A number of missional thinkers have noted that the church globally is living in a time of liminality. Liminality may be defined simply as a time of transition from one state to another. While we, in South Africa, may not have seen the almost wholesale collapse of Christendom witnessed in Europe and parts of North America, we cannot, however, afford to be naïve about the fact that the place of the church in society is changing.
The church can no longer be said to occupy the central place, or even a significant place, in our communities. Increasingly we are a church on the margins, our opinions tolerated or ignored but rarely sought after or embraced.
In South Africa we still have a strong support for and recognition of traditional church structures but we also have an increasingly strong disconnect with traditional church structures or methodology. This is far deeper than simply dissatisfaction with the music or style of the service, although these could be symptoms of a deeper-seated dissatisfaction or apathy. Increasingly people are not simply looking for a “better kind of church.” they simply have no desire for church. This may manifest itself in hostility, around certain issues, but increasingly they feel only apathy as to what organised religion says or does. This trend in our experience is increasingly cutting across racial and socio-economic categories. We are increasingly reaching a transitional stage between what was and what is to come.
What is required in this time of liminality is not an either-or when it comes to church but a “mixed economy” church culture. There is still a value and a role for traditional church structures but there must be an increasing realisation of the need for new ways of doing church. These new ways must not be led by personal preference or clever innovation but by mission. Mission is the catalytic mark of the church.
This is what Four31 is all about, re-envisioning church for a new reality in order to reach those who are no longer being reached by traditional church structures. Liminality is a threshold experience that requires risk and danger as we seek to create a missional urgency for the journey between what is and what will be.
Many of those who share a similar vision to us will struggle to find a home within the current church structures. Four31 is about creating a home for missional pioneers, so that they may be commissioned and set free to litter the forgotten and neglected places of our cities and country with scattered communities of light.
Also: Four31: The Back-Story