"You know, we spend 40 days of Lent 'giving up' in preparation for Easter, but what about after? What does it mean to not just practice abstaining or fasting or waiting--what does it mean to 'practice resurrection,' to celebrate what comes after the preparation?"
They were questions brought to me by a friend. She had been practicing a weekly fast during lent as a way of 'giving up' and creating space for God.
"We spend so much time and energy talking about the seasons of waiting or giving up (with Advent leading up to Christmas and Lent leading up to Easter) but how much time do we spend learning how to 'practice resurrection?' What might that look like?" she continued.
It got me to wondering. Do we spend enough time focusing on how to live? To live abundantly on the other side of Easter?
If words associated with Lent are waiting, abstaining, fasting, contemplating...what words are associated with the time that is liturgically referred to as 'Eastertide?' Could they possibly be feasting, acting, enjoying, playing? What might it look like to 'celebrate' these, to set aside a time, perhaps the 50 days between Easter and Pentecost, for practicing not abstaining, but embracing, not fasting but feasting?
Is there room for this in our churches, in our communities, in our lives? Does it make us uncomfortable? Is it easier to play the role of fasting than feasting, because it somehow seems more holy?
Or is it possible that we could invite others to join with us in celebrating the resurrection by embracing life and following the one who turns water into wine, provides living water, and who is the bread of life?
"One of the things that excites me about what God is doing is in the interface between missional models for church and multi-site strategies," says Leadership Network's Greg Ligon in his recent post, "Missional Meets Multi-site" on the Leadership Network's Learnings Blog.
According to Ligon, "Multi-site churches are reaching out to their community by using campuses to establish missional presence in neighborhoods."
In the words of Alan Roxburgh, at a recent PGF Consultation, “The real spiritual shift is not about ‘making church work’ but about discovering what God is already up to, out there ahead of us, in the neighborhoods and communities where we live."
This sense of 'shift' is not located in one denomination, one geographical area, or one style of church--it is being discerned across what might be thought of as typical lines of division. It is a sense that the future might hold new ways of 'being church'--ways that might look very different from our past models which have tended to be more program driven or building centric.
“People might not know how to put language around it, but their hunger is there. Our calling is to ask, ‘How do we attend to and listen to the hungers that are out there?’” suggests Roxburgh.
Around the country and throughout the PCUSA these 'experiments in being church' are beginning to take shape. They are happening in big churches and small, urban and suburban, across worship styles and even across the evangelical and mainline continuums.
Of course there will be challenges--any shift requires some leaving behind of the old in order to embrace the new. That can be uncomfortable and even difficult. Which is why we are better together in this than alone. Together we can encourage one another, share our stories of both success and failure, and experiment together as we discern what God calls us toward as we listen and are sent out into the world.
Have you begun this shift? Have you already been experimenting? Are you just beginning to sense that God might be calling you to something new? We would love to hear your story, and to help you share it with others who are looking for ideas and encouragement.
Though my official title is “Associate Pastor of Christian Education and Youth,” (I’m almost positive that’s right…), I think that my day-to-day schedule would surprise many -at least those not in ministry, and especially those who work with youth. I still get the familiar question “What do you do Monday – Friday?” from time to time, and it still cracks me up as the I watch the person struggle with imagining what my ministry entails during the week when I ask, “What do you think I do Monday – Friday?”
The point of all this is really to say that “missional” from my viewpoint is just the day-to-day ministry of presence. It means getting out of the office and working on youth discussions or emails at the local coffee shop. It means showing up at the high school gym for a girls’ middle school basketball game. It means intentionally seeking out church members for coffee, lunch, or a walk in the community center park. It means going to the neighborhood association meeting to hear about hopes for a dog park. It means visiting someone who has reluctantly transitioned into a full-time assisted residence.
It is going out.
But, I think that it also means going out in another way. I think that the extension can happen in many ways – mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. For me, though incredibly challenging, I find that the going out requires opening up, and honestly sharing who I am, too…my struggles, my issues, and my dreams. Sometimes it looks like breaking bread with someone over a meal that is specifically Korean, maybe risky and unfamiliar to the other person, but for me, home-y and comforting. Sometimes it looks like sharing honestly about issues of racism and marginalization I continue to see even in the church. Sometimes it looks like challenging our youth to think about the people we work with in the Dominican Republic when they are interacting with those that are different from them at their school.
Ultimately, to me “missional,” is activity…that is rooted in God’s triune presence and experienced in community. Going out and opening up looks like:
• Presence – Being aware,
sensitive, and receptive to the Holy Spirit.
• Contextuality – Being authentic and honest, and encouraging others to be the same.
• Intentionality – Being thoughtful and deliberate in my words and actions.
…and hopefully all this characterizes how I do…and am in ministry.
Guest blog post by Mihee Kim-Kort
I could not stop staring at the group of women huddled over a book in the corner. I took my 5 year old daughter to Panera for a treat in the middle of the morning. A group of 8-10 women were in active discussion, leaning in over the table and over their books. What were they reading?
Trying not to appear nosy, I would look over to see what they were studying. Of course I assumed it was a Bible Study. Maybe a small group meeting of Bible Study Fellowship because these women were serious. Their large books were worn with lots of creases. The covers were soft and the ink was wearing thin along the spine. The women had notebooks, flashcards, and those little post-it flags stuck out from the book. This was not casual discussion; these women were truly studying this book.
I quickly realized the books were not Bibles. That just ratcheted up my curiosity all the more. Whatever these women were reading, it was truly important to them. They were studying this book. The story was so influential to them they meet to discuss its impact on their lives.
The women packed up their books and began to leave. I was prepared to run one of them down to find out what they were reading. I REALLY wanted to know what was so important to them that they met to discuss, took notes, read and re-read until the spine was creased. Finally, as the last woman passed my table I caught the title, Infinite Jest.
I am not proud to admit that I had never heard of it. I immediately went home and googled it. When I found out that it was published during my graduate school days, I felt better. Who has time to read anything except what is on the syllabus when in graduate school? But my own pride is not the point.
The point for me was I really wanted to know what was so meaningful to these women. What narrative was so important to their lives that it received so much time, attention, and care?
And then I realized that I do not treat my Bible that way. I claim that its narrative is the defining narrative of my life, but my Bible is not nearly as worn with care. In fact, I read the Bible on my Kindle most often.
I am not proposing that we all start holding our small group meetings in public places to show off our commitment to learning the Word. But it did make me wonder how people who are not Christians view my relationship with the Bible? How do we hold, read, care, and study this narrative that defines our lives?
For the past few weeks I have carried my Bible in my person. The good, old-fashioned bound paper version. I bring it to church and small group, but also to the Ice Palace where my kids take ice skating lessons (yes, the Olympics were an influence). I am beginning to live with it, embarrassed that I have cared more about my iphone at my side than my Bible. Because if this book truly contains the defining narrative of my life, then I should give it much more time, attention and care than I do. At least as much attention as the women studying Infinite Jest.
For the last 35-40 years the mission world has wrestled with phrases like “frontier mission” and “unreached peoples.” Today those phrases sound familiar to some people and strange to others, while still others dislike them and try to find other words to use! What are we talking about when we use those kinds of phrases, and why does it even matter in today’s flattened, globalized world?
Those phrases and others like them refer to the fact that some 2.5 billion people in the world today live in ethnic groups where there is no body of followers of Jesus within that group that is large enough to effectively live out and proclaim the good news to their own people. The gospel has spread far and wide in our world, with two thirds of Jesus’ disciples now living in the Southern hemisphere. Yet there are still many who haven’t heard the good news and can’t hear. One way to think about this is to realize that, if every Jesus follower today told everyone they know about Jesus, 2.5 billion people wouldn’t hear, because there is no one in their language and cultural group to tell them.
