I like words that can do that. Words like; love, redemption, restoration, forgiveness, and Red Sox. Each word carries with it weight and meaning, history and hope. I came across a couple words recently that I am working on making into a concept for ministry.
Coalesce and disperse.
Coalesce means to come together to form one group or mass or to unite for a common end. Disperse means to spread out over a wide area. I like this idea for ministry. The body of Christ comes together for a time to do a specific task with Christ, we serve, then we disperse to coalesce elsewhere and continue the work of Christ.
I like to use the image of a lava lamp for this. Lava lamps work through the Archimedes principle. Basically lava lamps are made with water and wax (lava). Both have very similar densities, but the wax is more dense. As a rule it should always sink. However, when heated by the lamp or coil at the bottom, the wax's molecules speed up and become less dense and become more buoyant and float to the top of the lamp. Once there it cools and sinks again. The cycle repeats itself over and over.
What does this have to do with coalesce and disperse? Everything!
Basically I think that the church should behave like the wax in a lava lamp. The lava breaks, floats, comes back together, and spins around based on its response to temperature. I think the church should do the same when it comes to how it approaches ministry. It should respond to the guiding of the Holy Spirit and go where ever it leads.
The book of Acts is full of this type of Spirit like response. In Acts 1 the believers gather in a house praying when the Holy Spirit shows up and emboldens everyone to speak in new languages with boldness. In Acts 4 after Peter and John are released from prison they gather with the body to share their story, they pray and the Holy Spirit shows up to the point the house is shaken. In Acts 6 church conflict arrives when Hellenistic widows needs are not being met. They body assembles works out a solution by appointing seven people to care for their needs. In Acts 10 Peter is praying on a rooftop when he enters a trance and is told to eat all sorts of unclean animals. This vision leads him to share the story of Jesus with the Roman Centurion Cornelius.
All acts of the Spirit. The people coalesce, are embolden by the Spirit, serve, then disperse (willingly and unwillingly because of persecution). The participants and bystanders don't always like or understand what the Spirit is doing. People accused Peter of being drunk, the Apostles are arrested,, Stephen is martyred, a council is summoned in Jerusalem to discuss the presence of Gentiles entering the faith, Peter himself has issues with dietary laws and Gentile believers, and Paul goes on to argue against circumcision a mark of the covenant. But there was always room for the Spirit and the people responded.
Much like the lava lamp, some went this way and some went that way. At times Paul was off by himself, one small lava ball, other times he was surrounded by a community, a large glob in the middle of the lamp. Some times they moved quickly like rising lava wax, other times they moved slowly like the sinking glob cooling off to hear once again what the Spirit is up to. We need to respond in kind. Go where the Spirit leads us. Sometimes working a large group together. Sometimes off in a small group. Sometimes breaking off one blob to join another. All in response to the leading of the Spirit.
Too long ministry has been measured in long term success, where ministries were measured on sustainability, repeat-ability, and marketability. Nothing in Acts happens happens the same way twice. Some things lasted a long time, others for a brief moment. We need not measure the success of our ministry efforts by the previously listed concepts for success. Instead we must be willing to create short term, less expensive, more communal efforts. For too long we have created ministries that have less to do with following the Holy Spirit and more to do with maintaining institutions. Ministries that have little to do with the teachings of Christ and more to do with the models of business and marketing. Ministries that have nothing to do with the Kingdom of God and everything to do with our personal comforts and preferences.
My hope is that the church of the future is more flexible and fluid like the wax in the lava lamp. That we the body, respond to leading of the Spirit. That we are heated and cooled on the teachings of Christ. That we coalesce and disperse within the Kingdom of God.