Over two decades ago, in The Once and Future Church, Loren Mead declared that the era of “Christendom” was over for mainline Protestants. Mead launched a discussion—which has only expanded since—about an emerging new paradigm of church life defined by local context and intentional, grassroots mission.
It was perhaps a vestige of late-modern thinking to imagine that something as coherent as a single paradigm would emerge. What has appeared instead is a host of ecclesial experiments drawing on a variety of reform movements within the church. These efforts are responding to the new ways in which people gather in community and attach themselves to institutions, as well as to the distinctive concerns and styles of baby boomers, Gen Xers, and the millennial generation.