Tuesday, August 01, 2006

More Thoughts on the Scary New Future

Some more thoughts on what the future of the church is going to look like, based on my reading of Leadership Next, by Eddie Gibbs.

"A “missional church” is one that focuses on “going forth” into the world, rather than looking inward to its own programs and plans."

"The gospel embraces so much more than just the important truth of making a decision for Christ. It is as much concerned about how we live our lives before death as with after death. In its true New Testament meaning, external life embraces the here and now, as a prelude to eternity."

"For younger leaders, the greatest concern isn't how to get people to come to church but how best to take the church into the world. Their emphasis is not on extraction from the world, but on engagement with society. This emphasis on engagement needs to be reflected in the church’s criteria for selecting leaders and training them for ministry. For example, those who seek ministry in the church as an escape from the pressures of secular employment need to be weeded out. At the same time, those offering themselves for ministry without any significant life experience outside of the church need to immerse themselves in the secular world – just as a missionary candidate would be encouraged to have prefield, crosscultural experience."

It is all going to be different folks, lets open our hearts and minds, and get ready.

For a wonderful and hauntingly sad example of resistance to change, go read this short story.

File under: Church Thoughts

Tipping the Table Over, Starting New

Over the past year, as our church has slowly been gaining its collective bearings, as the fog of confusion, and disagreement, and fighting has cleared, strangely, I keep thinking of the same mental image. Maybe this image is from God, maybe not. I don’t pretend to really know those times when God gives me ideas, much less tell other people that God told me something. But, I keep thinking about this image.

The image is twofold. First, is that of a table, that has been tipped over, its contents scattered on the floor around it.

The objects that used to be on this table were once very important to many people, and perhaps, things on the table had even represented “the sacred” to some. Things that were once neatly arranged, now throw to the floor in haphazard fashion, some broken, as if those things never really mattered for much in the first place. Could this be the traditions of our church?

Sometimes we Christian folk make these neat little place settings for ourselves, with all the components arranged so neatly; Martha Stewart would certainly call it a “good thing”. We have our neat little fellowship groups, and our Bible studies, and our men’s and women’s groups. Ushers, and deacons, and elders, Sunday school flannel-graph characters, age appropriate playground equipment, single’s ministries, pot luck dinners, “special music”, correct theology, guest speakers, noted scholars, and church leadership structures. All so ordered, so neat. It looks so good, we think. We think of ourselves as rather intelligent, contemporary, and fashionable, and even sometimes even relevant to the culture.

There is a new paradigm for church leadership, and Professor Eddie Gibbs talks about just these things in Leadership Next. I have to quote one bit here, it is just too good to ignore:

"…so much ministerial training has focused on caring for the flock of God and on maintaining the “shop”. So much of our traditional theological agenda has been shaped by a Christendom-context mentality and has been largely confined to an internal debate between various theological factions. A missional theology, on the other hand, focuses on dialogue with unbelievers and those of other religions."
The second part of the image I get is of that same table, set upright, cleaned off, and ready to accept a new place setting, this time with things that really matter. Could this be the agenda for the future of our church? Maybe these table images are in my head semi-balding head for a reason. Maybe Jesus is trying to tell me something new. Maybe I need to read that story of the money changers again, with new eyes. Maybe I need to think of that clean table, and set it with Kingdom things that really matter, not idle traditions devoid of meaning in the current culture. I am still trying to figure it all out.

One thing I do know. For our church to be vital, alive, and filled with Christ’s presence, its not going to look like it used to.

File under: Church Thoughts
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