Bill Kinnon, at Achieveable Ends, wrote a post that captivated the blogosphere. In it, he plays off of Jay Rosen's The People Formerly Known as the Audience. Titled The People Formerly Known as the Congregation, Bill rants against leadership that leads by 3-point sermons, raises money for building programs, and solicits volunteers to run the various ministries. But more than that, Bill rants against what it means to be a member in a congregation today -- he feels 'used' and writes that he is no longer going to be a passive recipient of all things church. The tone is 'don't do it to me, but partner with me, treat me like an adult -- a co-producer of church.'
Bill sparked a number of follow up posts that piggy-backed on his idea, written from the perspective of pastors and others who agree that the system is not really working. Of course, a passive congregation is not particularly the pastor's fault, the congregants' fault, or even the seminaries' fault. Our entire church system is built around a Christendom model of church where we pay a special class of people to do ministry to and for everyone else.
Over the past ten years or so, the missional church conversation centered around the idea of equipping entire congregations to serve as missionaries to their surrounding cultures. They work with churches who embody this Christendom passivity. They look to help them re-imagine what it means to be the people of God.
I believe Bill taps into another dynamic not addressed by the missional church conversation. Bill speaks for those who already left. They couldn't tolerate being treated as children and opted out. Now located outside "church", these active (as opposed to passive) Christians create alternative ways to worship God, encourage one another, and witness to their faith.
Bill's inspired rant describes the depths to which we need to re-think congregational life in a post-Christendom, postmodern context.