Dave Olson on The Future of the American Church at Exponential

Dave Olson - the american church in crisisDave Olson

Are we willing to pay the price to change how change how we do church in America?

The church needs to discover which century it is living in. Our world is becoming:

  • post-Christian
  • post-modern
  • multi-ethnic

The transition from a Christian world to a post-Christian world

  • In the Christian world, Christians, Pastors and churches operate under the rules of Christendom.
  • In the post-Christian world, Christians, pastors, and churches need to operate under the rules of the New Testament church.


  • In the christian world, christendom defined how ministry was done. The needs of its members, the doctrines of the church and the structure of the institution defined the ministry model and practice. The pastoral role was to attend to the members and keep the ship sailing smoothly.

The healthy, missional church

  • In the post-Christian world, the mission field defines how ministry is done. The needs of the mission field, the message and mission of Jesus and the passions of missional Christians and churches define ministry models and practice. The pastoral role is engage members in the message and mission of Jesus and help the church live out that M & Min its world.

The transition from a modern world to the post-modern world

  • In the modern world, Christians, pastors and churches had to adapt to the rules of the enlightenment or be viewed as reactionary.
  • In the post-modern world, Christians, pastors and churches need to operate under the rules of the New Testament church.

When you live in a culture, you unconsciously adopt the values of the culture.

The Modern World

  • The modern world required rational, scientific proof of everything. Everything was discoverable; only the objective mattered. Everything was possible. The world was to be used. There was no need for God. Science was king.

The Post-Modern World

  • The post-modern world is characterized by uncertainty. Chaos theory and quarks are two scientific paradigms of postmodern uncertainty. There is skepticism and cynicism about over certainty. Communal life replaces individualism. History and tradition rise in value. The world is to be cared for. Story is king. There is spiritual curiosity, but not necessarily Christian in orientation. One of the best ways to understand post-modernism is through its architecture.

“The power of Christianity is that it is totally flexible to any culture in the world.”

The transition from a mono-ethnic world to the multi-ethnic world

  • In a mono-ethnic world, christians, pastors and churches only had to understand their own culture. Christianity often becomes very culture-bound.
  • In the multi-ethnic world, Christians, pastors and churches need to operate under the rules of the new testament church.

To understand this new world – we must soak in this world.

American History Lesson:

The Great Awakening (1801-1920)

  • Christendom in a Religious Culture

Modernism Stage 1 (1920 – 1965)

  • Christendom in a religious culture that was becoming increasingly secular

Modernism Stage 2 (1965 -2000)

  • Christendom in a secular culture that has some religious memory

Post-modernism (2000 – present)

  • Mission churches engaging a secular (yet spiritual curious) culture

A post-Christian, post-modern and multi-ethnic model

Luke 13:6-9. Our culture is like this fig tree. Fruit picking will no longer be the effective model. We need to follow the example of this passage and fertilize the tree.






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