In it, Fitch attempts to map a path for the Church in an increasingly post-Christendom culture. Distinguishing himself from both the Neo-Reformed (Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, John Piper) and from the Emergent (Tony Jones, Brian McLaren) movements, Fitch calls his approach ‘Prodigal Christianity,’ so called after Karl Barth’s interpretation of the famous parable in which God the Father is the One continuously venturing forth in the Son into the Far Country to redeem us.
Prodigal Christianity is therefore risk-taking, boundary-smashing, convention-ignoring Christianity, stepping outside of itself to incarnate the Gospel for others.
I’d planned on summarizing the first section of Fitch’s book, but Scot McKnight does it much better than I could have:
They are not writing a how-to book nor is this a book about “do it our way” but instead they offer signposts in the missional frontier, and their big point is this: each location, each local church will have to find its way among these signposts. And each church will show striking differences but they will have to deal with these ten signposts.
Signpost #1: We live in Post-Christendom.
Increasingly, and perhaps more in the northern than southern States, the church is becoming increasingly de-centralized and marginalized. How to respond?
Fitch and Holsclaw suggest there are two major strategies at work today, and in this a major theme of this book is laid bare: they are seeking a third way between the NeoReformed (David knows I prefer “NeoPuritan” and he tips his hat in a footnote but prefers NeoReformed) and the Emergent movement. We are in a “sign-stripped, mapless, and road-blocked world” (4).
Retreat: some think we need to ramp up our efforts to reclaim what we’ve lost. That is, “engaging in mission requires showing that relativism is wrong, pluralism is mistaken, and objective truth is out there” (4). So, if it worked for Edwards it will work today.
Revise: since we are all postmoderns, we need to revise, and here they are looking at the strategy of the emergent crowd. “Christianity has believed in the wrong way ” (5). It lost its relational dynamic and became too propositional. “Instead of mounting arguments for absolute truth, caring for all is the absolute commandment” (5).
Fitch and Holsclaw propose that instead of these we need learn that we are in Post-Christendom. Christendom had church at the center of a community and our culture; those days are gone. What are the marks of post-Christendom?
1. Postattractional. The church is no longer attractive; using attractional strategies will not work well.
2. Postpositional. Churches and pastors have lost their position of influence in the community. They have to earn their position.
3. Postuniversal. “Language and worldview are not longer universal” (8). We are in a world of various cultures. What one person sees or hears is not what others are seeing or hearing.