Knowledge And Power: The Changing Face Of Church
Ryan Bolger has made two great comments (here and here) on the way access to knowledge and opinion through the web may challenge the role of leadership within the church. I think Ryan is onto a very fruitful and necessary line of thought. The whole question and “culture” of leadership needs to be rethought in […]
Ryan Bolger has made two great comments (here and here) on the way access to knowledge and opinion through the web may challenge the role of leadership within the church. I think Ryan is onto a very fruitful and necessary line of thought. The whole question and “culture” of leadership needs to be rethought in the light of changes in access to information, knowledge and opinion about matters of faith.
This is not just about the web, as revolutionary as that is, but also about the democratisation of education. If we look at trends in adult and continuing education, especially via web-delivery, then it is not hard to imagine a situation, say 10-15 years down the road when a significant proportion of many congregations will have a least a partial equivalent to a seminary education.
I have long felt that more attention should be paid in academic circles to researching the ways the explosion of Christian publishing through the 60s and 70s fed into the growth of the house church movement and also the explosion of para-church ministries. A great deal of what we now see in the emerging church movement has origins in the expansion of theological knowledge and reflection brought about by this boom in publishing.
Within some circles of evangelicalism and the church growth movement the power (and power politics) of pastors is freightening. This is built on many pillars, but the supposed “higher learning” of pastors is one of them. The democratisation of learning and greater access to practical stories of new approaches to ministy (perhaps the greatest gift of blogging) should lead many parishoners and congregants to rethink the centrality and power of the pastor.
This rethink should be a positive one. Churches still at times need and at other times can benefit from someone devoting themselves fulltime (or most-time) to ministry of some form. It is also not to dismiss the potential of the minister as a “theologian-in-residence,” a model that still has much potential in certain contexts.
My hope is that this current revolution in the theological discourse through the web will create lots of new opportunities to access theological education for laity. Moreover, I hope it will shake up theological colleges and denominations to reconsider the ministry of theological education from a “whole-church” perspective and not just a “training for full-time ministry” perspective. But, in the end, I hope it will change the discourse within churches themselves; away from theology as a specialised ideas-only game, into a universal, enagagement oriented game. After all, the best theology is always also, missiology.