Furthermore, estimates are that up to 90% of these people are among the poorest of the poor and living in situations of oppression, both physically and spiritually. They tend to be in bondage to beliefs and forces that keep them in their situations. From their perspective, there is generally no hope of anything better.
At the same time, at most 1% of the resources of believers around the world are going toward efforts to see God’s kingdom come among these people. Our focus tends to be on those whom we see around us in our communities who have various needs. Or on fellow believers in other countries, especially when we have met someone from there who has moved to the US or has come here to study. They have compelling stories to tell us about the needs in their home communities, and we respond.
But who will speak for the people who live outside the realm of our everyday experience? Perhaps we know of people from a Muslim context who are here, but we often respond with fear or indifference to the thought of reaching out to them. Again, who will be the voice for people far removed from our context? That is the role that Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship (PFF) has taken up, to lift up the cause of people groups who cannot ask us to come to them with good news.
As disciples of Jesus we have the opportunity today to be God’s instruments in seeing the good news of Jesus Christ go to people who truly need to hear good news. And we have the opportunity to do it in ways the reflect the wholeness of that good news of the kingdom, that deal with needs of spiritual bondage and poverty and oppression. For the sake of those who can’t otherwise hear good news, we need to keep this opportunity before us, alongside the other opportunities we have.
As we do that, we’ll see changes in people as they are set free. For example, many Presbyterians have supported and visited work among Dalits (Untouchables) in India. In all my travels I have not seen people whose lives have been so totally transformed in every way. From seeing themselves as being little more than animals, they now see themselves as people in the image of God, the God who became one of them and died for them. They have established schools and training programs for various job skills. They work to live at peace with people who formerly treated them as animals. God is moving among them in wonderful ways. And there is a growing movement of people who follow Jesus and worship him in ways that look very Indian, not Western. The last figures I saw were growth from 10,000 in 1984 to over 2 million today, growing at over 10,000 per month!So why does it matter if we are concerned to see the good news of Jesus go to those who haven’t heard? I would say ask the Dalits whose lives have been transformed, or people in Central Asia or the Middle East who could say the same. Or ask believers here in the US whose lives have been changed through contact with some of those other members of the body of Christ! And follow them in seeking to see the realization of the picture in Rev. 5:9-12 and 7:9-12, of multitudes having been redeemed by the lamb, from every tongue and tribe and people and nation, and of their joining together around the throne of God in worship.
We are always loooking for stories of missional transformation to encourage, inspire and challenge each other along this journey. Recently we heard about this one, which seemed to do all three:
The thing is, Jeanine Clough didn’t necessarily set out to become ‘missional.’ A widow, living in a 300 person retirement complex, and wheelchair-bound, Clough just started praying. “When I had to use [the wheelchair] I knew the Lord would send me directions of how to witness given that I am basically homebound,” says Clough.
“When my husband died, I moved here--started praying with individuals with problems, new widows and widowers. One day a lady knocked at my door and said:"Ms.Jones told me to tell 'that lady in the wheelchair' to pray for her.” So began Clough’s ministry to her neighborhood.
“People come up to me in the lobby with requests for prayer. We go off to a quiet nook and pray. A lady brought a scout troop for me to show how elderly and handicapped live, and I had the opportunity to tell them how God helps us deal with our health problems,” says Clough.
“My theme song is that if everyone that calls himself a Christian practiced Discipleship wherever he is, we wouldn't need giant sanctuaries,gyms,etc--we would just need a center for worship and feeding the souls of Disciples so they can go out to their community,” Clough shares.
“I am 79 years old--but my heart is young with the song of Praise for my Lord. Go and do likewise.”
guest blog post by David Henson (@unorthodoxology)
In the course of a given day, I probably spend more time tying my shoes than I do actually listening.
Sure, I hear a lot of things. I live in a noisy world, especially with two small children under foot and corporate advertising incessantly trying to get me to buy something that will complicate my life with unbelievable convenience.But I don’t listen.
It’s worth a listen, especially for those
of us who tend to focus more on theological debates than more scientific or
philosophical ones, if for no other reason than to give that part of your brain
a good workout.
But it’s also worth a listen for those who care deeply about the church and how it is that we can reach out to a flattening world that seems to be almost constantly in flux.
If it is true that the internet is tending
to disconnect us as much as it is connecting us, what might our role be? Of
course social media is valuable for sharing ideas, information, building
relationships, and allowing us to interact with those who are geographically
distant from us.
But Dr. Glenn McLaren also suggests that this over-focus on virtual reality is leaving us feeling cut off from that which is real, solid, and tangible. Community? Meaning? Purpose? Vision? Direction?
The further one travels from original
source data (actually having an in person conversation or interaction with
someone) the more disconnected one feels. Perhaps that is part of the
attraction for those who wish to actually visit the Holy Land, to walk where
Jesus walked…as if somehow touching the actual ground, walking in the same
places, will allow us to cross the divide of 2000 years of separation.
As a church, or as followers of Jesus, or communities of faith, are we not perfectly situated to help alleviate this sense of disconnection? We practice a sacred meal that is tactile, tangible, and that we can ‘see with our eyes and taste with our mouths.’ We have a faith that has been practiced by the body of believers in community.
Perhaps even more than ever we are called to be present, offering the world around us a way to connect with God and with one another?
Eddie Gibbs, professor at Fuller Seminary, has recently published a book called Church Morph: How Megatrends are Reshaping Christian Communities. In it, he states that the range of issues that churches are addressing today cannot be adequately addressed by simply tweaking here and there, adding programs, reworking organizational structures, or improving internal communications. Our structures were designed for a different cultural context, in which change was more predictable and occurred at a slower pace. Today, we live in a culture of discontinuous and often unpredictable change. Our hierarchies paralyze initiative and are ponderous in responding to unanticipated challenges.
Gibbs suggests that the morphing of the church relates to its transitions to a new identity as a missional presence in the West. There is a growing realization that our challenges will not be adequately met by adding new programs to ensure our institutional survival. It is time to cultivate a new missional imagination of what God is calling the church to be and to do. Our changing cultural contexts now present unfamiliar challenges to most Western churches. Part of our changing context is that most younger adults are abandoning program-driven churches in search of a more authentic spirituality. Since most of our churches are program-driven, we have to begin to quickly learn a whole new paradigm of doing ministry.
For the church to morph into a post-Christendom context, it will need to adopt a different approach to ministry - from attraction to incarnational presence in the community. The answers and solutions we seek will not be found by merely developing a new style of worship or programs to reach younger generations. Churches are increasingly out of touch because they have not realized the comprehensive nature of the transitions and megatrends that are impacting every area of our lives. An irreversible change is taking place under our noses, and many are missing it.
In the long term, churches will either morph or become moribund. The process will be gradual and the picture will be confusing. But, those who get a sense of where the winds of the Holy Spirit are blowing, will follow Christ down some exciting new avenues of ministry.
What do you think?
Tara Owens, in her editorial letter in the most recent issue of Conversations Journal, laments the corruption of the verb "to follow." She writes, "More and more, following is an action that no longer requires any, well, action. Instead, it has come to mean something passive and impersonal, requiring little of us in terms of sacrifice or change."
As Christians, we commit to follow Jesus. It means to accept his authority in our lives and strive to live like him. When Jesus invites someone to follow him, it is a life-changing event.
When I decide to follow someone on Twitter, nothing in my life truly changes. Really.
The mission statement of PGF is to transform mainline congregations into missional communities following Jesus Christ. When we sat around a table and talked about the hope of PGF, we wanted to be really careful not to be a distraction to the gospel. The heart of PGF is to discern how God is working in his people and join his work of salvation and deliverance. Jesus did not spend time, money, or energy seeking to renew or reform the existing religious structures of the day. He did seek to build relationships with people, deepen their personal relationship with God, and unleash mercy and compassion on people the religious institutions of the day ignored.
