Monday, April 21, 2008

Are We There Yet?

I love progress. I would venture to say that as a western thinker I view my past, present and future in terms of progress. My success is typically defined by progress as well as my failures. I enjoy music in a progessional fashion, I play video games with the sole purpose of progressing, and I go to school that I may progress in my education. Sound familiar? Westerners love progress; it is an innate part of our culture and mindset. We see it in our culture through marketing and advertising. (I think marketing and advertising is one of the most applicable arenas to observe our culture.) With messages of "be better at this", "look more like her", or "be more successful like him" we are bombarded by progress. This does not evade the Christian Church either.

In Craig Van Gelder's book The Ministry of the Missional Church: A Community Led By the Spirit, he makes a statement that the missional church will never "arrive." (On a side note: I am at some point going to talk more about Craig's book, but this is not that post. I would recommend it though whole-heartedly.) It is a great deal easier to understand this statement when we understand what missional church means to Craig. To make things short he would say that the missional church is a church that combines missiology (the study of missions) with ecclesiology (the study of church) and then puts the results into practice within its own immediate community.

When Craig says that this church will never "arrive" he is dissuading people who are giving their lives to discipleship and following the discernment of the Holy Spirit within their communities to the facade of progress being complete. Doing church is not about progress and then arriving, it is about participating in what God is doing in one's community daily. This will never cease. Change is inevitable in God's Church. This means that we can never "arrive" and become comfortable. There is no such thing as a final vision for a Church. As people who are seeking to lead the Church we have to assume that God is always at work confirming what we are doing and also changing the direction as well. It is so easy to get caught up in a vision that we are not quick to let go when it is time, or to even listen to the Holy Spirit to see where we should be moving, be it towards or away from an original goal. To close with a statement from pg. 179 of Craig's book he says: "Planned change is typically a process that is ongoing. For a congregation that is being led by the Spirit to engage its context with meaningful ministry, the process of guiding change is usually a continuous responsibility of those who provide leadership for a congregation."
Any thoughts?

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