Wineskins Part 2

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!

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10 Comments

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  1. Absolutely agree!

    One really good way of finding out whether as a church we “understand ourselves as missionaries” is to look at the church accounts. No Seriously!
    Most established Churches (at least in my experience) spend far more on maintenance (buildings, activities for members, staff who serve members) than on Mission. This reflects where are true priorities are rather than where we say they are – and it is a big challenge to how we can be Mission focused. It prompts the question, finding answers requires humility and radical choices.

    But it can be done, one baptist church in Dundee took the radical step of giving their building away – Yes GIVING it away. to a charity (Signpost International) which now runs it as a community facility. The building now hosts a new church plant alongside other community activities, That ticks both the Mission and the love our neighbour boxes!

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    • I agree that too much of the offering is often attributed to buildings and wages, and interestingly, initially the offering was for the poor. It’s been said a lot of times and to hear of a church taking such a radical step of faith is fantastic and exciting.

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  2. This is a very good thread of ideas and views – nicely kicked off by Ian, so well played for doing that

    I think there may be all sorts of facets to the ‘church moving on’ general debate. I reckon the bottom line in a lot of cases is this: God is so big and unimaginable, a particular genre or framework can’t possibly convey all He is. It can convey aspects of His nature and dealings with mankind, but in reality only scratch the surface of the whole picture. So where God sees other aspects of Himself that need to be conveyed, a ‘new thing’ starts. The classic old sermon theme of ‘you can’t put God in a box’

    I’d point at church music/praise & worship styles as an area to think about…….I believe its quite right and proper for new stuff to emerge in this area as time and local society create the need for the church to reveal things in a different way; not in an [all dominating style way] but in an [additional style way].
    However, I have seen both existing and new styles in this area insist ‘we are where God is at’ to the exclusion of any other. I think thats wrong.

    I cringe at those who insist on only singing from the Sankey hymnal, just as I cringe at those who insist on only singing the current ‘new thing’. Both good, I’m sure, but just because God uses it, it doesn’t mean He won’t use something else. Better, I’d say, to be open to both and even all styles. Harder to do, I’d say, as one becomes comfy in a particular style. I really hope I don’t hark on (like some do) about old worship books in the future, as if they were the best God could offer – I remember many already, mostly fondly, and thats because God used them. But He also has new stuff for me and I look forwards to that…..

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    • It’s a sad fact that for some, the style of worship is the measure of spiritual maturity.

      More tragic still that people would use worship to lure people into church.

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  3. Ian,

    Don’t know if this completely fits, but these are my thoughts right now.

    When you mention the inherited church for some reason it sparked the idea of entitlement. I have experienced an issue with this. One of the things I have seen is a real problem between appointed leadership and anointed leadership. I have seen that some who have put in the time and schooling and get a degree and then get appointed to a leadership position because of that are not comfortable with leaders who are anointed by God to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, or teachers. It seems that we have set up a system where someone who is in an appointed leadership role must be the most gifted and most knowledgeable person to keep that position. There is a challenge to their entitled position. Along with that we have elevated agreement in doctrine above relationship so if the anointed leader does not agree completely they are considered dangerous. FYI – I am not saying that every appointed position is not anointed, so chill.

    So for me, I think we need to elevate unity in the faith above agreement in doctrine establishing a culture of honor and grace as well as an environment where people can safely practice and grow in their giftings and calling.

    Separate note – I have seen a pattern in some church planting movements to just be a new form of cool and hip entertainment. That just defers the problem to a different generation.

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  4. see-through faith May 4, 2011 — 5:38 am

    It doesn’t only happen to young people Ian. When a person is revived God starts to pour His Spirit (and they are able to receive it) in a new way – that brings transformation – but also new ideas and hopes and visions for the Christian life

    can the old inherited church take it on board? Not usually. Because institutions change terribly slowly

    you use the term “this Spirit-led movement of young people” key in that is the word MOVEMENT. History shows that movements have an impetus for change … the sowing of new … but when a plant really takes root it is no longer as fluid or able to MOVE and change … and inevitably the Spirit’s outlet is those on the margins /edge those who are dis-satisfied with the status quo

    but my point is it’s not only young Sprit-led people whose ideas and nudges are not accepted by the institutional/inherited church!

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    • I was merely mentioning one common story. I do hope you didn’t feel forgotten!

      I would want to push back on that sentiment that the ‘Spirit’s outlet is on those in the margins’.

      A few questions:

      1. How do we know the Spirit has been at work?
      2. Where do we most clearly see good, lasting fruit?
      3. Are all church plants doomed to eventual death?

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      • GCSE answers….

        1. When lives have been visibly changed

        2. In the past

        3. No

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      • Well here’s the A-Level.

        Have you ever seen anyone acting in Christlike love in the traditional church? (1 Corinthians 12:31)

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      • I love it when people get a worse grade in a subject at A level than at GCSE! Like an A GCSE followed by U at A level…..

        So, a good A level answer would look at both sides of the coin, even where there’s only one side in the question (eg its a bit loaded Ian!)

        Yes, I have seen plenty of people acting with Christlike love, displaying one or more fruits of the spirit in what you would see as a traditional church. Week by week. I have also seen this in ‘fresh expressions’ of church.

        The other side of the coin…….I have seen plenty of people failing to live up to our high calling, displaying the exact opposite of fruits of the spirit, in what you would see as ‘fresh expressions’ of churches. Week by week. I have also seen this in what you would see as a traditional church.

        To me, its all about being real, day by day, week by week. Preferably in a fellowship where people feel thats a good way to be. Perhaps easier to find in a ‘new’ church but pretty difficult anywhere long term. So I don’t really buy a link between the freshness (style, denomination etc etc) of a church and how God can move in it – easy to see this open reality, or lack of it, anywhere in the greater body of Christ.

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