can not fix this. At current rate, we will be absorbed into what is coming. I like having a covering so someone like me probably becomes AG. Others will become independent- many already operate this way. Many, many of our churches will just cease to be in the U.S. Many of our churches in Texas are one generation away from no longer being a church congregation. In West Texas, we have closed churches in Denver City, Post, Slaton, etc while other churches that were once bustling and thriving are now shadows of what they once were. We have gone from 200+ churches in Texas to 165-170 churches. We in Texas can not reasonably expect Cleveland, TN, who by the way currently has several men with vested interest and love for Texas residing there, to fix our issues. The COG is bigger than that. She is a luxury liner maneuvering in iceberg-infested waters.

No. If we are to make the journey and survive the change that is coming and even now here, we too must change. We must be connected at heart and mission. As we cut positions and programs in the U.S. there are fewer desireable places and positions to aspire to. We have for decades created these places to host our top leadership while they awaited their next position and turn to lead. I do not "hate" the players, nor can I claim to "hate" the game, I am not old enough to have been directly affected; I can say Game Over. We no longer have the capital or the luxury to operate this way. Some will continue to try but the pools are drying up.

We can not maintain or stay the course. Our course must be adjusted. The steps of the righteous are ordered by The Lord. Are we following where He is leading? If not, then yes Brother Park, the avalanche that is coming will alter our landscape beyond what we have always been able to recognize. Smile
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1/12/15 10:13 am


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Post Change Agent
I think this article states the situation like it is in the USA.

The recent COG's I have been in have approx. 70-80% of people that are over the age of 55. Kids leave the church after high school and most never come back. It is rare if an evangelist ever run a revival due to the cutback in funding. Building are running down. Parking lots are deteriorating. Sunday night services have been cut to reduce the light bill.
The gospel being preached could be preached (and probably is) with little help from God. Most sermons being preached these days I heard in the card class when I was 7 years of age.

People (myself included) are flocking to tv evangelists, web podcasts, and conferences to hear the gospel. Small groups are springing up to fill the voids in community for fellowship and bible study. People are considering these small groups as "church".

God hasn't changed but the common view of churches (church organizations) in the USA is changing rapidly.
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1/12/15 11:10 am


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Post AussieRain
Looking at the article, I'm not sure that this can accurately be applied to all denominations, and I'm especially not sure that this can be applied to the COG.

The author mentions "Protestant" denominations, of which the COG is certainly one. But when someone mentions Protestant denominations in decline, more times than not, that is a reference to the so-called Mainline denominations (UMC, Episcopal, etc.) which Ed Stetzer labelled in "free-for-all" of decline.

I've actually heard and seen reports that the COG and AG are two of the only few denominations that are actually growing. I don't have an account of where the growth is taking place, but growth is growth.
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1/12/15 11:56 am


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Post Attempting to answer Rev. Park's original question AussieRain
It could quite possibly be accurate, I'm just not convinced that it applies to us. On the other hand, denominations could respond to shifts in culture, survive and continue to thrive. Friendly Face
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1/12/15 12:04 pm


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Post Brandon Bohannon
AussieRain wrote:
I've actually heard and seen reports that the COG and AG are two of the only few denominations that are actually growing. I don't have an account of where the growth is taking place, but growth is growth.


That was recently reported that the AG and COG were the only 2 in the top25 denominations by size of membership that showed growth in that statistical cycle. It is true that growth is growth. It is also prudent to be concerned if your region is not one of the regions experiencing growth. It is especially prudent to be concerned if your region is experiencing decline. Much of the North American continent is experiencing decline in the COG.

We have great leadership that are leading with concern. I can assure anyone who wants to know that Bro. Higgins in TX, Bro. Powell in CO and Bro. Whitter in MN are all concerned about the growth of the COG in regions outside of our traditionally strong region of the SE U.S. I appreciate their concern.

If we are to return to our Like A Mighty Army roots, we must concern ourselves with what is affecting the so-called Mainline denominations before it trickles down to us. By the way, it is trickling down to us.
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1/12/15 12:13 pm


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Post Cojak
WE as a denomination are definitely losing 'connection' with a central government. The dues (tot) may still be going to support the HQ, but more churches than not are distancing themselves from their roots, and becoming more independent. At many churches we attend I must look hard for any sign or this being a COG.

Even many missions projects bypass our missions department. It is easy for the most casual observer to see name pride/recognition gone.

If not for my wife, I would probably be connected to my TV on Sunday morning rather than at church (My reason being different, but many reasons can and will be found)

On this board alone there is some distrust in leadership.

Those predictions in the article may be fact, but not in the immediate future, methinks. Idea

In reference to Uber, I am not in the taxi business, but it seems that too may be light years away. I could be mislead by the net, but I was under sth understanding that UBER was used mostly by the celebrities, hurting the LIMO business, not Yellow cab.. Shocked (but I amnot in the cab business)
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1/12/15 2:28 pm


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Post Could Be Bigger Issues Juris Doctor
If the article is accurate both in its observation of current trends outside the church and future changes coming “at” the church, I think it is bigger than denominational change and survival. The central question is: will there be a body of Christ that reflects anything like the New Testament church after this wave of change hits us?

