Yesterday’s discussion was very interesting with a variety of perspectives shared. Church staff who work for old Anglican parishes, young leaders serving in thriving new expressions and several with a very rich experience to discuss.
My own experience is very varied. I presently work for a church plant in it’s infancy, but having previously been a part of mature congregations and have served some very stale churches, perhaps even churches with a dying membership.
Among the various points raised, there was one common story. One main reason many people had started new churches or gotten involved in new initiatives away from inherited churches:
They weren’t welcomed.
Maybe a loving, kind youth worker tells his young people that God has called them to change the world, that God has called them to radical, generation-shaking obedience and holy, Christ-centred joy. As a young person, the Scriptures come to life, they become kindling for a great fire of burning passion for the Kingdom of God. Perhaps a few of those young people want to share this with their church. Mission initiatives. Overseas trips. Worship bands. Prayer nights. Local outreach. The exhilarating feeling of a job well done, of making a difference.
Maybe these young people grow some, maturing and diving deep into Scripture. Devoting themselves to prayer, they become aware of some of the ways their church has lost touch with the community. They want to see their church filled with the same passion they are. They want to show the church how to lovingly serve their neighbours. They have vision for the coming Kingdom in their midst.
Yet their vision is not welcomed. Their desires are undermined and passion extinguished. Creeping cynicism and doubt are the immovable objects in the pews.
Trouble is, this Spirit-led movement of young people is an unstoppable force.
It’s as though God has breathed new life through his church, and the shutters on the windows have been sealed to keep the draft out.
That’s a story I’m not unfamiliar with, and seems to be a common experience amongst my commenters.
Knowing they are called to something, and empowered to do it yet halted in their tracks by the same community which prayed for such an outpouring.
Church Planting, then, becomes necessary for an entire community of emerging leaders to know the fulfilment of their calling.
It is sad.
It is as though Christ stood at the door of the Church knocking, but they would not invite him in, thinking they were fine (Revelation 3:15-22).
Perhaps that’s too strong an indictment, but it could be a sobering pause for thought.
It is clear that this divide is far from ideal. One or two proposed the notion of twinning churches. This is nothing new! Many of the historic denominations formed around frontier mission, to resource and support efforts to pioneer church engagement with new cultures.
Could such a joining be possible in our day? Have you seen this happen?
The missionary field is now our own doorstep. Is it not time we shifted our perspectives to think of our home towns, even local congregations, as unreached territory?
And for those who are committed to their inherited church, what would be different in your home church if you understood yourselves as missionaries, not merely supporters?
Let’s talk about this!