Sunday, February 23, 2014

Question on Missional Church, and Notes on its Characteristics

Ministry in Abandoned Places: Love Reaching Out with Three Rs
Relocation. Reconciliation. Redistribution.
Based on life and work and writing of John Perkins, civil rights leader and community renewal author.
Growing teams of “remainers, returners, relocaters” for renewal
Characteristics of Missional Church:
Go to others; not expect others to Come to us (recognize shift from churched to unchurched culture); Incarnational more than Attractional.

Church is not ultimately about attracting those who are of like minds to form a spiritual community to celebrate their values, but church is ultimately about the healing of the community beyond itself (though it takes a wounded healer vulnerable church of caring souls to do that}. Church is not to be content to be a safe home until all homes are safe. Church is not to be growing and thriving in a community that is suffering and declining. Don’t be the best church in your community, but be the best church for your community. 
Historical Grounding for This External Focus Move: The free church tradition of our congregationalism that traces back to the Cambridge Platform of 1648, establishing the covenantal foundation of our polity: Conrad Wright (Walking Together: Polity and Participation in UUism) highlights these covenants in his lecture “The Doctrine of the Church For Liberals”: external covenants: church and parish/world; church and God. Internal covenants respond to the external covenants, giving the church its shape to be able to respond to the external covenants: Person and Church; Church and Minister/Elected Leaders; Church and Church; Minister and Minister. We too often focus on the four internal covenants, the “how” covenants forgetting the two “why we exist” covenants.
The Church Doesn’t Have or Create A Mission; The Mission Creates and Has The Church
Mission Statement doesn’t equal Mission. And focusing on mission as purpose is not the same as missional/being sent. A group’s mission might be seen as completely inward focused, for example, so just being clear on a mission isn’t the same as being missional.
Missional has turned upside down the old connotation of the missionary; now being missional is not about the church going to convert the world, but going into the world to be converted by it, to discover how best to serve it and transform it.
You don’t vote on missional essence; not something you create and can decide to change; you uncover it, reveal it, spread it. For example, our mission at The Welcome Table is given to us through our commitment to “making the spirit of Jesus visible in the world” and so the essence of that spirit is in Jesus’ mission statement in Luke 4 and Matthew 25 to free the oppressed, bring good news to the poor, heal the sick, feed the hungry, etc., serve the least of these. Non-Christian UU or other churches might frame being missional in other terms and use other sources: “make Love and Justice visible in the world” for example. The key piece in missional form of church is making it visible in the world, not just to ourselves.

The Post-Modern Culture: We no longer compartmentalize; we live in a blurry yet holistic world; boundaries of sacred and secular overlap; spiritual and material, personal and political or social are not kept separate; no one can go it alone in such a world; the church and non faith based nonprofits and business and government and philanthropic groups all need to play a part in the Mission, but they won’t inhabit different realms but will be partnering. Can’t say this problem is only for government or this role is only for the church.

Church is not ultimately about meeting personal needs, but about helping people get over ourselves, beyond ourselves (again while in the process of growing in health ourselves from the mutuality of care; but don't wait for perfect fully fuctioning people to be formed before engaging in the healing work with others for others, especially with the most struggling places and people in a community); not with the aim of creating lives of comfort and convenience and community, but of conscience and commitment for others. Church is about cultivating lives and communities that grow and go inward and outward.

Church heals the world not by saving individuals, not by focusing ultimately on individuals and their personal beliefs and attitudes, by privileging “the mind” but by connecting and growing and setting loose in the world persons as communities of missional disciples, persons who have increased their own capacity for generosity and service, especially serving those most vulnerable. We grow through 1. service, through 2. Community, through 3. discipleship/study/faith formation, and through 4. worship.

Focus not on “a church” but on “the church” which can have many manifestations. Church not a what, but a who; makes all the difference.

Don’t focus first or primarily on changing the church; focus on changing the world and the church will change.

Don’t expect mission to flow out of worship, but worship will be a response to mission.

Grow smaller to do bigger things

Ask the question: if your church ceased to exist, who would notice and who would be affected?

Programs and events don’t transform lives as much as relationships do.

Church not about showing up at a specific time and a specific place in order to get a message; especially the younger someone is the more the content has to go to them when they want it and can receive it.

The church does not go out to convert the world, but to be converted by the world as God is already there ahead of the church transforming the world. Wake up each morning and ask: where can I go meet God in the neighborhood today?

Shift from church of Three A’s---Affluence, Appearance, Achievement, all inward and identity focused; to church of Three R’s---Relocation, Redistribution, Reconciliation, which are focused on Others.

