A church which pitches its tents without constantly looking out for new horizons, which does not continually strike camp, is being untrue to its calling… [We must] play down our longing for certainty, accept what is risky, live by improvisation and experiment.” -Hans KungI got this quote off of my friend Billy’s blog. In life and in ministry we are often afraid of upsetting the status quo. Whether it is other ministers, the denomination, congregation members, friends, family, etc. The list can go on and on forever. It is difficult to rock the boat. Chances are that we are all in situations where we should rock the boat but are afraid to. The risk of our reputation, standing, jobs, or future are sometimes at stake. That makes us slow and hesitant about doing what we are called to do.Hans’s quote places an attitude of how the church and ministry should be. No longer are the ministry styles and structure of the 1990’s (when I was learning to be a youth director). It has evolved many times past that. If I were to be tossed back into that sitution today it is far different atmosphere than when I served as a Youth Director. My “great ideas” could easily cause me to fall on my face. That same scinerio translates into the church. Methods used in the 1980’s much less earlier, don’t work. But why are we continuing to stay complacent when the world has passed us by. That does not mean that we change the essence of who we are but how it should be done. Nowhere in the New Testament does it say that worship and “church” need to be so rigid. Church is a organism that should be costantly changing and striking out into new horizons. Often the chruch reacts to the world AFTER it should rather than having the foresight and being at the front anticipating changes.We need to be willing to take risks. What is at stake is more than numbers, it is the souls and lives that are seperated from Jesus. If I were to be out there, I hope the church would do everything within its power to come after me.
Continuing on my personal comments on the church within a church model, how to make it work or why it won’t. While there are a myraid of reasons why it would not work, but there are ways that it can funciton properly. Most leaders can make this model work in the short term (0-2 years), but how can it be sustained for the long term (2 plus years).For background a church within a church model is the development of a community/ church within a current church structure. It shares the same governing board/ Session as well as many other administrative aspets.The key to it development is:1. Senior Pastor– Must be highly invovled. If he/she feels that they are not apart of it, then it will ultimately fail. This can be done in a number of ways. Whether the pastor is part of the leadership team, well communicated with, and a visible part of the new community.2. Not the ugly stepchild– The new community must feel a part of the church as a whole. Too often it is left to fend for itself and given a unwanted feeling. It must be supported financially and emotionally. This is more than lipservice. Leaders from the church must be present every so often and outwardly excited about what it is doing. The new service must have some representation or support on the governing board and effective communication.3. Not a competition– Too easy can the new service become a threat. It seems that everything can develop into a competition. We should celebrate what the new or original service is doing. Embracing that it is not about who’s numbers are larger but that people are being brought into the community of faith.4. Ego– Along with competition, an ego can easily form. Whether it is from the Senior Pastor or the leader of the new community. This bruising or inflating can cause rifts and tensions that are unneeded and can cause severe complications.
This past weekend I was talking to one of my former youth kids. I guess kid is the wrong word since he is now in like 28 or something like that. He was stuggling with some things within his church. It was based on a model called the church within the church. Something that I was more than familiar with. He was dealing with an issue that is all too common. The implosion of it and the fall out that is created. In 2002, I was searching for ideas to launch something new. Growth within the church that I was serving in the 20’s and 30’s had started to stagnate and I was looking for a project to undertake. Project was probably a bad word to use. I had spent four years developing a viable youth program (yes, Veronica I used THE word), and it had come to a place where it was self sustaining. Instead of Sean sustaining. I felt led to undertake this problem.It led me to a place where I was searching for model and programs which I could take some ideas from. There was the seeker sensitive model, cell groups (in its infancy), purpose driven, and a myraid of other ideas. Then I sat in on a class at a Youth Specialties Conference that was looking at different ideas by Dan Kimball. His conference notes are here. The class led me to attend his service in Santa Cruz several times and take many of the ideas that he had.The church within a church model is based upon launching a church within a current church. That may sound strange but I hope I can clearly explain it. Launching a church within one, is the same as church planting but with one clear difference. The lhome church elders or leadship still oversees it. For many this is a beneficial since it allows the use of resources from the home church. For awhile they will support one another and coexist, until a point. Spencer Burke conluded that the church within a church model will always collapse upon itself at some point. There are many reasons for the imposion, some that I personally have seen the results of. Many of them are to be expected, but in our niave life, we don’t expect it to happen to us. That is until it does. That is a whole new post upon itself, probably later today or tomorrow.
A question Bruce Reyes-Chow (www.reyes-chow.com) looks into is the myth that the “emerging church” rejects all things traditional. That is so far from the case. If anything it promotes a return to a first century church style. This is described in Acts 2:42-47:They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.Oh how I long to have that feeling within the church. For the past 14 years that I have served within a PCUSA church I have been witness to a changing spiritual climate. No longer should we go to church to simply go through a routine but to edify and uplift others in faith. Last year I went through this text in a sermon series verse by verse. By doing that I encountered what the Church is called to be rather than what we have become. Many of us encounter a spiritual rut that needs to be broken (this includes me), and have our lives and church community transformed by the living Christ.With the rise of “seeker-sensitive” churches we saw the dumbing down of church. I have nothing against these churches, they brought in masses of people. Though the focus of church and worship moved to small groups rather than the worship service. Churches started meeting in warehouses, crosses and icons removed, and denominational affiliation was difficult to see. Seeker sensitive churches had there place in bringing people to church in a non-intrusive way, but the essence of what “church” is was missing.The emerging church has nothing to do with seeker sensitive churches. Sure we may also have a different look than traditional churches. That is not what throws us into the “other” category, but “emerging churches” embraces pre-tradition. That is looking into spirituality practice and church before what we now consider traditional.
