The Future Church

by Terri Main

Earlier this week I received a link to an article by an internet evangelist and philosopher of the "post-modern" church entitled ARE YOU READY FOR SCIENCE FICTION CLERGY? He talked about some of the characteristics of future spiritual leaders in his opinion. The article is interesting and provocative even if I didn't agree with some of the conclusions. However, this post is not about that article. Nevertheless, it got me thinking about the future of the church and the implications for writing spirituality-based science fiction.

I've been in church over 50 years. I was in high school before PA systems were standard in churches. A woman in our church was removed from the choir because she wore lipstick. The pastor was the only paid staff member for a church of 200 people and he lived in an apartment in the back of the church.

Today, we not only have PA systems, but we digitally record the services. Women not only wear makeup, but our ladies group has had Mary Kay parties, and even small churches have multiple staff members. My grandfather, who was an old country pastor, could never have imagined that his granddaughter would be able to minister to hundreds of thousands of people a year over the internet. In less than half a century, not only the technology of the church has changed, but also it's culture and social structure. I won't argue whether or not those changes are for the best. The future is always the best judge of the past.

But this does raise the question for science fiction writers of what a future church might look like. Here are a few places to start:

What constitutes a church? Already "churches" are meeting online using chat rooms and discussion boards for fellowship and listening to sermons as downloadable MP3's . Several churches have sprung up in virtual world's like Second Life. Maybe future churches will meet in real time using holographic projections. But how might a church experience change when you can delete an objectionable member or easily erase the pastor's sermon from your hard drive or when you can project any type of image you want of yourself?

What is the role of the pastor/priest? Back in the old days a parson might jump on his horse and ride from one church to another in remote regions. These "circuit riders" planted churches and provided supervision as local lay ministers held services between the parson's visits. Might not a similar arrangement exist in a future time when humanity colonizes other planets in remote regions? Perhaps the pastor will exist only as a holographic projection.

On a less technological note, how might the roles of parishioner and pastor change over time. In the past many roles now held by paid staff and licensed ministers were held by volunteers. Will that trend continue until the opportunities for for lay service become increasingly limited. Or will there be a backlash and paid staff slowly disappear.

Many churches 50 years ago did not allow women to be ordained, yet many which didn't then, do so now. Some churches have even ordained gays and lesbians. Meanwhile conservative backlashes are producing splits in some of these churches. Will celibacy in the priesthood survive into the next century? Will the growth of megachurches push the small local church "out of business" making pastors CEO's first and shepherds last? Will the church hierarchy become more egalitarian or more authoritarian over time?

The Mission of the Church. Arguments over the mission of the church have filled books and church leadership conferences for years. They tend to break down into two camps: in-reach and outreach. The inreach camp says that the point of the church is to nurture and disciple Christians and provide a place for fellowship and support. The outreach camp contends that churches exist to reach their communities with the "Good News" of salvation. I can't imagine this struggle over the mission of the church to diminish over time. If we move out to the stars and engage alien intelligences, the role of the human church in "evangelizing" alien cultures will further complicate t h is question.

There are, of course, many other potential issues that can be concerns for the science-fiction writers. Some of the most interesting science fiction doesn't involve beaming into the middle of hostile aliens with phasers blasting away. Extrapolating from current trends into the future can not only be thought-provoking fiction, but also frame the discussion about where we actually want to go as a people and as a community of faith.


Book Review: A Valley of Betrayal

A Valley of Betrayal
ISBN: 978-0-8024-6767-6
Moody Publishers, Chicago

Review by Lydia Daffenberg

Tricia Goyer's new novel, A Valley of Betrayal, is an historical love story set during the Spanish Civil War. Fascism spills over the French border into Spain, threatening the country's Socialist and Communist ideals. Sophie Grace, an artist from America, yearns for nothing more than to travel to be with her fiancé, Michael, an international correspondent, who is living and working in Madrid. When Sophie reaches the border, she is told she will not be allowed to cross into Spain because of the increased fighting. Desperate, she accepts help from Walt Block, a reporter from New York. She quickly realizes that she is helping him as well, as they illegally cross into Spain together.

Once in Madrid, Sophie finds Michael and meets other Spaniards who are doing their part to aid the people of their country; all attempting to survive the heightened Nazi attacks. She passes up the chance to escape back to France to safety, instead, deciding to follow her heart and join the fight for the people's cause. Sophie begins to use her art as therapy for the children of the city, teaching them to express their visions and fears of the war through painting. After several tragic events, Sophie finally finds herself traveling toward the French border to leave the war behind her. But much more is in store for Sophie and for the others she encounters on her path back to safety, and her art plays another important role in the freedom and healing of Spain.

