The Once and the Future Church
“The Once and the Future Church” is a discussion of the paradigm shift occurring in the church today. The thesis deals with the lost paradigm of the apostolic church and the process of rediscovering the lost paradigm in the present/future church. The result is renovation of the church and its mission.
Mead presents the main problem of the present church with its leaders who have grown under a paradigm that has ceased to work. The continuous living in different paradigms have created in the church a painful polarization between the old and the new and this has been a conflict, which the majority has preferred to avoid.
The four groups, which are subject of the present challenge of dislocation, are the clergy, the laity, the bishop and the congregation. The clergy have created alternative for genuine ministry called clericalism. The laity has separated itself from the experience of church. The bishop is struggling with the battle between the above two. The congregation is left with the painful experience of continuous dislocation.
In his forecast for the future development of this process, Mead calls for steadiness and perseverance through uncertainty, and thus reinventing the church. This process will confront parish with congregation, servanthood versus conversion, exclusivity and inclusiveness. The new church demands a new theology localized away from the academy to the new missionary frontier. Building the future church requires a better sense of community. And finally, the renovation process within the community of believers is an intergenerational mission. In this sense, the rediscovery of the church continues from generation to generation thus transmitting those forms of community discovered by the present church to the future one.