Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Forgotten Ways - part 3

“How will we ever find a better cure if at each critical moment we always opt for the traditional treatment?” ~Alan Hirsch

Hirsch and many others (including myself) often find themselves thinking about how we (the church) are actually further away from “getting the job done” than we were at the end of the third century. By getting the job done I mean Jesus’ great commission. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

If you skipped that last quote because you’ve already heard that a million times go back and read it. I included the first and last sentence that most leave out on purpose so that you would see that they key here is Jesus. It is not about the work that we are doing. It is bookended by the fact that this is something Jesus will be leading. This is vastly important to everything the church does.

The point here though, is that we ask the question, “why are we further away from getting the job done?” Yet we fail to question our “mode of the churches engagement” as Hirsch puts it. He says that we typically aim at adding or developing new programs. This is just a surface level issue. Hirsch paints this picture more clearly for us by saying that when Apple Computers want to continue to progress their technology they do not simply create newer better programs. In fact they rarely do this at all. Instead, they rethink the operating system and the hardware. If they get this right, then they may think about developing new programs, but they largely lead the programming up to their customers! Thus, the app store.

The church could learn a lot from Apple. If we can get the hardware (mode) and operating system (leadership structure) right, the people will do the programming. And they will do it for free because they love the result. Just ask Wikipedia about that. Or Google. Or Firefox… you get the idea. They will become more engaged and passionate about this work than anything else. This is because God made us in his creative image.

“Far too long historians have accepted the claim that the conversion of the Emperor Constantine caused the triumph of Christianity. To the contrary, he destroyed its most attractive and dynamic aspects, turning a high-intensity, grassroots movement into an arrogant institution controlled by an elite who often managed to be both brutal and lax.” As soon as Constantine sought to control the church and handed the reigns to highly paid educated men, the Church ceased to be a movement of Jesus followers and became an institution of spectators.

According to Barna in 2001 there were 111 million US Christians without a local church. This number is much higher 10 years later. This should cause us all to question our mode of church. If the Christians don’t even want to be a part of it, why should anyone else?

No amount of candles, perfect music, entertaining sermon or drama will bring the lost to your church. “I therefore present the same challenge here to the emerging church and the established church: if you don’t want to be another church fad, don’t just make the service and spirituality suit a postmodern audience, start at another place – put the M[issional] in the equation first, the E[merging] C[hurch] will follow.”