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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

eBook Review: "The New Traditional Church"

TITLE: The New Traditional Church
AUTHOR: Tony Morgan
PUBLISHED: Ben Stroup, 2011.

This is a nice little book that summarizes 4 main aspects of Church that needs to be re-tweaked. Current modes are outmoded. It attempts to say that there is now a new normal. The modern culture has made it necessary for the Church to adapt. The four areas are:
  1. Discipleship
  2. Web Strategy
  3. Music
  4. Community.

On Discipleship, Morgan argues that the list of things that Church members are expected to do, are essentially things done to maintain and sustain a Church structure rather than focusing on God. He uses the pareto principle of only 20-30% of the people serving in the ministry.  Current church structures fail to empower more to do the same. His main gist is that people ought to spend more time 'being' the church rather than simply being present at the Church.

On Web strategy, Morgan says that most church websites are bulletin style, and fails to adequately engage an online generation of Facebook, Twitter, or social networking style. In the process, they are missing the wave that a whole new generation is riding on.

On music, Morgan brings in the popularity of hip-hop, equating it to the new kind of hymns for the new generation.

On community, Morgan feels that churches tend to try too hard in fixing up community for people. He observes that people naturally learn to create their unique communities.

My Comments

Tony Morgan cleverly writes a disclaimer at the beginning, saying he is not sure where he is heading toward.  That said, he is free to simply inject ideas, radical or not, to stir up the hornet's nest
 of tradition. At the same time, if strong objections arise out of his ideas, the author can retreat back into a position of non-commitment. Frankly, as I read the book, I think Morgan might have scratch some areas that some church leaders need to hear. At the same time, I tend to think that the issues Morgan has identified are not new. They have been around for a while.

Regarding discipleship and Morgan's use of the pareto principle, I will argue that it is not restricted only to traditional churches. All human institutions suffer from the 20-80 principle, (even 5-95), where 20% of the people does 80% of the job. Moreover, what makes us so sure that by changing the way Churches approach discipleship, that the pareto principle will not come back and haunt the 'new traditional church?'

Regarding web strategy, I believe Morgan hit the point really well. I think church websites need to be re-vitalized. There are too many stiff pages out there, and with an online generation becoming more web-savvy, this online strategy needs more serious look, and connecting with the online generation. Kudos to Morgan.

Regarding community building, I agree with Morgan. However, I still believe that Churches have a role to play to supply the resources, or to seed the birth of any new communities. They can actively start one, but the sustenance need to be handed by the community.

Regarding music, I think Morgan has gotten it all wrong. Worship is not about hymns, contemporary songs, or hip-hop. It is not even about music. Music is but an instrument in an orchestra of worship. At the same time, if we were to simply pander to the different music styles, I begin to wonder if we have substituted words for melody, rhythms of the music beat instead of the beat of the Holy Spirit.

I think while Morgan has bravely highlighted some possible ways to redo church, his thoughts need to be challenged. In true Christian fashion, let iron sharpen iron. If that is the intent to start a conversation, I think Morgan has done well.

This book is available as a free download here.


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