Going Missional or External: 1. Partner with other churches, and with groups outside yourself; 2. Eat together more often with other groups and in the spaces of others and the public spaces; hold potlucks in parks and places where the hungry go; 3. Look for ways to relocate worship or start a new worship in a new location, especially in a poor neighborhood; 4. Turn your space over to others; likewise hold your board and other meetings often in the spaces of others. 5. Send teams of 5-7 people away from your routine gatherings to go be the church in designated relocated spaces around you, such as apartment complex, etc., reporting back to you, being your partners your scouts; 6. see smallness with a big vision and sense of abundance, take the opportunity to move from being vulnerable under old paradigm to being vanguard of new paradigm; 7. divide up your church and do a re-start as networked geographical mission communities. Instead of small groups meeting monthly, meet weekly and then save monthly for the come together time of partying, worship, sharing, learning. The curriculum of the weekly, or more, church as small group: social, study, service, celebration. 8. Keep imagining ways to have "bigger bandwidth" of a church and the church.

Postmodern led to PostChristian led to Postdenominational led to PostCongregational culture emerging: post means simply a loss of privilege or dominance or centrality.

The Missional Church F.A.Qs.
1.     what do you mean missional?
Missional comes from the Greek word missio (to be sent). it is about being Sent, being called, to be with and for others, especially those hurting for whom my heart breaks. It is not about having a spiffy mission statement, especially one that is all about one's own faith community; and it is ultimately to me not also the same thing as Purpose. One can be purpose-driven, so to speak, and yet that purpose be self-oriented and self-serving. It is why missional church folks will say that the ultimate missional purpose is not about growing an organization, adding members, making more of "us" in the world, nor is it ultimately about changing the church; it is ultimately about the healing of the world beyond any notions or perpetuation of 'us" and ultimately about changing the world. In fact, when we put our initial and immediate focus and anxiety on changing the church we perpetuate this problem by keeping our focus on us; when we focus on the world, the neighborhood, we allow the church to form in response to that focus; that is missional.

2. Doesn't it smack of being a missionary, trying to convert others, evocative of coercion and cultural imperialism?
to me, though those concerns should always be with us, it is about the very opposite, the very undoing of that kind of mission-oriented past; living in Indian Nation, having been raised in large measure by full blood Osage aunts, I am cognizant of this response; but the new sense of missional is about at heart letting the church be converted by the world; i think those who see it as another means of evangelism, of outreach, of growth, are not being true to the missional soul; this might be one of the things that we progressives can bring to the overall missional table, and are, just as we get so much from the more theologically conservative who have helped shape the overall missional church movement. it is about listening learning being an ally living with others.

3. What is "church" about it?
We say the church doesn't have a mission; the mission has a church. the church is not pre-existent in being as an organization that then tries to set out to find its mission, its why, and which then often changes as people within the organization change. Instead, the church is not a What, not by essence a 501c3 organization with a bylaws, board, budget, building; it is essentially a Who which may take that organizational form to best live missionally but it doesn't have to; it is, in one way of phrasing it, a people making the Sacred visible in the world. As such it can be two or two thousand; it can happen anywhere at anytime by anyone. One of the other lens for this is to say missional can be more about "the church" than about "a church," that is a sense of being a part of a movement, perhaps even a particular history and tradition, more so or in addition to being a part of a particular group/institution.

4. Sounds like it can just as easily be the work of a secular nonprofit, or even a socially conscious for profit business? Why think of it as church at all?
 In some ways I believe the work of the church can be done, and might be done best in some circumstances, outside of the boundaries of what is called organized church, or even what is called organic or missional or incarnational church; it is okay by me when people are fulfilling their connection to the Sacred and serving others without calling what they are doing as church; i have witnessed some churches focused so much on themselves that i personally find the Sacred more in something like the proverbial Rotary Club, or in what a group of family and friends might do. But I see it as part of the history of the church, part of the renewal and reformation of the church, and in fact part of a major hinge in history reformation as we have had happen every 500 years or so; the major threads of the missional church in its recent manifestation ove the past 30 years have been located in church communities, or by people who profess a faithfulness even though not necessarily, but often, to particular faith communities. I guess finally for me it is a personal thing; I am connected to the church and so see it as part of the church, but I have no qualms with others who aren't and don't; again for me it is the mission that connects us.