It is hard to follow Jesus Christ in our postmodern world. That's why there is the G in PGF. The western church, including American Christians, are not effective witnesses for the gospel. There are lots of scholars and articles that address the death of the mainline church, so I won't here. But what we do know is the church in the rest of the world is growing - not in buildings or in cash - but in followers. We need to listen to our brothers and sisters across the globe, submit, and learn from their powerful example.
What we have learned so far is that to follow Jesus in the world is to engage in a way of life that requires sacrifice and change. To follow Jesus is nothing like following someone on Twitter.
PGF is a collection of individuals, churches, scholars, students, and friends who seek to follow Jesus. We seek to share how God is revealing his mission in our midst. We share ideas and best practices gleaned from one another, including our brothers and sisters across the globe. We commit to being a missional community following Jesus Christ.
I hope you will follow us on Twitter because we share some good ideas and resources. But it won't change your life.
I hope you will follow Jesus. To follow Jesus, however, is not passive. As Tara says at the end of her article, "Resist the temptation to accept the kind of passivity that the world is seeking to bring into what it means to follow.Engage. Reach out. Pass along. Making following the Jesus way something that you do, rather than something you simply read."
NBC's fiasco shows how the media are stuck between a dying old model and a yet-to-be-invented new one
Many in the denomination are stuck between a dying old model and a yet-to-be-invented new one as well.
Mr. Poniewozik observes that The Jay Leno Show in prime-time was exactly the wrong solution for NBC's problems. Just like tinkering with a bureaucracy that is expensive and fails to equip its congregations for a postmodern church is the wrong solution for the future Presbyterian church.
He points out that NBC still has to operate in the old system - one that depends on affiliates and big advertising money. He says, "it depends on pleasing an audience used to ER and Law & Order."
The PC(USA) currently operates in an old system - one that depends on presbyteries (and synods) that require big money. The church depends on pleasing an audience used to Robert's Rules of Order, overtures, motions, and committees to manage committees.
NBC is losing its audience to cable, DVRs, and watching for free online. And every adjustment it makes to serve this audience it risks losing people who like the old, expensive model. He writes, "Broadcast TV once thrived by pitching a big tent. But now the various poles of that tent --Jay fans, Conan fans, et cetera. - don't particularly want to share the same campsite, and they no longer have to."
Isn't that true of our church? The PC(USA) once thrived by pitching a big tent. But as people decide not so share the campsite they are leaving in ever increasing numbers. Most alarmingly, our young leaders are more frequently leaving Presbyterian colleges and seminaries choosing to NOT be in the PC(USA). One pastor under 40 told me, "My next call may not be Presbyterian. Doesn't really matter to me."
Mr. Poniewozik points out a dilemma shared by NBC, the New York Times, and the PC(USA). As the money for these organizations dries up, the quality goes down. Quality dramas are replaced by reality shows, the weekday paper is riddled with typos, and the most talented preachers and teachers are disengaged from the PC(USA) system (how many people under 40 do you see at Presbytery or General Assembly?). But why should people pay for a product that disappoints? They won't. People do not watch a lame show, read a typo riddle paper, or participate in a church determined to serve a culture and time that does not exist anymore just to help "the parent company save on payroll."
"..but the basics of TV aren't going to revert back to the flush 20th century days." And the world is not going to revert back to the 1950's when the mainline church knew how to do church.
If NBC needs to focus on inventing TV's next business plan so it can be one of the "networks left standing when the old plan craps out," says Mr. Poniewozik.
PGF is dedicating to inventing our church's next mission plan so it will be the fellowship left standing when the current system craps out.
PGF is a fellowship of churches and individuals committed to the misseo dei, the mission of God. We are excited to partner with him on his mission, even if that means leaving the old model behind.
TV isn't ending anymore than the Presbyterian church is ending. But both need to spend time on inventing the next business plan because it is simple tooth-and-claw survival until then.
Whenever I am speak to a church or group of lay leaders about the missional church movement, I inevitably spend the greatest amount of time trying to convince them that "Christendom" is over. From now on I am going to come with the new Gap Ad ready to play. If you haven't seen it, watch it :
For the record, I like the artistic composition of this ad. I think the costumes (Gap clothes) are fun and the dancers are talented and beautiful. The choreography is top-notch. High school dance teams the nation over will be mimicking this ad all year.
Let's take a look at the lyrics:
2, 4, 6, 8!
'Tis the time to liberate!
Go classic tree, go plastic tree, go plant a tree, go without a tree!
You 86 the rules!
You do what just feels right!
Happy do whatever you want-a-kah and to all a cheery night!
First notice that Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Solstice are all equated. But of course, they are very different holidays. Christmas and Hanukkah are celebrations of monotheistic religions that praise God for an act of deliverance. Kwanzaa is a weeklong celebration held in the United States honoring universal African heritage and culture. Solstice is, of course, an astronomical event that happens twice a year when the earth's axis is most inclined either to or away from the sun. Historically it marks the changing of seasons.
I am not claiming to be an expert in the histories or practices of these winter holidays. But it is worth pointing out that our American culture considers them all to be the same. The fact that a god is not even part of Kwanzaa or Solstice doesn't really matter.
The commercial focuses on being liberated from holiday traditions - get a tree or don't. You do what just feels right. Do whatever you want-a-kah. This commercial seems to be preaching a religion of self-absorption, selfishness, self-idolatry, I'm not sure. At least past secular commercials were focused on kindness, helping others, giving, and making the world a little better. Even if most commercials featured the secular humanist Christmas, as opposed to the Christian Christmas, it was still focused on other people.
This commercial highlights the "i" culture of America. Do whatever feels good and be independent at all costs. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, it doesn't matter. It is all the same. Do whatever as long as you have fun (and buy Gap clothes).
The missional church movement begins by acknowledging that proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is a radical, counter-cultural act that requires courage and conviction. If you don't believe that being a Christian is outside the norm of American culture, then just watch this ad again. And then imagine how your church needs to change inside and out to reach secular Americans with the Good News.
Ah, that old timeless debate. Is it appropriate to sing Christmas carols before Christmas or do we have to stick with the Advent hymns? Well consider this riddle solved. You can now purchase lyrics to four Advent carol texts that can be sung to familiar, beloved Christmas tunes everyone enjoys singing. These downloadable hymn-carols can be yours for the low price of $9.95 each, or for the discount price of $29.95 you can get all four. You can get yours by clicking on: Order Here
Now don’t get me wrong. I know God can and does work through all kinds of means. Chap Clark tells a story about a man he met who became a Christian because of that guy that holds up the John 3:16 sign in the stands behind the goalpost at football games. And how many of us have laughed at that guy and his sign? So I have no doubt that God can work in our hearts through these new lyrics to the old carols.
But lately, I’ve been wondering if we (God’s family) have simply forgotten how to ask the right questions. What good is a good answer if it answers the wrong question?
I don’t know about you, but for me, Advent is a very mixed bag. The incarnation represents one of the most staggering truths of our faith. In the midst of this messy, miraculous story of God becoming human, there is this prophetic mystery that just keeps drawing me in deeper and deeper.
But truth be told, at the end of the Advent, I almost always find myself feeling like I missed it. I feel like most of the time, this amazing moment in our story as the people of God, gets completely overlooked amidst the other story of stress, shopping, parties, gifts, decorating, Christmas cards, more shopping, bills, debt, did I mention stress? At the end of it all, I usually feel like I just missed it. As a pastor, I feel like it’s nearly impossible to get people (including myself) to slow down, step out of the story being told at the mall, and into the story being told in the manger. No question - I have a love / hate relationship with the whole Christmas season.
