Monday, September 18, 2006

Burning Man and the Future of the Missional Church

Does the Burning Man festival tell us something about the future of the church? It’s an interesting question. But first if you don’t know what Burning Man is here’s a quick overview:

Burning Man is an eight-day-long festival held annually, beginning on the last Monday of August and ending on the United States Labor Day holiday in early September. The festival takes place on the playa of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, 90 miles (150 km) north-northeast of Reno, though the specific location on the playa changes from year to year. The temporary city is put forth as an experiment in community, radical self expression, and radical self reliance. The culmination of the event occurs on the sixth day of the event, Saturday, when a large wooden sculpture of a man is burned.

This year just last week 40,000+ people descended onto the dessert for Burning Man. Most Christians would look at the event and proclaim it to be devoid of anything of value to the church, but I beg to differ. I think there is a few things the church could learn from Burning Man.

1. Burning Man’s main attraction is the sense of community. Everyone belongs and for 8 days everyone is family.

2. People like a challenge! Burn Man is harsh conditions – but people will do what it takes to have their need for community filled.

3. There are endless forms of expression! I don’t agree with them all – but Burning Man shows how diverse expression can be. The church could learn to be more tolerant of expression.

4. There’s a spiritual hunger that people will go to extremes to satisfy. One goer said on his website “Burning Man is my church. Except, instead of going every Sunday, I go for one INTENSE week that gets me through the rest of the year.”

The missional church has a chance to meet all these felt needs. Community, challenge, expression and spiritual thirst. The question becomes will it?

P.S. It has come my attention that similar comments are made in "The Shaping of Things to Come" by Frost and Hirsch. The above comments were based upon my observations of this year and the comment about Burning Man being the one individuals church for the year.

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John Lynch said...
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John Lynch said...

This is a great post, Jerry! Could you copy it as an original post on Hungry & Thirsty so the other guys can dialogue on it?

Blessings, brother. - John

tony said...

I dont know if you have read _The Shaping of Things to Come_ [probably though...] but I love how they frame Burning Man within our Western postmodern culture.

IsaTengir said...

Tony, good job pointing out the reference in Frost and Hirsch's book. I don't want to cause a big scene, but be careful when blogging about something that has been published without giving the due credit. The original post "burning man and the future of the missional church" may be plagiarism. All you would have to do is say at the beginning of the post, I agree with Frost and Hirsch in what they say about burning man...then go on with your post. Don't take this comment as being confrontational, If I did the same thing, I would like someone to point it out to me so I could give credit where credit is due.

John W. Morehead said...

Thank you for your missional reflections on Burning Man. I have posted similar ones on my own blog, and just uploaded a seminary paper I wrote on this topic as well.