I am beginning the process of turning my PhD dissertation into an accessible and readable work. I could leave it as is and sell it as a sleep aid, but I think it will be more valuable in a new form.
The basic thrust of my work will be on understanding churches and clusters of churches as a movement more than a machine, and helping churches continue with the vibrancy of a movement. The danger for any movement or organization is towards institutionalization. Richard Rohr writes about the progression from Man (sic) to Movement to Machine to Monument to Museum. Without the constant and deliberate infusion of new life, and the intentional resisting of the pull of the machine, energy trickles away.
Churches need to live in a creative spiritual dynamic. As Alan Roxburgh reminds us, missional imaginations do not emerge from rules and polity, but primarily from a sense of openness to the movement of the Spirit of God in the midst of people of God. Biblical convictions are essential, but we must not succumb to a dead orthodoxy. Attention is given to narrative and to practices rather than to rigid understandings of text, doctrine and belief.
David Roozen notes that denominations of the future will maintain a balance “between the disciplined anchoring of the tradition and the potentially renewing and inevitably segmental, incremental, and local impulses of the Spirit.” Churchly leadership, embracing this dynamic, will affirm the interrelatedness of tradition and freedom, Word and Spirit, and the importance of networks and decentralization.
Think about a kite—It only flies because of the string that holds it. A kite without the tension of the string plummets to the ground. Good tension, and a good breeze keeps the kite airborne.
One of the early leaders of the Evangelical Covenant Church David Nyvall illustrates this tension with a nautical image:
On a well-equipped ship there is an anchor as well as sails. They both serve the welfare of the sailor, the anchor insuring his conservation, his safety, the sail provided for his progress, including his goal, his home. The anchor does not mean rest, and the sails do not mean unrest….I would hate to sail without an anchor, and certainly I cannot sail with the anchor alone. Sails and anchor are one in purpose, largely. Sails make the anchor very much needed, and the anchor makes the sails very much wanted.
The way forward always involves both sails and a keel (I think this is what Nyvall was talking about). We need to be able to catch fresh winds of the Spirit, but we are centered and kept upright by Scripture and the living traditions that emerge from the Word.
A movement thrives on the wind of the Spirit and the Word