What scares me is that the author may be nibbling at the edges of something far bigger and more significant that what is on the surface.

What is missing from the short article is a description of the specific potential changes that will impact work of the Church as the body of Christ (not just denominations or traditional churches). Also missing is evaluation of the deterioration of the church internally in its theological and doctrinal orthodoxy.

In previous decades, theologians wrote of orthopraxis with the assumption that orthodox theology was bedrock and would never erode. In this postmodern century, we see that is clearly not the case – everything is being re-thought and re-worked. In the transition (using McLuhan's terminology) doctrinal core is “destroyed” not edited, a new gospel takes its seat – intellectually appealing and placing humanity at the apex. We may well be in a current of “deconstruction” (as in the term of art is used in philosophical discussion) of any theological orthodoxy or acknowledgment of objective truth.

The “hollowing out” will not be about denominational structures – those are just the chairs being arranged on the Titanic. The hollowing out is the very core of Christianity itself. Scripture promises a remnant would always remain, but the article could be pointing to a quick and massive falling away of Christ followers altogether. These could be signals of an apocalyptic kind of thing.

A little paranoid and pessimistic,

joe byrd (not chicken little but sounding like it more every day)
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1/12/15 3:41 pm


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Post Old Time Country Preacher
Change Agent wrote:
People (myself included) are flocking to tv evangelists, web podcasts, and conferences to hear the gospel.


Are the venues cited above the only place the gospel is being preached?
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1/12/15 4:17 pm


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Post Re: Could Be Bigger Issues Nick Park
Juris Doctor wrote:
The central question is: will there be a body of Christ that reflects anything like the New Testament church after this wave of change hits us?


I'm tempted to ask whether the Body of Christ as we know it now reflects anything like the New Testament church. Smile
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1/12/15 6:14 pm


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Post Re: Could Be Bigger Issues Juris Doctor
I'm tempted to ask whether the Body of Christ as we know it now reflects anything like the New Testament church. Smile[/quote]

Don't ask, you can overcome this temptation. It will only lead to no good.

Laughing

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1/12/15 6:42 pm


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Post Nick Park Change Agent
Nick Park stated:

"I'm tempted to ask whether the Body of Christ as we know it now reflects anything like the New Testament church."

I was going to post the very same thing without the smile. If the Body of Christ now does not reflect the New Testament Church maybe we could get back to our roots of scripture. Things could get better.
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1/12/15 7:32 pm


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Post Re: Could Be Bigger Issues Brandon Bohannon
Nick Park wrote:
Juris Doctor wrote:
The central question is: will there be a body of Christ that reflects anything like the New Testament church after this wave of change hits us?


I'm tempted to ask whether the Body of Christ as we know it now reflects anything like the New Testament church. Smile


Great response JD.

2 Thessalonians 2:3
KJV and NKJV calls the rebellion a great falling away.
There will be a falling away... Again. There will also be a return and a remnant. I agree that this is bigger than our denomination. Selfishly I hope our denomination remains but His Will will be done and His Kingdom will come.
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1/12/15 9:04 pm


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Post Getting Back to Roots of Scripture Juris Doctor
Good point Change Agent. I like this kind of stuff, so I am not sure this is worth reading and I hope I am not hijacking your thread Nick.

IMHO, getting back to the roots Scripture is more than a path to “getting things better.” It may well be our only hope (that sounds a little over dramatic than I probably should be). The Church of God is part of the many movements that were primivitistic or restorationist groups looking to restore New Testament Christianity. I am not sure I can adequately describe New Testament Christianity for us today – in that century they contrasted what they were looking to restore within their eschatological framework with what they experienced in the traditional churches.

To define restored New Testament Christianity by way of contrasting it to our postmodern century we could describe the parts of postmodernism that are fatal to New Testament Christianity. Three come to mind (if anyone is still reading):

1) Certainly, relativism is part of the postmodern worldview – truth today must be contextualized, there are no absolutes and Scripture is viewed as mythical narrative (appreciated for its poetic beauty but not taken seriously as relevant today). NT Christianity has at its center an objective truth in the person of God revealed exclusively in the person of Jesus Christ to whom the written Word faithfully witnesses.

2) A corollary to relativism is antinomianism – life without restraint yet claiming a conversion where we are to become new creatures in Christ. In NT Christianity, the radicalness of salvation and its effect on the convert should be so marked that a clear distinction with non-believers is evident.

3) A worldview that mocks an eschatology that views the Kingdom of God in its conflict with the world in this present evil age and the hope of the return of Christ when the dysfunction of the world impacted from the fall will pass away and a new heaven and earth comes. Postmodernism mocks this eschatology by its exaltation of the scientific (without moral compass – e.g., Stephen Hawking says philosophy is dead, only science can lead us now). Human effort is the only hope for the postmodern, NT Christianity places its hope and governance exclusively in Jesus Christ.

The sky may be falling but a new heaven is on the other side.

joe byrd
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1/12/15 9:44 pm


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