So here’s where I just have to be honest. I just don’t think that the missing piece is lyrics that allow me to sing carols before Christmas. From my perspective, what’s missing is the church finding her prophetic voice, going out and engaging our culture and telling a different kind of story. In fact, living a different kind of story. A better story. The real story. Not the story unfolding at the mall. I don’t care for one second if the greeter at Walmart says Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. The advent story isn’t Walmart’s story. It’s our story. And it’s our job to tell it. And to live it.
THAT is the question I want to ask: How can I tell the better story this Advent so that my neighbor catches a glimpse of the Kingdom (in all it’s upside down values) breaking into the world?
Seriously, I’m not knocking what I’m sure are very good, theologically rich re-written lyrics to some of my favorite old carols. I’m just imagining the look that would pop up on my neighbors face if I finally got him to come to church with me for the first time and he heard a tune that he swears is Away in a Manger, but the words make no sense to him at all.
I just have to ask, “Is that what will help us tell a better story?” If it helps you, then great. If this addresses questions that your congregation is asking, fine. Good luck with that.
But for me the last few years, my celebration of Advent has been shaped and energized by a different set of questions:
That is the kind of worship that is pleasing to God.
That is the kind of song worth singing.
That’s the kind of story worth telling.
And I have a growing suspicion, its the kind of story my neighbor might be interested in hearing.
Listen, I’d love to share more of the meaningful questions that are grabbing my heart, but I’ve got to go shopping for some large, pillar Advent candles. The worship committee nearly had a heart attack over the skinny ones I bought them last year.
PS. If you want a boatload of resources on how to re-think your Advent Celebration outside of your worship services, check out www.adventconspiracy.org . These ideas and themes have had an unbelievable impact on the Advent worship experience in our congregation.
Scott Keeble is a pastor of a multi-site church in Champaign, Illinois. He is also on the planning team for the Moving Back Into our Neighborhoods regional gathering for PGF and he double dog dares you to bring a team of leaders from your church to that event on March 5th and 6th.
An excerpt from a blog posting by a friend in the ELCA who is on the missional journey just like us...
Read the whole blog post, The End of the National Church Corporation: Post-Denominationalism, by clicking here.
"There are many reasons for the demise of national church corporations: 1) Many, if not most young adults, prefer being part of cool indie projects to being “tools” of large corporations.
2) The mergers have created coalitions with incompatible viewpoints (sexuality, etc.)
3) Lutheran versions (more so than other brand names) of these corporations tend to operate as closed systems (tightly controlled roster, Lutheran seminary requirements, etc.).
4) These corporations, in efforts to hold things together and make structure and function coherent, have discouraged innovation by entrepreneurial types.
5) For whatever reason, these corporations have very strained relationships with their best practitioners.
6) Generational and ethnic diversity issues have become too heavy for the corporations to carry."
"There are many reasons for the demise of national church corporations:
1) Many, if not most young adults, prefer being part of cool indie projects to being “tools” of large corporations.
PGF is a tribe within the PC(USA) family. Why do we need a tribe, or what some people inaccurately assume is another renewal organization? The fact is the denomination is shrinking at an alarming rate. Presbyterian Global Fellowship began to explore the core mission of our church, in other words what binds us together? Unfortunately, governing bodies seem to be the answer for most.
We boldly believe that we can be bound together by a clear vision for how God is calling us to further his kingdom in the world . Missional churches have a mission statement that puts being sent as its only reason for being. And everything a missional church does - worship, spiritual formation, fellowship - is for the purpose of training and equipping its people to go out. To serve the world. To focus on God's ongoing mission of relief and deliverance in the world.
But having a clear and compelling mission isn't enough to bind us together.
I recently taught on Esther and was struck by Mordecai's words to Esther when she is pondering whether or not to approach her. He says, Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish.
We have the same question before us. God's mission will prevail. Relief and deliverance will come for God's people. Just because we are in mainline churches does not mean we will escape the death of our church, anymore than Esther being queen guaranteed her escape from death. No, it is either join God's mission or perish. Period.
If we are going to get on with God's mission of relief and deliverance for his people, then we have to put it at the core of our being. And then we have to define the values that will shape us.And this is where I see the real crux of the matter. Because as Aubrey Malphus says, "You won't do ministry that really matters until you define what matters." (Church Unique by Will Mancini).
We are failing to thrive as a connected congregation because we have different values. PGF has articulated our missional motives, which are the shared convictions that guide where we put our effort and energy. They express our most deeply held ideals.
When people say that being Presbyterian binds us together because of history, doctrine, or polity, they are correct. But if we cannot agree on missional motives - our values - then there is not hope of moving forward together. I do not mean that as pessimistic, dark, or foreboding. It is just a fact of human organization.
Our fellowship shares the following values. We can share being Presbyterian with his history, doctrine, and polity by proclaiming and agreeing on these values. This is our tribe. These are the values that define what is most important to us as a fellowship. So if you want to know why PGF affiliates do what they do, it is because they are shaped by these values:
Demonstrated by a steadfast commitment to Jesus as the living and reigning Lord of all life and the only true hope for the world.
We confess that we have neglected the source of all life and have chased other gods. This idolatry is particularly apparent in our context with regard to issues of wealth, poverty and power.
Demonstrated by a conviction that Christ calls us not primarily for our own benefit but for the sake of others.
We confess that we have become distracted from our primary calling of discipleship and love of neighbor.
Demonstrated by a loyalty to Scripture as God’s unique and authoritative message of salvation and as our guide for daily living.
We confess that we have created standards of convenience instead of remaining true to God’s Word. This moral confusion is evident in our context with regard to the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman as God’s desire for human sexuality.
Demonstrated by our commitment to use relational networks and new technologies to build vital relationships with the global church.
We confess our tendency to trust in our own culture and to confuse it with the gospel. We acknowledge our need for global partners, for their support, admonition and example as we seek to be congregations that display the unity of the Church and “lead lives worthy of the calling with which we have been called.”
Demonstrated by the reality that the local movement of the church is still God’s primary means of justice, mercy and love in the world.
We confess that our churches have become less effective in our local communities and we pray that God will enable us to find strength and courage for Christ’s plan of redemption.
These are the shared values of our tribe. There are many other tribes of Presbyterians with very different values. And people with shared values should gather together. Not for the purpose of trying to convince people that one set of values is superior to another, but to get on with ministry. Shaping values cannot possible be done by vote, overture, bylaw, or policy. No one's deepest convictions come from mandate. Rather, our values come from relationships, both with Jesus and with others (both people who believe in Jesus and those who do not).
The PGF tribe shares these missional motives. And with these shared values, PGF people are laser focused on figuring out what it means for our mainline congregations to focus on God's mission of relief and deliverance for his people, or we will perish.
The Presbytery of San Diego, in conjunction with Presbyterian Global Fellowship, is looking forward with anticipation to our Moving Back into the Neighborhood consultation August 21-22 at the Solana Beach Presbyterian Church. This event seems to be ‘scratching where people are itching’ as registrations have been double what we thought they would be! The online registration system had to be shut down two weeks prior to the event because we had already reached the maximum number of participants that our facilities will allow us to have. While we are saddened not to be able to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend, Presbyterian Global Fellowship is considering offering more regional events for people to go to in place of this one, and the Presbytery of San Diego may also offer a second opportunity, if there remains enough interest in the southern California region.
With about 300 people registered for the August event, and about another 50 on the waiting list who did not sign up in time to come, we are sensing that God’s Holy Spirit is up to something here. There seems to be a growing interest among congregations to enter into conversations to learn together how to enter our neighborhoods again. Rather than another conference that trots out “experts” to tell us ordinary people what we should be doing, there is a growing excitement about being a part of a working learning community. In this environment, where we all gain insights from one another, we recognize that none of us are experts, and that God’s regular pattern is to work through ordinary people like us.
