Many years ago a fellow pastor introduced me to a graphic that was helpful for a wider view of the Church.
He had adapted a construct from the late author Phyliss Tickle that described the landscape of modern Christianity and the Church (capital C) in quadrants. The quadrants were labeled as Liturgical, Social Justice, Renewalist, and Evangelical. The terms could be described thusly: Liturgical had to do with churches that lean on a liturgy with aspects of rituals and symbols. These churches often center on more contemplative practices. Think: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, etc. The Social Justice quadrant are churches that focused on rectifying social inequalities that are typically structural and systemic, such as poverty, racism, environmental, and gender injustices. Stewardship, reparative work, and reconciliation may be primary underpinnings. Renewalist represented a wide variety of churches that champion experiencing the Holy Spirit and sign gifts. It includes Pentecostals, charismatics, and neo-Pentecostals, and denominations like the Assemblies of God, Church of God (Cleveland), Church of God in Christ, and various churches within the renewal movement. The Evangelical block typified churches primarily identified by a focus on personal transformation as in a “born again” experience, with an emphasis on gospel proclamation. It can include fundamentalist leanings and often a literalist interpretation of the Bible. The danger inherent in this is when a church or group is so entrenched in their quadrant that they fail to see any value in the other blocks. Taking a myopic ministry approach, these “quadrant dwellers” are often suspicious or dismissive of any view other than their own. In considering the graphic, two philosophic views could be: 1. What if the global Church is already best represented by all of these aspects? In other words, it’s okay that certain segments focus on one (or two) of the four factors. Put them all together, and a holistic view comes into play. And at the very least, each of the quadrants would respect the emphasis of the others and even share in the total flourishing and appreciation of the “capital C” Church and its facets. Or… 2. What if each individual church (or movement/denomination) practically functioned with aspects of all four? If I remember correctly, I think Tickle suggested that a new movement might emerge that blended pieces of all of these. It’s interesting to think how that might look in praxis. My own leaning is the latter option. It seems to me that synthesizing core elements of each quadrant within a cultural context would be a pretty amazing church—incorporating elements of contemplative practices, infusing compassionate justice for marginalized people, welcoming the power of the Holy Spirit, and loving to see individual lives transformed and reconciled to the Father. The sweet spot would be in the center of the graphic, in the heart of the Jesus icon. It seems possible to me—and deeply fulfilling—to see a local church becoming more than an individual quadrant. Can't we walk and chew gum?
Where would you place your church in the graphic? And are there other quadrants that you’d want to pursue or at least understand and learn from?
Dave Workman | ELEMENTAL CHURCHES