Change is hard! I suspect that that is why coins are made of metal. But in this post-Christendom period if we do not like change we may like irrelevance even less. The need to change is in our faces but the type of change is less obvious. We don’t want to ‘throw out the baby with the bath water” but neither ought we to merely “rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic”.
Substantial change within the broad spectrum of biblical orthodoxy is necessary. The faith in the Gospel is the only certain hope we have for these uncertain and shifting times. For the Christian Church the Word which will not pass away is a non-negotiable. Much of what is called ‘Emerging Church’ stands ready to abandon this position but I want to make clear that in this I do not put myself in that camp. I do believe though that the church of Christendom must change or go the way of the dinosaur.
Fundamentally change does not come from doing things differently as much as it comes from thinking differently. I believe we need a renewal of our mind. We need to understand what the Church is and how it is to relate to God and to the world and only then act on our understanding. God’s chief desire as expressed in scripture is to be worshipped throughout His creation. Thus it seems that the Church has a twofold task; 1) to worship God and 2) to cause others to worship Him as well. John Piper writes “Mission exists because worship doesn’t.” By this he means that the end goal of scripture, and indeed history, is that God be worshipped and mission is the key method by which this will happen. It is because God wants and deserves our worship that we must be focussed on being a missional church. If we are solely a worshipping group we are (I express this oxymoronically) only half obedient. We gather as missional community to worship a missionary God and we go with Him into His world to point people to Him. The institutional Christendom model for Church does not adequately take this into account. The attitude became one of “Come and get it! We have God in our box if you want Him he is to be found here.” I am advocating for an incarnational rather than institutional Church. I believe we ought to be a community with a mission. I believe we can not truly be a community unless we have a shared mission!
This mission as I expressed last week is one of blessing the world around us. If we get a firm hold of this idea it can be transformative. We no longer ask how people may bless the Church but in harmony with the upside down nature of the Kingdom we ask how we can be a blessing. This then requires a dramatic shift in what we value as success. The usual measures for success are the two n’s nickels and noses. While I agree that both people and money are important I suggest that we count them backwards. Instead of counting how many people come in perhaps we ought to be counting and celebrating those who go out. When we identify people’s gifts we ought to think how they can be used to bless others rather than looking for the perfect committee for them to serve on.
Our local school is suspicious of Christians with agendas. The principal fields numerous requests from churches to put on or advertise events but she was shocked when one of our students asked simply “What do you need? How can I help?” He wound up serving a variety of felt needs and won a lot of favour in the process. One idea which came out of this conversation caught my attention. The local school would love to have what they call ‘a walking school bus’. Children within walking distance were experiencing bullying on the way home and the school thought a few adults could walk these children home in safety. Can you imagine the variety of conversations that could happen on a walking school bus? This strikes me as a real missionary endeavour. There are creative incarnational opportunities all around us. Perhaps we don’t seize them because we do not value them. You see it all starts with our thinking. You might say I cannot come up with creative ideas like that, but you see you don’t have to! All we really need to do is ask “What do you need?” and “How can I help?” If we can make a shift to this missional incarnational view of Church and value and celebrate success in this milieu and begin to put real resources into our mission we will begin to experience what it means to be a community on a mission.