The response to this event seems to signal that people are tired of programs and “canned” answers that somebody else designed for some other church in some other context. There seems to be a growing interest in discovering again the importance of our own local community, discerning what God is doing on the actual streets where we live, and what God wants to do in our neighborhoods. Many of our congregations are caught in the struggle to cultivate a new missional imagination. Many of us seem stuck in the rut where we do what we’ve always done before because we can’t imagine God working in any other way. But, if we begin with the right questions and the right conversations, the possibilities for new, invigorated ministry in our own neighborhoods are endless. Where Jesus is present, the sky is the limit. We can learn to do this together. Moving Back into the Neighborhood is but one more step on this important journey together.
We would ask that you please pray for this event. Please pray for the relationships, the discussions, the imaginations, and the next steps that will emerge from this new style of consultation. Please pray for our presenters, Alan Roxburgh and Mark Lau Branson, as they set the stage for our learning environment together. Please pray for what God will do with this. If you wanted to attend but did not register in time, please let us know when and where you could participate in another amazing collection of Christ’s ordinary people, who gather to learn to do extraordinary things together. To God be the glory!
In reading about leadership, I stumbled upon research that studied people who led others out of danger. Specifically, the study focused on fires in underground mines. The leaders who successfully led others out of danger had 5 characteristics.
The European Church Planting Network (www.ecpn.org) is publishing white papers on their work. This one is about how churches are experimenting with missional transformation. Great case studies of churches throughout Europe. Share your reflections. Also good discussion fodder for your team or session.
Scot McKnight posts a blog with one idea. What are your thoughts? Let's share some thoughts with our seminary leaders and invite their reaction.
We, the mainline church, are the the watch dogs in this poignant blog by Erwin McManus. A must read. http://originsproject.org/?p=409
"What is happening across the world and here at home is that there is an army of cross cultural missionaries who have become the new leaders of the church. Their calling isn’t to pastor churches that focus on the happiness of its members, but to mobilize the church for the purpose of fulfilling God’s mission of reconciling the world to himself."
If you are a member of the PCUSA, then you are probably reading the most recent statistics regarding how many people have left the denomination.
Parsons insisted that “Presbyterians can be evangelists!”
“But we often stumble over the words. Can we not challenge one another to be able to answer these basic questions,” he said. “Why do I believe in God? Why do I go to church? Why do I go to that particular church?”
In reading about leadership, I stumbled upon research that studied people who led others out of danger. Specifically, the study focused on fires in underground mines. Stick with me, this really is interesting. The leaders who successfully led others out of danger had 5 characteristics.
Dallas Willard led the PGF sponsored workshop - Missional and Formational. During his presentation he addressed how churches define success. Too often it is the ABC's - attendance, buildings, and cash. We count how many people are coming in, how much money is coming in, and how much people enjoy the performance each Sunday. To that end, ministry is about getting people to do things.
Instead of reminding worshippers to silence their cell phones, a small but growing number of churches across the country are encouraging people to integrate text-messaging into their relationship with God
How does this affect how we understand the church, its mission, and how it communicates that mission? Would love to hear your thoughts.
On my recent mission trip, I read a wonderful book called The Age of the Unthinkable by Joshua Cooper Ramos. In it, he describes an experimental psychologist named Richard Nisbett, who studied how our cultural backgrounds condition the way we think. He discovered that there are fundamental differences in the way that Westerners and Chinese think. While the Chinese believe in constant change, Westerners believe that we go through periods of change and equilibrium. Westerners believe in a more deterministic world, thinking that we can control events because we know the rules that govern the behavior of objects.
This view contains the idea that constant change is a given. The environment contains clues about what is about to happen next. The more we pay attention to our communities and our neighborhoods, the more we will understand the changes that are coming our way. The more we follow the traditional Western thought patterns of ignoring our context, the more we will be surprised by the next wave of change that is coming.
In Numbers 13-14, we see Moses sending out 12 spies to scout out the Promised Land before they made their decisions about what to do. They understood the importance of the environment. As Oriental people, the Hebrews knew they needed an understanding of the land and the culture. They needed a sense of the context in which the people were living in, before they knew what their next steps would need to be.
The same is true for us today. In our church world, we often hear of good ideas that some church is doing, and if they are successful, we automatically want to copy them. This doesn’t work because context is everything. What works in one place does not work in another place. Sometimes we can pick up some good ideas that may stimulate our thinking, but we always have to change them some how to fit our specific community, our specific people, and our specific place. Otherwise, the idea will fail.
One of the most crucial tasks for us as a group of congregations is to understand our context. That may sound easy, but often it’s not. Unconsciously, over the years, many North American churches have become isolated from their own neighborhoods. The level of interaction between church and community is very minimal beyond letting some local group rent out the church facility. If we want to reverse the membership decline that most of our congregations are experiencing, then we have to discover once again how to move back into the neighborhood.
So, we are inviting every one of you to join us for a two day consultation in San Diego on August 21 and 22, that we are calling Moving Back into the Neighborhood. For only $75 (and every fifth person from the same congregation comes for free), we will give you some concrete steps that your church can begin to take to engage your local community in fresh ways. Alan Roxburgh and Mark Lau Branson will be our main presenters. They will give us a much food for thought. But rather than being passive spectators who listen to a series of lectures, we will be active participants who discuss and interact with ideas that will fit our specific congregations and our specific communities. Each church will walk away with some concrete next steps of missional experiments that you can begin to try, that will help you connect with your community. You can register now to attend at www.pgfconference.com or www.presbyterysd.org.
Once we have developed some awareness and understanding of our community, then we can take some worthwhile steps. Then, we can know what direction to take. Then, we can know how to follow the Lord. Because God is already at work in our world. Christ is already on the move. And context is everything.
Yesterday at Columbia Theological Seminary, we completed another round of what we call The Thompson Scholars. This is an annual, endowed and subsidized program in some facet of evangelism which we do for 15 pastors each year. It is a terrific and intensive time of community building, coaching and training. I am always pumped up (and exhausted) by the end. Every time as we do this I learn more about the “practical” issues and barriers in helping churches become more “missional”. This year (again) I was reminded that “being” missional is a whole lot different than doing missions—and that perhaps the greatest barrier for churches is in changing our view of “what is the church”. The default for virtually every church I know is that the church is an institution/club which is there to meet the needs of those who are members—and that the pastor is their chaplain. In this understanding, baptism is our initiation rite, budgets are our voluntary dues, committees are our key organizational structure (and the heart of “church work”), and our buildings are the clubhouse which we actually call “the church”. “Mission” is our social service (and sometimes recruiting) activity which we do much like the Rotarians or any other social service club. Evangelism is “membership management”—how we attract more people in the front door, and keep them from going out the back, so that we can collect their dues and keep the doors open. The “missional church” has a very different self-identity. Truly missional churches see their purpose as “joining Jesus in his work in the world”. It’s not really about us, though the great thing about the gospel is that as we give ourselves away we also discover ourselves and we experience healing and joy. Instead of mission being out of our “extra”, it is the center of what we are about, because mission is the center of what God has always been about as he reaches out to the world. Ultimately God even came into the world in human form to give himself to and for us. “Incarnation” becomes the ultimate model for what it is that we are called to do. “Baptism is our ordination” (quoting Luther) in which we identify with Christ, with Christ’s people and with Christ’s work of reconciliation, compassion and justice. The purpose of the church is not essentially “worship” or “fellowship” or “prayer” or “training” or anything else. These are all gifts to help us to follow Jesus more closely, to be transformed more fully into his likeness, and to be empowered to join him in mission. I’m commencin’ to preachin’ to the choir here—but it was underlined for me again this week just how hard this identity transformation actually is for churches (and for their pastors). Being “missional” almost always defaults to doing a few more programs, instead of seeing ourselves (both individually and corporately) as missionaries to our own culture and across cultural barriers. Pastors are “affirmed” if the club thrives (measured by the numbers in worship and education programs, the balance of the budget, and the upkeep of the buildings) rather than if the Kingdom is advanced. We “commission” people mainly to hold office in the club rather than to pursue Christ’s call to live out our faith in homes, neighborhoods, businesses, and “third spaces” (stores, recreation, etc.) in our communities. Bottom line: I am constantly looking for help in encouraging this identity shift. There are a growing number of books available, though like most great books on marriage, they are most useful for those who identify most with the experience of the authors. Transformation takes a more personalized path than the one-size fits all approach. And a whole lot of people don’t read books anymore anyway. Through PGF, we are doing all we can to help church communities and their pastors on this journey of transformation through conferences, seminars, webinars, coaching—and whatever else we can do to come alongside and encourage the church to BE the church. Joyfully, Steve Hayner
Yesterday at Columbia Theological Seminary, we completed another round of what we call The Thompson Scholars. This is an annual, endowed and subsidized program in some facet of evangelism which we do for 15 pastors each year. It is a terrific and intensive time of community building, coaching and training. I am always pumped up (and exhausted) by the end.
