Wednesday, November 24, 2010

White, Middle Aged, Eurocentric, Well Educated, Suburban Immigrant Churches?

In Robert Putnam's newest book, American Grace, he quotes the work by Oscar Handlin on the religious effects of the great migration of immigrants to America around the turn of the 20th century, namely "Struggling against heavy odds to save something of the old ways, the immigrants directed into their faith the whole weight of their longing to be connected with the past."...

If, as Leonard Sweet uses the terms native and immigrants in his book Postmodern Pilgrims, to mean immigrants are those of older generations who do not feel this is their home culturally anymore and natives are those younger generations whom are right at home in the "cloud culture" of social media and experientialism, participation and interactivity, image-driven, and communal....

Then, putting the two together, it might explain the deep-seated resistance in established churches where the majority age are those born before 1963, hence the new cultural immigrants, to missional transformations in the church--which are even more revolutionary than "mere" worship wars in the church, or its corrolary in some liberal churches over conflicts on what language is used, what is taught, etc.

Immigrant churches served, and serve, a purpose. Putnam cites how one German Lutheran church in Houston still fosters a lot of German language in its hallways even four generations after its founding, to prove the continuing attachment of them.

Perhaps we should consider the established churches today as immigrant churches and seek not to change them missionally. If anything, this might free them up, from anxiety or other emotional reactiveness, to support to the best of their abilities the manifestations of missional church beyond themselves, as community ministries, the same way the old established churches supported missionaries abroad; now they could support missionaries in neighborhoods and hear reports from those missionaries, but maintain the ways of the "old country."

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