I am working on turning my PhD dissertation into a book for church leaders. I appreciate Wesley Granberg-Michaelson’s language of settled or sent congregations. It is not simply either/or but it presents a mindset. This is our goal– The missional church places its commitment to join in God’s mission in the world at the heart of its life and identity (in Unexpected Destinations).
Ray Anderson expresses it this way: “Athens-based faith, where the message is domesticated and diluted by new cultures it encounters, nor by a Jerusalem-based faith where the message is tamed and contained by a dominant culture from the past but rather an Antioch-based faith where the gospel message never loses its wild untamed essence but like a spring of living water or vibrant new wine, it always flows and is never contained by old forms (An Emergent Theology for Emerging Churches). The church is always on the move. Here is some of what I am writing–
The church must continue to press towards to vision of Roland Allen who imagined a vital, living, emerging church:
The spontaneous expansion of the church reduced to its elements is a very simple thing. It asks for no elaborate organization, no large finances, no great numbers of paid missionaries….What is necessary is faith. What is needed is the kind of faith which uniting a man (sic) to Christ sets him on fire (The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church).
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, out of his own sense of frustration over the irrelevance of the church institution, wrote prophetically, offering a picture of a church reimagined:
The church is only the church when it exists for others. To make a start, it should give away all its property to those in need. The clergy must live solely on the free-will offerings of their congregations, or possibly engage in some secular calling. The church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men (sic) of every calling what it means to live in Christ, to exist for others (Letters and Papers from Prison p. 282).
These are radical concepts for those connected to the established church order. This work is not for the faint-hearted. Rudolf Bahro says: “When the forms of an old culture are dying, the new culture is created by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure” (quoted in Margaret Wheatley Finding Our Way). These are the ecclesial heretics who live and dream at the margins. These heretics, while creating dis-ease and disruption, must be listened to, and encouraged. The ecclesial heretics help the church to imagine and innovate, while not letting go of the best of heritage and tradition.
The church in the West exists in a liminal, transitional time. It is a time of chaos. This chaos does not lead to anarchy and the elimination of structure, but rather as it embraces the unpredictable and complex, new social and missional structures emerge (William Berquist The Postmodern Organization). These new structures will exist outside as well as inside ecclesial bounds. New missional imaginations will bring renewal to established churches and denominations.
We must stir the imaginations of church leaders who desire a new day for the church. We will probably become fearful and anxious along the way as change is never easy. The abandonment of old forms brings anger and sadness. Yet this torment of loss and dizziness will lead to new fires of missional imagination, resulting in new forms of church emerging that will impact the world for good, in the name of Jesus. So bring on the insecurity, the chaos, and the fire!