I am reading a chapter a day of Neil Cole's book Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens'(Joessey Bass 2005)... part of their Leadership Network Series. It's an inspirational and challenging book. I find myself agreeing with so much of Cole's critique of what he calls the conventional Church. I find myself reacting to it as well from the perspective of having so much invested in that conventional church model. But I also want to cry amen as I read the stories of hope and redemption that he writes about.
In the chapter 'Awakening a new kind of church' Cole speaks of starting Awakening chapels a Church multiplying network in Long Beach. His philosophy is...
"WE want to lower the bar of how church is done and raise the bar of what it means to be a disciple."
The focus changes from growing a church to growing disciples who will in turn be a great church planting church.
Cole challenges me when he says
" The conventional church has become so complicated and difficult to pull off that only a rare person who is professional can do it every week... when Church is so complicated, its function is taken out of the hands of the common Christian and placed in the hands of a few talented professionals. This results in a passive church whose members come and act more like spectators than empowered agents of God's Kingdom.
The organic or simple church, more than any other, is best prepared to saturate a region because it is informal, relational, and mobile. Because it is not financially encumbered with overhead costs and is easily planted in a variety of settings, it also reproduces faster and spreads further. Organic church can be a decentralised approach to a region, nation, or people group and is not heavily dependant upon trained clergy." (I'm reading a Kindle version so page no.s don't really mean much)
So much of the time and resources in a Conventional church go into keeping it and its structures, both buildings and organisations that it stops the church from actually focusing on its core calling... to make disciples. The church can seem about serving its structure and servicing its services. Pastoral care can become palliative care and chaplaincy rather than..pastoral care... shepherding and leading.
AS I said I have so much invested in the conventional church... One of my big learnings about myself as I head to my 50th birthday is that I have become institutionalised and so used to the conventions of the church that I have lost sight of the big picture. I'm good at preforming... but deep down I know that what makes my heart sing is the people down through my time in ministry who I've invested time into who have become followers of Christ and gone on and been involved in leadership and mission.
At present the denomination I am in here in New Zealand is in the process of a big shake up. With the earthquake in Christchurch we are having a shakeup about buildings. With the economic recession there is a big shake up financially and with declining numbers there is a real shake up that what we are doing just isn't working. Hopefully we are in the process of being shaken awake and willing to look at the possibilities that Cole suggests... Maybe we've been made captive to a Christendom mindset that we are at the center of it all but now we are being shaken and have to think that maybe we are about to have to go underground. Either to death, buried under the rubble of our over complex structures or underground, as in subversive, counterculture a network not an institution, organic not organisational.
I'm not a vodka martini... I don't want to be shaken and not stirred.
This sounds over dramatic I know but at the moment I think I need to wake up from my slumber. These are just thoughts... swirling... disturbing and hopefully somehow opening me up to hear what the spirit has to say. Watch this space.