Every time as we do this I learn more about the “practical” issues and barriers in helping churches become more “missional”. This year (again) I was reminded that “being” missional is a whole lot different than doing missions—and that perhaps the greatest barrier for churches is in changing our view of “what is the church”. The default for virtually every church I know is that the church is an institution/club which is there to meet the needs of those who are members—and that the pastor is their chaplain. In this understanding, baptism is our initiation rite, budgets are our voluntary dues, committees are our key organizational structure (and the heart of “church work”), and our buildings are the clubhouse which we actually call “the church”. “Mission” is our social service (and sometimes recruiting) activity which we do much like the Rotarians or any other social service club. Evangelism is “membership management”—how we attract more people in the front door, and keep them from going out the back, so that we can collect their dues and keep the doors open.
The “missional church” has a very different self-identity. Truly missional churches see their purpose as “joining Jesus in his work in the world”. It’s not really about us, though the great thing about the gospel is that as we give ourselves away we also discover ourselves and we experience healing and joy. Instead of mission being out of our “extra”, it is the center of what we are about, because mission is the center of what God has always been about as he reaches out to the world. Ultimately God even came into the world in human form to give himself to and for us. “Incarnation” becomes the ultimate model for what it is that we are called to do. “Baptism is our ordination” (quoting Luther) in which we identify with Christ, with Christ’s people and with Christ’s work of reconciliation, compassion and justice. The purpose of the church is not essentially “worship” or “fellowship” or “prayer” or “training” or anything else. These are all gifts to help us to follow Jesus more closely, to be transformed more fully into his likeness, and to be empowered to join him in mission.
I’m commencin’ to preachin’ to the choir here—but it was underlined for me again this week just how hard this identity transformation actually is for churches (and for their pastors). Being “missional” almost always defaults to doing a few more programs, instead of seeing ourselves (both individually and corporately) as missionaries to our own culture and across cultural barriers. Pastors are “affirmed” if the club thrives (measured by the numbers in worship and education programs, the balance of the budget, and the upkeep of the buildings) rather than if the Kingdom is advanced. We “commission” people mainly to hold office in the club rather than to pursue Christ’s call to live out our faith in homes, neighborhoods, businesses, and “third spaces” (stores, recreation, etc.) in our communities.
Bottom line: I am constantly looking for help in encouraging this identity shift. There are a growing number of books available, though like most great books on marriage, they are most useful for those who identify most with the experience of the authors. Transformation takes a more personalized path than the one-size fits all approach. And a whole lot of people don’t read books anymore anyway. Through PGF, we are doing all we can to help church communities and their pastors on this journey of transformation through conferences, seminars, webinars, coaching—and whatever else we can do to come alongside and encourage the church to BE the church.
A well-written blog by Blake Huggins at Emergent Village. Check it out:
Last night my husband and I shared dinner with Michael Frost. It was a gorgeous evening on the San Antonio Riverwalk. We talked about our families, the fact that an American host took him to the Outback for dinner one night, and missional churches (of course).
Reggie McNeal has me thinking about what we measure. In an interview about his new book, Missional Renaissance, we states:
I wanted to help leaders develop a scorecard that rewarded their missional efforts. The church growth era certainly had a scorecard (one that we are still using) that declared winners and losers at that game. We
need a scorecard that gives expression to the multi-dimensional facets of the missional church.
My experience with the church growth era scorecard is the classic ABC's - Attendance, Buildings, Cash. This is what we as a body measure and publish. Each congregation's attendance (worship and Sunday School) and annual budget is recorded and shared at Presbytery, online, and in conversations everywhere. Certainly this is how the media talks about our church, in terms of declining members. But I don't blame the media, because they learned it from us.
What if we changed the scorecard? What would you measure? I belong to a downtown church. San Antonio has one of the highest rates of homeless children in the country. What if we measured how many children are in stable homes because we exist as a church? What if we focus on that number?
The scorecard would be hard to compare because what is measured would be unique to each congregation. Small, large, city, rural - each church is unique with a particular calling to serve its community. And maybe that is where it gets tricky. How would we assess per capita, determine delegates to governing bodies, and such?
Maybe we should try and find out. Maybe when we focus on being the church in our community the rest will follow. That may sound naive, but I would like to try. I would like to belong to a church that measures our impact for the Kingdom instead of our collective worth in property, cash, and membership.
What do you think? How can we change the scorecard?
Two opportunities to engage Michael Frost - brought to you by Presbyterian Global Fellowship. We are excited to have Michael back after his popular keynote presentation at the 2007 Inside Out Conference in Houston.
What does it mean to truly be Jesus in the communities
and cultures we live in?
What radical changes are required of congregations
who want to focus on the mission of the Church as
opposed to the traditions of the Church?
How do we challenge the vision of the domesticated
Jesus we learned about in Sunday School and truly
follow the Jesus portrayed in the Gospels?
Schedule, more information, and registration at www.frost.mdpc.org.
Darrell Guder, in the Rian lectures delivered at Princeton Theological Seminary, acknowledges the challenges confronting missional leadership. "Christendom gave us wealth, legal protection, political power, and cultural hegemony. It is unsettling that [these are] ending."
This is a question that PGF gets all the time. So, I want to take the time to address it and invite your input. I have asked this question myself as the Executive Director, because it is easier to to motivate people to join a movement that is doing something.
Southern Baptist Convention Today recently interviewed Dr. Bill Wagner. Dr. Wagner is a candidate to be President of the Southern Baptist Convention. The interview can be found on their website: http://sbctoday.com/2008/03/07/interview-with-dr-bill-wagner/
Now, I know of a lot of tremendous missionaries who are Calvinists. But I say, by and large, Calvinists have a tendency to be less missional in their approach."
What do you think? What do you think he means when he uses the word, "missional"? Look forward to a good discussion. The Article in Time Magazine that Sparked this discussion is titled: 10 Ideas That Are Changing the World Right Now - #3 The New Calvinism.
As you may or may not know, the mission of Presbyterian Global Fellowship is: To transform mainline congregations into missional communities following Jesus Christ.
When I became a solo pastor four years ago I knew that I was in for quite a learning experience. As a rookie I knew the learning curve was quite high and that I’d have to quickly discover how to moderate a session, do administrative work, interpret the scripture each week, care for the hurting, discern a vision as to where God was calling us and everything else that goes into being a solo pastor. To describe it would take pretty much every adjective Webster could come up with: exhilarating, exciting, discouraging, frustrating, fun, boring. You get the point. But amongst all these descriptors what is perhaps the most applicable of all is the word exhausting.
I didn’t realize just how tiring it would be to try and help a congregation become more missional. I still feel a bit like a wimp admitting to it. I mean, I’m not out pouring concrete or working on a roof or traveling from one city to the next. Heck, I don’t even stand very much. That said, I have frequently thought that it’s a good thing I’m still somewhat young because otherwise I’m not sure I’d have the energy to do this. (I keep waiting for the new Gatorade geared toward solo pastors. Any ideas for the name?)
