Detail from “Being Church in a Liminal Time” cover
Detail from “Being Church in a Liminal Time” cover

If you’re looking for an accessible book to help your congregation think about what’s next, look no further than “Being Church in a Liminal Time: Remembering, Letting Go, Resurrecting,” a recent Alban title from Rowman & Littlefield. Jeffrey D. Jones and David Fredrickson invite readers to explore the challenges and opportunities facing contemporary Christian communities in a period of transition and uncertainty. Drawing on insights from theology, sociology and cultural studies, “Being Church in a Liminal Time” “examines how traditional models of church may no longer be adequate for engaging with the complexities of the modern world.”

The writers use the term “liminal time” to refer to a period of transition, where old structures are breaking down and new ones have yet to fully emerge. As congregations continue to wrestle with how to respond to changes in worship attendance, declining interest in institutional religion and what it means to do ministry in a post-Christendom culture, this is a timely message.

One of the book’s most striking aspects is its insistence on reimagining traditional models of church in response to the shifting dynamics of society. Rather than clinging to outdated structures or resorting to superficial methods of evangelism, Jones and Fredrickson advocate for a willingness to embrace change, experiment with new forms of worship and community engagement and cultivate an authentic witness that resonates with the deepest needs and aspirations of people today.

The authors offer three images to guide readers in discerning a way forward: the contrast between deep change and slow death; the parable of the sower; and 1 Corinthians 15:12-28. With a combination of theological depth, practical insight and prophetic challenge, the book is essential reading for anyone seeking to navigate the complexities of faith and ministry in an age of transition. Clearly, Jones and Fredrickson believe that although the challenges facing the church are daunting, we have an opportunity for renewal and rediscovery of what it truly means to be the body of Christ in the world today. Thank God.

Resources

''Being Church in a Liminal Time'' cover

‘Being Church in a Liminal Time: Remembering, Letting Go, Resurrecting’

Congregations today exist in an in-between, or liminal, time. The customary answers about what it means to be and do church and strategies for renewal based on those answers no longer work. But there is no certainty about the new answers. It is a time of searching — of letting go of the old and experimenting with the new.

Illustration of a skyline, with a crane picking up a cross

The church isn’t dying. It’s being remade

As the 1950s model declines, new ways of being the church are popping up all over, and gospel truths are now being found in new containers, writes a social entrepreneur.

By Shannon Hopkins

A basket of disposable face masks sits in front of church pews

Research-based guidelines for leading the church in a new era of ministry

How can Christian leaders adapt to the changes the pandemic has brought? A scholar who has studied pastors and volunteers during the past three years offers suggestions for adjusting to a new reality.

By Eileen R. Campbell-Reed

Dr. David Goatley being installed as president of Fuller Theological Seminary

Acknowledging the past to chart a course for the future

David Goatley’s installation as Fuller Theological Seminary’s new president was a master class in beginning a ministry assignment, writes the executive director of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity.

By David L. Odom

People sit and talk over coffee

Creating our future is a group effort

What will happen if we take the time to build what’s next together?

By Aleta Payne


Before you go…

As we enter Eastertide, we should continue to think about what death and resurrection mean for the church. Instead of joining the despairing cry that the church is in decline, perhaps we should look around and take notice of what is being born or reborn. Where is God at work? To paraphrase the prophet Jeremiah, how can we seek the welfare of the city?

Many people reading this issue were not trained for the church that is being born. And that’s OK. Take a deep breath. Reground yourself in the Spirit. Listen to diverse voices. And be open to seeing God do a new thing.

When the women arrived at the tomb on the first day of the week, an angel told them Jesus had already moved on (Mark 16:6). Like the first witnesses to the empty tomb, we don’t quite know what’s next. But we do know we had better keep moving. Jesus is waiting for us.

You can always reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

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