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.