5. Sounds pretty Christian. Do you have to be Christian to be at home in the missional church?
I am a Christian so I might not be the best one to address this; I am biased I know. But I think you don't have to be. In fact many many many Christians are anything but missional, which is why the missional church movement in many ways got its start and major push there. For me it fits into a theological framework, but I don't see it as having a prerequisite of believing in, for example, the Triune God to be missional, though not all Christians believe in that of course, and though many missional church advocates would say you need to be grounded in the Triune God to be truly missional (since they/we see the Triune God as inherently missio-minded, even libertion-minded): maybe I am an outlier both ways. You will definitely need to be conversant I think with contemporary Christian theology and terms and ability to translate and to see the depths beyond the particular language in order to really, at least at this point in missional church movement history, get the most from great companions in it who cross faith community lines, but it seems inherently unmissional to create such an insider group think and membership in order to be missional. We need all we can get in the mission. There are traditions of outwardly-focused, missional living, servants in many faith traditions. I and many others get our particular way of being and immersing in mission from the inspiration and story and way of Jesus, as well as from Christian theological perspective and history, and I think we who do need to be able to use it, but we shouldn't privilege it...I do think it is hard theologically to ground and sustain a sense of Mission without a sense of the Transcendent, call it Human Spirit, or other understandings, something that orients us away from ourselves, our own, and to others (even as we recognize our interdependence and that we have our own growth always at hand).

6. So what mission are we oriented to? Is it the same for all?
 I come from a liberation theological frame of mind, so I talk about Mission being given to us, to be with "the least of these"; it has shaped the particular ministry I am involved in; but when we say the Mission creates the church, that Mission can have many particulars; one broad way to look at it is "to connect the disconnected" and that disconnection comes in many ways and in many peoples and many places; while I think there should always be an ultimate orientation of looking at how the most vulnerable, with the least resources, are being neglected and left out and should be at the table of all Mission, still there is much to be done with and for others in all neighborhoods (even if in some it might be to finally find ways to turn the resources of those neighborhoods and families toward others). There is so much suffering in all communities, all families, so we shouldn't, again, try to limit the outward turn.

7. All this talk of serving others and external focus, doesn't it tend to lead to burnout and unsustainability? What about the primacy and the need for worship?
Yes, this is why Spiritual Direction and Mission have become intertwined and of an essence to many; just as so many churches have trended toward the internal pole and paralysis and irrelevancy and disconnection with the wider community and the folks in their own neighborhoods, so a too unbalanced fixation on others, without self-care and the refreshment of the spirit that comes from spriitual disciplines including worship, will undercut the missional service and ability to be with others in a healthy way. Regarding worship: there has been a mainstream tendency to see worship as reinforcing an inward turn, a group identity, but it doesn't have to be; not only can the message of missional living be crafted and called out in worship, but worship can be seen in some ways as another method for missional communities, especially if located outside of normal venues, or involving external communities, or done in such a way that the liturgy is serving the Mission and the lives of those who may never become a part of a particular organization as members. Some missional church leaders talk about a four part path of "becoming church": begin with service to and with others, especially those most in need; next do it as a community and grow in community relationships with one another in order to do the service the best it can be done; next grow in personal growth or discipleship and leadership formation so the community can be the best it can be so that the missional service can be the best it can be; finally refresh both the personal and communal spirit and growth through worship so that the other pulses or paths of church-ing can be best realized. But not all missional communities or relationships will even have a focus on all four of these; some of the communities that may be more organic and small may dedicate themselves and their spiritual mission on just one of these paths as its focus (while for example, worshipping with other groups, or going to other churches or groups for personal growth or education and leadership development); it is part of what missional leaders call being a part of "a bigger bandwidth" of what church can be.

8. Is there a way for an established institutional very organizationally focused church to be missional? Or must we "become smaller, decentralized, in order to do bigger things."? Can a church be "attractional" and "incarnational/missional" at the same time?
Yes, I believe it can, though it might be tougher; but then again it might have more resources to be able to do so, too, if it has the will. When we say "a bigger bandwidth" we mean there will be missional manifestations or frequencies all along the spectrum or bandwidth; some churches are large and form missional communities out of what were once small group ministries; others see those small groups not as secondary but as the primary reason for church itself; some churches see the outward focus as the exhaling, and the group identity and faith formation of individuals as the inhaling, both necessary to living. At its heart missional church is more about "going to be with them" than it is the former dominant mode of "getting others to come to us to be like us." That should guide us. But it doesn't mean that you have to give up being attractional in order to be incarnational; just remember which is primary, and which ultimately is oriented most to Mission. At this point in church history, it is important not to fall too quickly into our default modes of what constitutes church; so we should question, I think, all things attractional, but ultimately make the Missional the guide. Keep thinking imagining outside the box of that default mode; for churches in a strong attractional or organizational mindset, consider all the ways, small and large, that you can begin to make the shift toward more external being, even if it is holding more events and meetings off campus, with others, for others; as well as bringing others in and sharing one's space, or giving it away, to others.


No comments:

Post a Comment