Missiology as a means for saving the church: An enquiry into church decline and the rise of missional theology through the eyes of modern sociology, Jungian psychology and Benedictine monasticism

Author: Mandy Harvey

Harvey, Mandy, 2021 Missiology as a means for saving the church: An enquiry into church decline and the rise of missional theology through the eyes of modern sociology, Jungian psychology and Benedictine monasticism, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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Using the South Australian Synod of the Uniting Church in Australia as its primary reference, this study explores and critiques three implicit philosophies of life and mission within the institutional Protestant church. The first philosophy is that Christian faith requires and is best expressed through regular attendance at services of worship and other activities of a denominationally recognised congregation. The second is that part of God’s mission is to grow congregations numerically. The third is that God’s primary vehicle for mission is the institutional church; thus, all must be done to ensure the church’s long-term survival.

Using Constructive Engagement methodology, this study examines these normative philosophies from a broader perspective. This includes a sociological exploration of the institutional church’s expectations concerning church attendance, church growth and survival. It further exposes these philosophies to psychology and particularly that of Carl Jung, highlighting psychological phenomena that potentially influence the church’s beliefs and actions. Thirdly, it offers the perspective of Benedictine monasticism and its alternative understanding of Christian life and mission.

The study gives a brief overview of church decline, offers some reasons for it and explains how the church has responded to it in recent years. It examines the benefits and drawbacks of institutional church attendance and asks whether, in a church culture that is so communally focused, there may be a role for and call towards solitude.

The study provides a brief history and critique of the theology of the missio Dei and the Great Commission, two primary missional theologies within the church today. It seeks a deeper understanding of how and why they have become so popular as church attendance continues to decline and particularly examines the church’s expectation of their effect in terms of church attendance, church growth and survival.

Finally, this study asks whether the church’s concern for its survival through advocating church attendance and numerical church growth may be having a counterproductive effect on the church’s life. It determines that vital areas of Christian life are potentially being neglected, detrimentally affecting the personal spiritual lives of church members and, consequently, diminishing the church’s mission of love. It explores what the life, death and resurrection of Jesus have to say to the church regarding its desire to survive and invites the church to consider refocussing its attention away from church attendance, church growth and survival and placing it on God. This change in focus may result in a smaller church, yet one with a bigger heart; more loving, more selfless, more missional.

Keywords: missiology, Carl Jung, Jungian, Benedict of Nursia, Benedictine, monasticism, monastic, monos, sociology, church growth, saving the church, missio Dei, Great Commission

Subject: Theology thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2021
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Rev Prof Andrew Dutney