Wednesday, June 8, 2005

What can the established church contribute to the emerging church?

I've been working on starting a mission shaped church next year. In the process of planning I've been chatting with people at the church I work at about the role that a more established church could play. I think there are some obvious possibilities like prayer support, financial support and possibly even people support in the beginning. But are there others? If the established church is less missional in its approach to church than the emerging church (which I see as very mission focussed when it is healthy), then what kind of things can the established church bring to a partnership with an emerging church?

I want to point out that this is certainly not an us and them type of discussion. I'm just trying to think through the practicalities of established/emerging partnerships.

This question obviously also raises its opposite. What can an emerging church bring to a partnership with the established church? Prayer support, a better understanding of how to connect with the world around us, encouraging stories of God's transforming love at work through His people changing lives as well as eternal destinies?

I'm keen to hear other ideas, particularly from anyone who is trying to work in a partnership between the emerging and established church.

Thursday, June 2, 2005

Discipleship vs Mission

A comment from my wife caused me to begin reflecting about discipleship and mission this evening. Basically she was kicking around ideas about how the tension between discipleship and mission in the life of a mission-shaped community worked.

As I reflected I've recalled something that has really pissed me off in mainstream Christianity. People seem to believe that discipleship and mission are somehow able to be separated. Maybe it's because of the formulaic approach we sometimes have to evangelism/becoming a christian, but people seem to think that if someone becomes a believer then they should focus on growing as a Christian for a while before they think about doing mission. This seems crazy to me.

It is often after a powerful encounter with God that people have the most energy for mission. They have engaged with the almighty, powerful God and they want to share that with others. They have connected with the ultimate source of love and cannot keep it for themselves. So what does the established church so often do with them? Take them right away from the world and put them through a discipleship process which seems to manage to beat the enthusiasm right out of them so they are just like the rest of us. Apathetic and self focussed!

Surely there has to be a better way. Yes it is dangerous to put new followers of Christ out amongst 'the great unwashed', but God is powerful enough to see his will happen through these fresh people of his. They might be a little green when it comes to the Christian living, they might not have their key doctrinal issues worked through, they might not have been through an evangelism course, but if they have a passion to share God with the world then we should be empowering and encouraging it!

I've learnt more about God as I've sought to engage with his work of mission than I have in any church program I've ever participated in. I think the perfect place for the discipling of new followers of Christ is out in the world as they seek to make sense of this new found relationship with God that they have.

NOTE: I recognise that there are many issues that I haven't covered here. Areas such as overcoming sin that is infuriated by the temptation of a worldly environment, appropriate training and equipping, and many other issues certainly need to be seriously considered. But they are not reason enough to selfishly withdraw from the world we are called love, serve and witness to.