This may come as a surprise but, I have not always been the easiest guy to get along with. My wife could certainly attest to this truth. I used to argue to the death about issues that seemed important to me. I was, in my humble opinion, seldom wrong and certainly never in doubt! Church meetings and church synods were a blood sport!
Much of this changed for me on Sept. 11th 2001. Events of the day shook the world and caused me a much needed bout of introspection. I heard afresh my call to a great mission. I felt a renewal in my vocation as an evangelist. The battle for the “institutional” church lost its charm for me, a new battlefield was beckoning.
It wasn’t long after that that I discovered that was not alone in this sense of call to a ‘missional’ life. I first read “The Present Future” by Reggie McNeal and his ambivalence toward the institutional church and his call to embrace a fresh mission in this new millennium. I was so struck by the book I began loaning it out (these were my pre-Kindle days) and eventually I bought a DVD presentation of this material. From him I learned of Alan Hirsh and Michael Frost who have put some real theological meat on the bones of this concept of missionality. In their books I was reminded that God has gifted the Church with: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers. During the dominance of the “institutional” model of church the role of pastor took pre-eminence and other gifts were much less recognized and nurtured.
Hirsch and Frost propose that Church (the Body of Christ) is best conceived as a Body on a Mission. This mission is best achieved when the Church is fully supplied with the gifts (Apostle, Prophet etc.) and these folks work as a team. In their book “Shaping of Things to Come” they reference a staff meeting of a missional church. Standing beyond the door one would have thought there was a terrible argument going on, as each team member passionately argued for his vision. Each shared the same heart for mission but had a different motivating gift. The apostolically gifted one perhaps wanted to move forward into God’s preferred future. The evangelist might be concerned with how this would entail winning the lost. The pastoral member would be concerned that no one be left behind or trampled in any move. Each having their own particular concern argued and at the end of the meeting had arrived at a plan that took into account the legitimate concerns of all. They were ready to move forward in mission!
It is, I believe, a lack of sense of mission or Godly purpose that causes the church to fall back into institutional bickering. I would welcome a good debate about how we best move forward but move forward we must! The wise man once penned “Where there is no vision the people perish.” If we do not know what our mission is, if we do not know how what we are doing now fits into that mission, if we merely wander in the wilderness like those of the Exodus, we will surely revert to institutional turf battles which only damage and divert.
Don’t get the wrong idea I still hold strong beliefs on a whole range of things and people still irk and annoy me but if we can be involved in a grand and glorious mission together, I will bear with you and you will have to put up with me.
I’m excited because Reggie McNeal is at Stone Church Wednesday August 27 at 7:30 PM. If you haven’t heard him or of the call to being involved in mission you really ought to come. There is no admission costs. There now that I’ve shilled for Reggie let me say that we are lagging a bit financially with Street Hope Saint John. I am planning a banquet this fall where we will serve a meal similar to the one we do monthly. We will have some music and sharing and provide an opportunity for people to give. We want to be on a solid financial footing going into our new fiscal year. We’d like to be in good shape for another big Christmas project! Stay tuned for details about that.