Church Planting and Missional Development

What if Ken Wilber is right

May 1, 2013

In his backbreaking effort at naming a “startling new role for religion in the Modern and Postmodern world,” Ken Wilber makes some audacious claims that I believe need to be at the heart of any discussion of new ministries in American Christianity. Ken is, by all accounts, a social scientist with a prophet’s sensibilities. In his book, Integral Spirituality, Ken claims that the church is best understood as being a kind of “conveyor belt” for “humanity and its stages of growth” (p. 192). He explains that religion alone can do this for the following reasons:

The world’s religions are the repositories of the great myths. Since the early stages of human development (according to Piaget, Kohlberg, etc) are archaic and magic and mythic in flavor and because these myths could never be recreated in 2009, “not because humanity has no imagination but because everybody has a video camera,” religion has the capacity to serve as a safe place for humanity to move through those early stages of emerging (magical and mythic) awarenesses. Precisely because the religions of the world control the legitimacy conferred on those beliefs, they are also the “only sources of authority that can sanction the (higher) stages of spiritual development in their own traditions.” These religions, then, are the only systems in the world today that can act as a “great conveyor belt”, helping members as they move from thinking about God as “Daddy on his best Christmas morning” to God as known in our respective mystical traditons and better.

IF (and I repeat “IF”) Ken is right, then there is a real need for denominational leaders and local leaders alike to create the safe space for individuals to explore what the next stage of faith development might ask of them. There is also the need for communities of faith that are practiced in their ability to companion the faithful through the requisite faith crises that come to all of us when the faith language that once worked no longer serves us.

Of course, the deep theological exploration on which Ken Wilber relies is really James Fowler’s stages of faith Development. If this is of interest to you, consider finding Weaving the New Creation: Stages of Faith and the Public Church by James W. Fowler. It is one of the most hopeful visions of the Gathered Community (and denominations, as well) that I’ve found recently.

Thanks for indulging my wonderings . . .