Monday, April 25, 2005

What's the difference?

I had a great conversation with my senior pastor the other day regarding the difference between missional church planting (as I'm learning about it) and the model of the established church that we currently run.

In my thinking the key difference would be where the emphasis lies in the structure. I would envisage that a missional church plant would be best suited by an emphasis on a cell structure with an occasional larger gathering to celebrate together who God is and what he is doing amongst the cells. Whereas our current more established approach clearly has a focus on the large gathering, much of the time and effort goes into a Sunday service compared with the cells.

A missional church plant would be well served by a cell structure because it would allow a flexibility to respond to mission opportunities in a way that a focus on the large gathering cannot.

The cell approach gives a simpler more focused approach. Instead of having multiple communities that you are connecting with on a regular basis, there is just the one group of believers who you commit to and do church with. This gives the church more time and energy for some of the mission type things that generally fall off the radar when a church spends most of its time and focus on the large gathering.

A cell approach would also allow flexibility in responding to mission opportunites as it grows. If the church is not founded so much on structure or style but on values, then as a cell grows and reaches a point where it is ready to plant another cell, the new cell can reshaped itself around the mission opportunities it is responding to and hold on to the values of the wider church. This enables the church to grow and stay connected to the mission God is calling it to.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Why all the criticism?

I believe that much of the criticism seen today between the established and the emerging church is as a result of insecurity and anxiety about what is going on in their own camp.

From the established perspective, new things are threatening ... 'what if they do better than we did?', 'what if they really are the new thing and we are the old thing that's on its way out?'. From inside the established church it is easy to see these questions at play, causing division and threat where perhaps there doesn't need to be.

From the emerging perspective, the old things are what we have come from ... 'if that is what we used to do, but now we are following this path, then that must wrong, otherwise our new path is wrong.' It's a rebellion against what was, compiled with a negativity that's generally quite unhelpful. It also seems that many who take an emerging path do so because they have been scarred by the established church previously in some way, this regularly results in unhelpful criticism that flows from personal hurt and pain rather than thoughtful consideration and concern.

I'd like to see less criticism. It is a 'new day' and we do need to see new models, a more missional approach and some fresh expressions of church, but that doesn't mean the old is bad, or useless, or obselete. I believe, that the established church is absolutely necessary in the process of encouraging people who are already 'churched' in some fashion to recognise God's call on their lives and to share their faith with others. One of the great things I learnt from Mission Shaped Church was that we need to see new fresh expressions of church working alongside and in partnership with the established church.

I'd highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of this book and reading it. Here's the blurb on it:

Society in Britain has changed dramatically in the last 30 years, especially in terms of our understanding of community and how we relate to one another. One of the responses of the Church has been to plant new churches and create 'fresh expressions' of church; churches that relate to our changing context. This detailed, practical and well-researched book:

* gives an overview of recent developments in church planting
* describes varied and exciting 'fresh expressions' of church
* offers practical help and advice
* looks candidly at where lessons can be learned
* proposes a framework and methodology for good, effective church planting
* includes recommendations to make possible the visions of a vibrant future Church

Each chapter has a set of questions and challenges to help local parish churches engage with the issues.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

It MUST be missional

I've just been reading a post over at Signposts that scares the life out of me. Phil's comment is that it appears as though the emerging church is about a missional apporoach, but much of it isn't, or at least doesn't appear to be.

The only reason I would want to step out of the established church is because I think we have to pioneer new ways of being church in an attempt to reach some for Christ. I feel we need to be inspired by Paul who said 'I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.' (1 Corinthians 9:22b-23).

The church is fantastic at being distracted by issues that aren't the main game. Let's not be distracted by just another way of doing church that distracts us from what is really important . . .

Emerging thoughts . . .

I've been a part of the established church for pretty much my whole life. For much of the time I've just wandered along without ever even thinking about it. At other times I've thrown myself into different models or ideas. But I can't remember ever having taken the time to step back and try to work out how the church fits into God's greater plan. So I was quite surprised at what I found when I took the time to think about what God's agenda is and how the church functions to acheive that agenda.

I think I've always just seen church as an end in itself. That the reason we try to do church well is so that it is good and the reason we seek to have good programs or structures is so that the programs are successful and healthy and the structures functional. On my better days I recognised that it was all done to bring God glory, but I never really thought about how it was meant to bring him glory.

As a result of seeing church as a goal or an endpoint for Christianity I developed quite an unhealthy understanding of mission. I really saw mission as an add on, an extra bit of Christianity for those who were 'super saints'. Only recently have I managed to come to an understanding of God, church and mission that integrates them and gives them what seems to be their proper place.

I now realise that God has a missionary agenda; the church is the result of that mission, but it is also the vehicle that he is using to acheive it. Therefore church is not an end in itself, it is not the goal or the result of our lives as God's people. It is a tool, a dynamic expression of God's people working out his will and agenda.

So now I find myself in a place where I see that God's missionary agenda is being fulfilled. He is, has been and will continue to draw people to himself and ultimately recreate the heavens and the earth. The church has a particular role to play within God's plan. It equips, encourages and enables followers of Christ to proclaim the truth about God in word and deed to the world. It is not disconnected from the world around it, but seeks to engage it with the truth.

Many of these thoughts are not particularly sorted, they are emerging from things I'm reading and what God's Spirit is teaching me. These ideas are pushing me in directions I hadn't imagined before and encouraging me to take steps I couldn't see previously. It's exciting and scary, a journey of faith I have not yet encountered.

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

At an established church

I've been working at a large established church for 3 and a bit years and it's a great place. There is a strong passion for God, a strong sense of his work and will for us. It has a great history of people who are committed to God and his purposes. A strong commitment to the bible and its truth for our lives. Many people have developed relationships with God as a result of the ministry of this church and many have grown to new depths and maturing in an existing relationship. And this is not a work that is finished, it continues each day as many of God's people faithfully serve him through that place.

So let me start this blog by saying that the big established church is in no way a bad place. It is a spiritual home to many who passionately follow Christ with their hearts and lives. God lives and breathes within it working out his purposes and bringing about his will through it.