Several others make their way into Spain as well, each on their own journey through the war-torn country. Ritter Agler, a Nazi pilot, shoots for glory and the favor of a woman in Berlin while shooting Russians out of the sky and bombing the cities and villages of Spain. Philip Stanford, a trainer, and Attis Brody start out in Barcelona where Attis is to compete as a runner in the Worker's Games, but end up in the trenches of the Spanish countryside fighting as members of the Internationals--volunteer soldiers from different countries. Deion Clay, a black man from Chicago, embarks on a long trek. He hops a train with hobos to New York where he joins the communist party, boats to Europe and hikes over the Pyrenees into Spain, entering the fight against the Fascist oppression which mirrors his own people's tribulations. Finally, Father Manuel Garcia who ministers a congregation in the Basque countryside is placed in a position of further leadership, exploring his life's purpose which is dedicated to the Lord.

Goyer weaves the characters' stories together as their lives entwine, tying them in meaningful ways. Each character explores their own personal and spiritual development through their journey and through one another's experiences as well, sharing a part of this dark era of Spanish history.

Although the dream-sequence foreshadowing technique is a bit cliché, Goyer's prose hops along from one storyline to another with vivid descriptions and active dialog. The reader can almost see, hear, touch, smell and taste the Spanish countryside that rises from the pages, inviting and enticing the reader to continue on and experience this little-known story of a haunting civil war.

Goyer's creative, literary use of art throughout the novel "paints" an accurate picture of the art-appreciating culture of Spain, adding a colorful flair to the story.

Tricia Goyer is the author of five novels, two nonfiction books and one children's book. Tricia was named Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference Wrtier of the year in 2003. In 2005, her novel Night Song won ACFW's Book of the Year for Long Historical Romance. In 2006, her novel Dawn of a Thousand Nights also won Book of the Year for Long Historical Romance. Tricia lives in Montana with her husband and three children where she homeschools, leads children's church and mentors teenage mothers.

Podcast Interview with Susan Kirkland

Tonight, we talk with Susan Kirkland, whose story "Fair Balance" appears in "Light at the Edge of Darkness" (which includes stories from yours truly and many other more talented writers). Andrea co-hosts and the three of us have a friendly conversation, but it all comes back to what the shows about: hope for our nation. Tonight's focus shifts from politics to the arts, but I think you'll like the results:

Click here to download.


The world's view - finding a purpose...

By Daniel I. Weaver

I subscribe to every good CSFF team blog I come across and participate in a dozen or so writer's groups. Across the board, one topic has been reappearing with tenacious redundancy, yet every time I see a new post, I read and end up considering the opinion and arguments. CBA, ABA...does it matter?

Ninety percent of said discussions revolve around Tolkien and Lewis as the archetypes for Christian SFF and the allegory their now-immortal tales contained. Perhaps Lewis was too obvious, Tolkien not enough, or neither blatant, etc. etc. etc. As the guild grows, we've become privy to a vast range of experience and opinion. We have many more published authors in our ranks, and a slew of unpubs thirsting to learn from them. Across that gamut, we have folks published in both the CBA and ABA, and plenty of defenses for doing so.

I would pose the question, more so for discussion than anything else, where do you stand and do you see any real relevance in who publishes your work? Here are a few points to consider:

--The potential for making money "seems" to be greater in the CBA (I offer this loosely because statistics are so hard to track down...)

--What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul? (Just ask Adam Graham what can happen, or read his tale in LIGHT AT THE EDGE OF DARKNESS). Sure, the ultimate ministry goal is to be blessed enough to do it full time and be in a position to dedicate 100% of your "work" time to writing. I mean, who says, boy I'd like to write on the side? But do you write solely to make money, or do you write for a higher purpose?

--Overtly Christian themes are viewed as "preachy." But who is more critical of the overt themes? The CBA or ABA?

-- How far do you go to avoid "Christian" themes? Sure, a great story is a great story. Theme's and "messages" shouldn't be an add-on. If they're integral to the story, they exist naturally. But does the pressure to avoid "preachiness" drive you to CUT Christian elements?

--If a CBA publisher publishes your work, would there be ANY indication that you're a Christian author? Would you care if the answer is no?

--If a CBA publisher publishes your work and no one "gains" anything from reading your story (as in, deepening a spiritual walk, learning a moral lesson, sharing some spiritual truth, etc), are you satisfied to simply tell a good tale? Is there anything truly "Christian" about doing this? Do you care?

We haven't had a good discussion going for a while, so I'm just curious to hear what you have to say. Please remember that everyone is entitled to an opinion regardless of whether or not you agree with it. Please, share yours.