Frustration & Lemonade

 At Taylor College a part of our new mandate is to form people who can help the attractional church move toward a missional/incarnational expression. As I advocate passionately for a ‘missional/incarnational/relational’ way of being the Church, I find that I bump into many pastors and church leaders who have invested their lives in a more ‘attractional/institutional’ model. Often these encounters have two common elements: 1) the person realises in their heart of hearts that things are not going as they should and thus feel frustrated, 2) there is also often a defensiveness which accompanies this intuition. It is very frustrating to have poured your life into a ‘grand cause’ and to begin to realise that those efforts no longer bear fruit (if they ever really did). The frustration that arises from this dawning of, perhaps unwelcome, truth can paralyse. I have come to believe that any missional movement which does not understand and account for this frustration can only leave behind all the wisdom and skills of those who have gone before.

I have real empathy with those pastors and leaders. I am of the same age as many of them and we have fought any number of battles together. But it is only as I have experienced the above frustrations first hand that I truly ‘get it’. For the past 11 years I have been a part of the team here at Taylor College. I came on staff to teach Evangelism Studies. In those 11 years we have had big dreams for the College. A building was built for us to grow into. We spent thousands of dollars on advertising and recruiting for the College yet we have not grown. Over the last few years, under my leadership, the numbers have shrunk to nothing. We do not have a residential program for the first time in 12 years!

Through a process of evaluation and discernment we feel that the idea of growing a college which would provide a pool from which Threshold Ministries might draw its missionaries is not what we are called to be and do. Instead we will focus almost solely on forming people for Threshold Ministries. It feels like I have been climbing a ladder only to find it is leaning against the wrong building!

Now, I am a firm believer in the concept “if life hands you lemons … make lemonade”. (I remember learning ventriloquism when my jaw was wired for 6 weeks.) I think my frustration parallels that of the pastors and leaders we are to work with if we are to see the Church on a new and hopeful trajectory. While I continue to mourn past dreams turned to ashes I am hopeful for a future.

At Taylor we will form people for Threshold Ministries. These folks will be equipped to: pioneer new Street Hope Ministries, plant new expressions of Church (like Up Town in Saint John or Cross Ways Cafe in Barrhead Alberta) and to help willing pastors and leaders to guide the Church into ever more missional/incarnational expressions. To all such leaders, last week I alluded to Hilary now let me refer to Bill, I feel your pain. Let’s not let pain or frustration hinder us from following after the missional incarnate Christ.


4 comments on “Frustration & Lemonade

  1. Having recently read all of Alan Hirsch’s books (ie Forgotten Ways etc) as part of my Doctoral courses at Carey College, I am struck, Reed, by this tension between the attractional and missional/incarnational models. Many are rejecting the attractional model as outdated, unbiblical, and even wrong. While I agree with the Hirsch & co emphasis on the missional/incarnational, I wonder if there is still a place for ‘come and see’ as well. Do we not still need Andrews who can be attractional and bring people to Jesus? Yes, the Word made flesh and the ‘Go and Tell, Go and show’ is absolutely essential. But is there not a danger that we are falling into a pendulum swing that may be out of balance.

    Just wondering, Ed Hird+

    p.s. I fondly remember the week we spent together in Elkhorn, Reed, focusing on evangelism and going out to every house in Elkhorn, inviting people to ‘come and see’ at your Prayer and Praise celebrations. Perhaps there is more than one way to skin a cat 😉

    • Hi Ed;
      I think Jesus is utterly attractive. Many scriptures speak of his beauty and ‘attractivess’. This has to do with His purity integrity and unconditional love. That is the most attractive package of attributes ever. The Church (His Body) ought to display this attractiveness! That does not mean that attraction should be our primary means of being the church. If we are not following Jesus as our incarnate missionary saviour then we are out of step.
      An invitation to come and meet Him (like Andrew) in His Body will still be appropriate for some but it is demonstably ineffective to the broader community.
      You might be right about the pendulum swinging too far if the missional incarnational church did not demonstrate Christ’s beauty (attractiveness) or help converts become missional/incarnational disciples.
      It is always good to hear from you, my friend.

      • Always great to chat with you, Reed. As I am working on my next book on Titus: Restoring Health in the 21st Century’, Titus 3:9 comes to me: “so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” Yes, we must major on being missional and incarnational. Yes, word and deed. Yes, walk the walk and talk the talk. Yes, our culture is quite deaf to the gospel these days. I like what Pascal says in his book Pensee: “Make religion attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is. Worthy of reverence because it really understands human nature. Attractive because it promises true good.” This was brought to my attention by HTB’s Nicky Gumbel and Dr. Graham Tomlin the Alpha theologian.

  2. Reed,
    I hear you, Brother. It is in the “doing” that “seeing” can become a drawing “attraction.” Furthermore, then when Christ is met and received regularly in the Eucharist the church’s focus remains on the Cross, where God Incarnate affords humanity new life, walking with Him into eternity. The incarnational/missional church becomes the “relational church of attractiveness,” the living Christ is met and embraced face to face, and His work is walked out to His honor & glory throughout the wider world.
    Blessings on the vision that Threshold Ministries is casting! Every church and pastor will be blessed as fresh mission ministers are raised up to work in their midst!
    “Lift High the Cross!”

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