Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Wrestling with Relevance

Have you noticed an ebb and flow in your thinking about church? At times, I'm almost overwhelmed with thoughts, and they tend to swirl around in chaos. This week, it is two Ryans who have my mind swimming in the deep end.

Many of you have probably read Ryan Bolger's excellent post about not starting a relevant church service. Here are some quotes from his post followed by my thoughts in blue.

A focus on the church service as connecting point perpetuates the idea that following Jesus is about going to church.
I agree that we need to teach people that going to church is not their Christian service; it is not the way we live out following Jesus. We need to see a change in our churches from leaders that point people to being missional instead of trying to suck people into the mentality that serving the church is serving God.

The community's life takes the form of American congregational religion rather than the fluid practices of the gospel, and this emphasis presents quite a barrier to the 'seeker' outside, as they need to be converted to the values of American religious congregationalism before they can come to faith.
Maybe this isn’t true everywhere, but around here, it seems that when people want more God, they look for a church. Our culture and history is so grounded in the idea of congregational church, that I think most seekers turn there first to explore their spiritual hunger.

Thus, virtually all of those who are attracted to the relevant service were raised in church or are currently going to another church -- they are not the never-churched.
This is my concern also for house church or simple church. It seems that most people looking for “another way” of being church are those who have already experienced congregational church.

In contrast, a missional congregation connects with those outside the faith by, well, connecting with those outside of the community in their world.
The answer isn't necessarily to eliminate congregations, but to instill in the congregation or group that their lives are to be missional, to have this as a foundational value.

Connecting happens not in a 'come to us' CHURCH service, but through 'go and dwell' church SERVICE, i.e. service in the community -- living alternative lives.
This is awkward for me. For now, I feel like I kind of suck at being missional. The church we are attending had 11 salvations last week. They add to their numbers weekly by simply offering what seekers are looking for - Jesus. I don’t see having the potential to produce that kind of fruit with my life.

Mission happens in the 'world', in the world formerly known as secular, on their 'turf' -- not ours. As servants, the Christian connects with the seeker through service in their world.
This is probably where my focus and activity needs to change. However, for now my time is consumed with my mission of sending four teenagers into adulthood.

In our daily lives in the world, as we work and play and live, we are suppposed to be naturally relevant to those around us. Those relationships will then perhaps produce a drawing into the Life of God for others. (this is a comment to Ryan's post from Alan)
Am I the only one who feels really ineffective at this?
Great idea, but how’s it working?

Here are some reflections from Ryan Sharp about the Emergent Gathering:

I am not so concerned with building a better church, but figuring out a better way to be a human living in the way of Jesus.

I don't really care where the church is going or how to make the church more relevant.

I want to figure out how to be Jesus for the world. How to live out this subversive, revolutionary way in the world, not behind closed doors with 4 walls and a steeple. I want to figure out how to be in community with the whole of God's creation, listening for the Spirit wherever I may be.

I agree with Ryan, I want to figure out a better way to be Jesus in the world. I think we probably all want to do this. It is a separate issue though from what kind of gathering we choose to be a part of. I think the kind of gathering I want to be a part of is one that helps and encourages me to go out and be Jesus in the world.


Cindy said...

You're not the only one who feels ineffective right now. I sure do. And I feel like I need to start all over -- almost from scratch about how and what I am and do. It's scary, and I don't have a clue how to do it. Add to that the tentativeness of our family's siutation as my husband looks for a job. I'm feeling a little afraid that God's going to pick us up and whisk us away to someone unknown scary place. Wow- I didn't know how afraid I am until I started making this comment. Yikes.

I do want to remind you what a huge ministry it is to raise kids. You know this. I know it, but I often need to be reminded. If you can teach your kids how to be real with God and others and to live for Him, then you've been missional in the truest and highest sense of the word.

Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

Since I work in a (so called) "parachurch" organization, my emphasis of active faith has little to do with Sunday morning Church, so I hear you big time. This is a challenge for me, this coming Monday I will be sitting on a panel made up of "Emerging Church" leaders. Thanks for vulnerability and honest!


grace said...

I continue to pray for your family, believing that God has a good plan for you.

My hubby says starting all over is a good thing. What does he know?! :)

You will do great, and I think you are a good representative for many in the emerging community.

Bar Bar A said...

Great stuff! I've been thinking a lot about this lately too....