As I’ve wrestled with this weariness, there have been a couple things that have really helped to restore my energy. One of these is the glimpses I receive from time to time of how the congregation is really beginning to see God at work in their lives, the community and in our church. To look into people’s eyes and see them light up as they describe how the Spirit surprised them at work or how God revealed himself while reaching out to our neighbors is enough to keep me going for weeks. Those moments are nothing less than miracles to me, fortifying my faith in God and my calling to this place.
The second thing that has rejuvenated me is the conversations that I have with other solo pastors. The truth, of course, is while there are many similarities between solos, associates, and seniors, there is something unique to being “the staff.” I am reminded of a conversation I had where, after telling an associate pastor that I worked in a small church he asked, “So if it’s small, how many pastors are on staff?” Not a bad question I suppose, it simply reveals just how different of questions we’re asking.
But perhaps equally as important as my conversations with solo pastors are my conversations with young solo pastors. While I knew that this particular calling would have lonely times, I didn’t fully appreciate how much I would miss conversing with colleagues my age. It isn’t that we don’t have much to learn from our seniors or that I don’t enjoy older colleagues it’s simply that, as all generations will attest, we simply see the world (and the church) differently. And when you’re tired and needing a pick-me-up it’s nice to not have to interpret what I’m saying to another generation.
As a fellow young solo pastor said to me the other day, it’s nice to be able to talk about being missional in a small church without having to convince the other person of the legitimacy of what we’re doing. These conversations I’ve had have encouraged me, restored my spirit, and helped me to see what a unique opportunity we young solo pastors have. I have become more and more convinced that rather than waiting for larger churches to come our way, or daydreaming about how much better things would be if we had an associate, that we as energetic small church pastors are actually standing (or sitting!) in the middle of where so much of the missional action is. But, this understanding has come mostly through those pivotal conversations I’ve had, allowing me to engage with colleagues coming from the same place and dealing with the same things.
It doesn’t mean, of course, that we don’t need to talk to all kinds of pastors of all ages. It does, however, mean that if we are to truly understand the unique opportunities we have that we must talk with and listen to other young solo pastors. In this way we will not be so tired or caught up in the busyness of our particular vocation that we miss out on this beautiful work of God to which we have been called.
First Church, Champaign is a multi-site church. In a nut shell that means we are one church made up of two campuses. I am an associate pastor at First Church and the lead pastor of our Southwest Campus, called "the Launch". If you are new to the whole concept of multi-site churches, you can explore it further here: http://multisitechurch.typepad.com/
So, why in the world did we do this? For me, the heart of this whole MISSIONAL movement is that the core of our identity (as individual followers of Christ and as the body of Christ) is our “sent-ness”. And a multi-site strategy became, for us, an opportunity to flesh that identity out. We are pursuing a multi-site strategy because we are realizing that our "sent-ness" is more important than being together.
In Life Together, Bonhoeffer quotes Luther: “we love to be among friends, and to sit among the roses and the lilies, but our calling is always to go and live among the thorns.” That's our tension!
Truth be told, we started down this road for sheerly practical reasons. We didn’t have enough parking. We were land locked. There was a wee bit of tension between the traditional worship service and the contemporary service. We were a very old downtown church, but all the growth in our city was out in the suburbs. We didn’t want to abandon the heart of the city. But we felt strongly compelled to more effectively love our neighbors out in the burbs who were not remotely likely to find their way into our downtown sanctuary.
So we did both. We stayed in the heart of the city and we expanded into the suburbs. We recruited 22 families (75 people) to be the heart of our new campus and we worked out an agreement with the new elementary school out on the edge of town. And we opened our second campus. A year and a half in and we’re averaging 250 attendance.
There are tons of challenges within this model.
But here’s a couple of benefits. (And a couple of reasons you might want to think about trying it)
1. It turned our eyes outward. It pushed us to think about ministry in terms of our neighbor and our coworker and our peers instead of just the person we sat beside in worship. It is pushing us into a Great Commission kind of mindset. Without a doubt, it would “feel” better and maybe even “look” better to all be together in one place, but instead of focusing on internal measures of success, we are focusing outwardly on our ability to love and serve our neighbors.
2. It gave us an "incarnational". We meet in a school cafeteria. Instead of stained glass windows, we have posters of pop stars drinking milk on the walls. Traditional models of church have (inadvertently) communicated to our members that you come to church to practice your faith. But this multi-site model has reinforced for us that we can “do church” anywhere and everywhere. We practice our faith in the places we go every day. My son goes to school at the school where our campus meets. He’s in that building 6 days a week. There will never be any question for him that God is with him when he’s going through his day at school. Not only is God present with us in those “secular” places, but we are present as the body of Christ in those places: in the schools, in the places we work, in our neighborhoods.
3. Mission vs Program. At our new campus, space and time limitations mean that we can only really do the programs that we have to do. We've been forced into a Simple Church model. We really only have a few committees. So instead of burning up our volunteer's time and energy with committee meetings, we are releasing them to pour their time and energy into chasing after the Mission of God. Instead of putting so much time and energy into maintaining a host of programs inside the church, we are freeing them to pour their time and energy into being the hands and feet of Jesus to their neighbor, their peers, their co-workers, the school where we meet, the poor in our city, etc.
4. Turning “sacred cows into hamburger”. One of the biggest challenges of shifting a church culture can be the steadfast hold that certain programs have. It’s the “we’ve always done it that way” syndrome. Going to a multi-site model has basically forced us to stretch beyond what we’ve always done and instead do what will be most effective. At our new campus, we don’t have a building that’s our own so we are forced to be innovative. Anything’s possible. It has to be.
In short, a multi-site strategy has given us a great framework for being a missional church. We’ve made a bunch of mistakes along the way. And we’ve got a long way to go. We have to be very intentional to not let ourselves slip back into our deeply engrained habits of the attractional, program driven church. But we’re making progress and learning as we go!
What do you think?
Teaching Pastor @ the Launch
Dear Mr. Editor, In response to your article, Educating the rest of us, I respectfully pose that you have missed the point entirely. You state that Eileen Linder shared statistics about the Presbyterian Church's loss of members to tell the truth, correct misunderstandings, and set the record straight. She gives four reasons that the church is losing members that are all about us: not being on the right block, not having young adults, not having enough parking, or bad sermons. These are not the reasons, they are simply the symptoms. We are losing members because we continue to do 1950's ministry in a culture that is 21st century. We are losing members because we continue to try and attract people into our buildings to experience our type of Christian community instead of going out to serve people where they are. The road to vitality is not by looking in, but by being sent into the world to partner with Jesus. We will continue to lose members if fail to transform into missional communities that can effectively share the gospel in a culture in which Christianity is not the norm. If we continue to focus on how to modify programs and classes to attract people, then we will continue to fail. We must transform the heart and soul of our congregations into being missionaries sent out to join Jesus in the world. In this adventure, there is not collective despondency over membership loss. There is only the excitement of finding out where God is leading. Kelly Kannwischer
Dear Mr. Editor,
In response to your article, Educating the rest of us, I respectfully pose that you have missed the point entirely. You state that Eileen Linder shared statistics about the Presbyterian Church's loss of members to tell the truth, correct misunderstandings, and set the record straight.
She gives four reasons that the church is losing members that are all about us: not being on the right block, not having young adults, not having enough parking, or bad sermons. These are not the reasons, they are simply the symptoms.
We are losing members because we continue to do 1950's ministry in a culture that is 21st century. We are losing members because we continue to try and attract people into our buildings to experience our type of Christian community instead of going out to serve people where they are. The road to vitality is not by looking in, but by being sent into the world to partner with Jesus. We will continue to lose members if fail to transform into missional communities that can effectively share the gospel in a culture in which Christianity is not the norm.
