In a classical discussion the people arguing against a proposed classical staff position pointed out that churches already have lots of resources available to them. In addition churches tend to by-pass local resources and go straight to denominational and other sources. Churches will contact the denominational Pastor Church Relations office instead of the classical church visitor, for example, or will go to the Willow Creek Association instead of the Classical Home Missions Committee. Now, there is one less resource for congregations to access.
Last month the Alban Institute announced that it is closing its doors after 40 years of providing research and resources for congregations. Alban will no longer offer consulting or educational services after March 31. Any educational events plans after April 1st will either be canceled or transferred to another organization. Alban books will still be available, but through another publisher.
In an article responding to the news George Bullard writes that Alban’s demise is a challenge to all organizations seeking to help congregations (Alban: A death and a resurrection): “We must start with a clean sheet of paper and recreate the world of congregational champions.” Bullard also points out that this challenge must be addressed in the face of economic constraints, asking “What is the economic engine when the Internet is geometrically increasing the free exchange of information and knowledge?”
That squeeze between vision and economics was felt in the classical discussion I mentioned at the beginning of this post. This classis had been under pressure to limit any increase in classical ministry shares. At the same time, this classis was hearing calls to ‘do something’, about youth ministry, or to help churches in decline, among other things. In short, the classis was experiencing the pressures and anxiety identified in Discerning God’s Mission Together, (SCAN Summary, prepared by Strategic Planning and Adaptive Change Team, Canadian Powerpoint, slide 37).
The SPACT and the Classical Renewal process before it, remind us that these questions have been asked before. The ongoing nature of this discussion makes me wonder whether something more radical is needed. Bullard concludes, “A reality is that many congregational champion organizations, denominations and other similar organizations may need a death and resurrection to force them to transform.”