- Pre- tradition Bible studies invoke lexio divina not a video or book series.
- Pre-tradition brings about the Stations of the Cross and other techniques that have been used for hundreds of years.
- Pre-tradition has a strong emphasis on community.
The emerging church does not seek to destroy its connections with the traditions of the church but rather embraces it with vigor. It is by a true grasp of where we have been that the church can grow and affect this new postmodern culture. By destroying our past it severes who we are leaves us without an identity.
I mentioned in a previous that I had not gotten to an article in the most recent Presbyterian Outlook that looks into the myths of Postmodernism. Myths of postmodernity and the Emergent Church. This article by a pastor that is in the thick of it is a nice layman approach to exploring the emerging church. It is written by a pastor that works in New Church Development in San Francisco. It brings to light issues/ myths that many traditional ministries see about the emerging church. That we are a flash in the pan or some right wing group. Rather we are leaders that are trying to approach church in a way that takes today’s culture mind. We are more than freaks and geeks, but look to help the church embrace culture while keeping Jesus at the center.
There is a weekly newsletter within the Presbyterian Church. Its is the Presbyterian Outlook. Presbyterian Outlook Article. There are more articles at this site including one from Bruce Reyes-Chow (www.reyes-chow.com) who has a great blog to check out. Sorry Bruce I haven’t got to your article yet. Occasionally I read through it to see what is going on in the denomination in the nation and the world. Overall it is a pretty good read. This week the theme is about the Emerging Church. I am surprised for several reasons. The first is that the Emerging Church is actually being recognized by the denomination. And secondly not in a negative light. That is until the letters tot he editor comes later this week.The emerging church comes in many different shapes, sizes, theology, and political beliefs. Not two are the same. There are the ones that meet in bars or community based. One can find the liberals that think the church as an institution should be abandoned and those that look much like a mainline church but act in a very different way. One thing binds them though. That being seeking Jesus as a community in a very different but real way.“And the appeal of Emergent thinking isn’t limited to young adults. “It’s for everyone who hates church,” one Presbyterian pastor said matter-of-factly. What she meant is: It’s for people who want an authentic encounter with God, and too often aren’t finding it in traditional congregations.”A key cornerstone in emerging thinking is that of authenticity and not blind faith. It creates in many way a multi-sensory approach combined with community to bring about a real sense of faith.It’s the force that has to be acknowledged. While some mainline congregations are open to innovation and change, others are not. “I long for that kind of community,” one Presbyterian pastor said over coffee. But in her congregation, “we really don’t want to be relational. We want to be nice to each other. But when it comes down to sharing our guts, our deepest thoughts, we’re not sure we want to do that.”Many think that one needs to either be mainline or emerging. That is untrue. The Presbyterian form of government (Book of Order) does not tell us that we need to be the frozen chosen. Rather it is “through Christ that the Church is called into being, giving it all that is necessary for its mission TO the world, for its building up, and for its service to God”. (G-1.0100b) It is our own polity that tells us that we should be everything necessary to serve the world and the church. It says nothing about being static and frozen. Many use the PCUSA catch-line without really understanding it. “To be reformed and always reforming”. We are not to be static but always changing with Christ at the center of it all.
Does it make you cringe when Jerry Fallwell, James Dobson, and Pat Robinson open their mouths? That they speak for the “evangelicals”? It does for me. I would like to consider myself evangelical. It is not some political or social taboo word but means to be a Christian that is motivated and acting upon the words of Christ. That is Jesus Christ, not Fallwell, Dobson, and the National Association of Evangelicals. Even the word evangelical brings about a fundamentalist image. I cannot even say that I am evangelical without people automatically moving to the idea that I am strict conservative that listens to these guys.In a recent LA Times Article, it explores the growing rift between generations within the board. Frankly I am relieved that there are dissenting opinions against the old guard. The NAE is such a powerful lobbying force that I sometimes see it ideals become polarized. It needs to have new voices and a new vision for the generation. It needs to speak out upon other “great issues”“A new generation of pastors has expanded the definition of moral issues to include not only global warming, but an array of causes. Quoting Scripture and invoking Jesus, they’re calling for citizenship for illegal immigrants, universal healthcare and caps on carbon emissions.”“Are the only really ‘great moral issues’ those concerning abortion, gay marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence?” Wallis asked in his challenge. “How about the reality of 3 billion of God’s children living on less than $2 per day? … What about pandemics like HIV/AIDS … [and] disastrous wars like Iraq?”This article was a relief for me to see this group move from what I see as the extreme conservatism to a lesser form that is willing to undertake other issues. How it does we shall see.