If we continue to focus on how to modify programs and classes to attract people, then we will continue to fail. We must transform the heart and soul of our congregations into being missionaries sent out to join Jesus in the world. In this adventure, there is not collective despondency over membership loss. There is only the excitement of finding out where God is leading.
The following is part of a workshop I taught at the Presbyterian Global Fellowship (PGF) “Gearing Up” conference in Atlanta. The content and illustrations are from life at Good Shepherd, but I was trying to identify key transferable concepts, particularly for life in smaller churches (though I hope they would transfer into any context).
I intentionally avoid using the word “missional.” It sounds like a buzzword and a fad. Plus, I was sold on being missional before I ever heard the word. (I am going to use it in this series for search purposes.)
Further, to really understand and BE missional, one has to understand the word, not just use it. It’s not enough to slap the label on a program: “we’ve renamed our men’s ministry M3: missional men’s ministry.” In order to live it, preach it, develop it, etc. you’ve got to “get it” (understand it).
At Good Shepherd, a two-fold master analogy and image emerged as I tried to internalize, embody, and communicate these themes.
LIGHTHOUSE is an image that describes God’s rescue, redemption, and calling of a people out of the dark world. The gathered community serves as a lighthouse to the surrounding community: housing the light, harboring those in need of refuge and sanctuary, and serving as a secure beacon in the midst of storm and darkness. (Clearly, if no one knows your church is on the corner, it’s hard to be a lighthouse!)
SEARCHLIGHT is an image that that describes participation in God’s mission to seek and save the lost. It is the gathered community getting up and getting out to bear the light into the dark world. I will further explore these two images in a subsequent post.
When I first encountered Presbyterian Global Fellowship (PGF) in 2006, they didn’t use the word missional either. They talked about being “inwardly strong and outwardly focused.” This is helpful: it describes to people what it means to be missional in a memorable way.Figure out how to talk about “being missional” in a way that people can understand… and then don’t stop talking about it and living it out!
Which is more important: money or trust? What do you put your ultimate trust in?
This past week was a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The group was presented with the new results of the Edelman Trust Barometer. The results showed that the trust level that people are placing in institutions is plummeting. For example:
1. 62% of people trust corporations less than they did a year ago.
2. Only 38% said they trust business to do what is right – a 20% plunge from last year, putting the level at a ten year low.
3. Only 17% said they trust information from a company’s CEO.
4. 77% said they refused to buy products or services from a company they did not trust.
5. 72% criticized a distrusted company to a friend or colleague.
6. Trust in business magazines is down from 57% to 44% and trust in market analysts is down from 56% to 47%
7. Trust in TV news is down from 49% to 36% and trust in newspaper coverage is down from 47% to 34%.
8. The least trusted industries are automotive and banking.
Mr. Edelman, the creator of this trust barometer said, “America is the new Europe.” The drop in the trust level in American business is now equal to the trust levels in France and Germany, and just under the UK. He said, “It’s going to be harder to rebuild our economies because no institution has captured the trust that business has lost.” In previous surveys, the church has not scored well on earning people’s trust either. We need to do everything possible in our congregations, in our presbyteries, and in our denomination to earn people’s trust.
A professor of political science at the University of Nebraska said, “In the past, when people said they didn’t like big government, the alternative was business, and that was a positive alternative. What we see now that is different in this climate is a lack of trust in government, but also a lack of trust in business. So where do we turn?”
That is part of the message we communicate to our world. When what you have put your trust in fails you, where do you turn? What is it that will not let you down? What will never let you down? People these days are cynical, suspicious, and feeling burned. Some are angry, depressed, and scared. Some don’t know where to turn. Some don’t know who to look to.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” We have been called to witness to the person of Jesus Christ. People always need Jesus, but particularly now, at this point in our world history, people really need Jesus. Part of our commission is to introduce people to Christ. We need to invest ourselves in people who are not yet in church. We need to invest ourselves in our communities, showing people that we care. We need to move back into our neighborhoods. We need to extend hospitality and open up our homes to people who live around us. If ever there was a time when people needed some good news, it is now.
As we our reminded in the words of one of our great hymns:
“My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
An article published in the October 18th, 2008 issue of the Economist titled, Mergers, acquisitions and spin-offs, examines what happens when Christian groups unite. The answer? They split. The reporter first examines the schism in the Russian orthodox church. On one side are "white" anticommunist exiles who are defiant not only of communism but any close relationship between Moscow and the church. The other side are the Patriarchate of Moscow who still uphold deals made under the Soviet regime. This intra-Russian dispute is dividing parishes, families, and churches.
Last month, I was re-reading a portion of The Missional Leader book by Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk with a group of pastors, and I came across a section that speaks to the situation we are going through in our world today, as we enter this new year. Listen to this:
“It is not only the church that has been experiencing discontinuous change; our whole society is in massive transition. Since the end of the Cold War, society has encountered a growing number of fracture lines. Our lived experience is that no one knows how to address these fractures, and our learned ways of working out our place in the world no longer seem adequate. The result is confusion and anxiety.
“German sociologist Ulrich Beck summarizes the reemergence of insecurity, even before a post-September 11 world, as people’s primary experience. He says, ‘Studies show that more and more people consider their life and well-being under threat. Unemployment no longer threatens only marginal groups, but also the middle sections of society, even groups (such as doctors and executives) which, until a few years ago, were considered the very quintessence of middle-class economic security. Moreover, this is happening on such a massive scale that the difference between unemployment and threatening unemployment is becoming insignificant to the affected parties.’
“People are losing their orientation. The political, social, and economic systems that brought prosperity over the past fifty years no longer function and people see no alternatives. They feel caught in a web of change they neither understand nor control. The result is a high level of anxiety, insecurity, and confusion. At the same time, most people have no words to explain these experiences, nor names for the forces shaping their lives and creating insecurity. This is because the stories that used to explain their experiences no longer seem relevant or applicable. People feel anxious and paralyzed.
“As Beck tells us, we live in a social context ‘in which everything that was conceived of as belonging together is being drawn apart’; the accepted, normal story of twentieth-century middle-class life has been shattered and nothing but uncertainty appears to be taking its place. We are in a global-risk society where traditional means of forming life (family, church, nation, business, law, and politics) have been drained away, leaving a world that appears without direction.
This is a description of what I see. We are going through a massive transition. While our economy is at all-time lows, the level of confusion and anxiety are at all-time highs. People are looking for answers, and many of the answers we are looking for are eluding us. The society we have been used to has broken down, and a new one has not yet emerged to take its place. The stories that gave our lives meaning now seem empty and we are in need of a new story to take its place. We live under this huge cloud of worry, fearful of what lies around the next corner.
As the level of anxiety rises in society, it rises in the church, as well. In the coming year, we can expect the level of conflict to increase in our congregations, because that’s what happens when people become anxious. We take out our fears on each other. Instead of ministering to each other, we attack each other, and it slows us down in our efforts to be sent into our communities. Our level of stress will grow this year, and at certain points along the way, it will not be pretty.
Jesus Christ does not remove us from difficult times. But, in the midst of life’s difficulties, we continue to be sent out by Christ’s Holy Spirit to people and communities that are in need, that don’t know what they need, and that don’t know Who they need. In 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, Paul says,
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. “
It is a time of confusion. It is a time of massive transition. It is a time of great need. The paradigms of what it means to be a congregation, a presbytery, and a denomination are changing in significant ways. New stories are emerging that will shape us as the people of God for the near future. We need insights from one another in order to see what Christ is up to in our world today, and how the Holy Spirit is wanting to re-shape us for this next generation. As we begin the 2009 year, I hope we can find new ways of becoming a learning community together, so that we can be sent into God’s world around us as Christ’s missional people. It’s a time of massive transition.