Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Unsustainable

Within the world of church work there seems to be a growing emphasis on dealing with change.  Change is inevitable but how we handle it will determine how our churches will look in the future.  Within my denomination phrases like adaptive change, transformational shift, missional church, adaptive leadership, transformed by the Spirit, and the word  glocal (a combo of local and global) are everywhere.  I think these are good phrases and words.  Our churches use them, our regional leadership use them, and our larger societies use them. 

Here is the reality, the church is not going to look in 10 years what it has looked like for the last 200 years.  We are in need of adapting to the world around us a little better.  One illustration that was provided me is this: Change is like person walking around a room, the church has been following change around and thus never really catches up.  Church programs, models, and leadership styles are nearly always several years if not decades behind the reality that surrounds them.  But if you study "change" long enough you can start to get ahead of it and meet it head on.  That is what these phrases are about.  We are in need of an adaptive change, we need to adapt how we do church to better meet the needs of the people around us.  We are in need of being "transformed by the Spirit" because it is only in the Spirits leading that we will know how to best lead the church.  We live in a glocal world.  Most of us have job networks or social networks that go well beyond our zip code and into the larger world.  Right now I can chat with a missionary in Asia, invest in a European market, and order a shirt from South America all from my smartphone.  We have to figure out how to participate in a world that functions like this and our church must be flexible enough to minister in such a reality.  

And here is the sticky truth, Missional Church is a cool word and a cool concept.  However, when I am asked to define it I usually say, the Missional church is not a new concept but rather what we should have been doing all along.  The Missional Church is all of God's people working together to accomplish Gods Mission to redeem and restore creation. For too long the church has had a "baptized" version of everything.  Christian day cares, food banks, counseling, private hospitals, music, art, clothes, and after school activities.  


And it is completely unsustainable.  

Our buildings are huge...and empty.  Our boards are over taxed and under staffed.  Our pastors are sometimes less spiritual guides and more organizational ER physicians.  Why in the world would you feel the need to start or house a Christian food bank in your church facility when there is already a food bank in town?  Why not just help that one, support it with people and money.  It saves time, energy, funds, and gets the church into the community.  Why would you need your own special day care?  If you want to provide care for children, why not help the local day care, pay the fee for a single parent who works, or provide toys to that facility?  It gets you into the community, allows you to interact with people who may never come to your church, and lets you be the hands and feet of Christ to his most precious creations children. 

The church is going to survive.  Don't misunderstand me.  In fact I refer you to my first blog about why as a young adult I cherish the church so deeply.  But it will not look like a giant building with a steeple and two services on Sunday morning.  What it will look like yet to be determined, but in my opinion I think it's going to look a lot more like nerve center of lots of activity outside the building that a social club with special groups that meet monthly.  For me this is an exciting time to be a church leader and church member.  We get to be part of the next great thing God is doing.  It comes with great excitement and great anxiety.  My prayer is that we apply these phrases with integrity and sincerity and not just use cool phrases to make ourselves sounds smarter than we really are.

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