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new ways of being church

September 28, 2017

over the last couple of blogs I have talked about Church being the “only ball game in town”, and about how the way we do church being really destructive to our being church. Of course it is easy to rant about all that is wrong, but we need to think about how we do it different, and better.

first place is to think about how we change church being something that makes us focus in on what we are doing, to being something that opens us out into what God is doing. Or to put it a different way how do we move from building (local) church to building the Kingdom?

Alan Scott has helpfully pointed us to an understanding of the parable of the prodigal son to begin to understand how church should position itself in terms of the city (or town/village) where we live. In the parable are three characters: the younger son, the older son and the Father. The younger son takes resources from his father – and in many ways churches take resources from the city. We suck in the time and talents of people who could be making a real difference to the city if only they weren’t so involved in church activities. These churches also suck resources from the city ~ often unwittingly ~ as they ensure that their activities and programmes are funded. The tragedy is that often these programmes are competitors with the city! How often do we ask if we need a church based youth club, mums & toddlers, food programme or whatever. Maybe we should be resourcing the local charity or community group rather than doing our own thing?

The older son takes a position of judgement – condemning his brother for waste and immorality, and condemning his father for acting unfairly. Like the brother churches can set themselves as judge and jury over the way things are done. quick to condemn, quick to campaign against the things that are wrong. But slow to act out the solutions, and slower to make peace and bring reconciliation

last of all comes the Father who shows a generosity to both sons, even though the older son does not accept this. In the same way we can as churches be generous “fathers” to the city. Lending our best people to organise community events, to work for practical solutions to local issues, to find time to befriend the lonely, assist the poor and bring opportunities for the city to flourish.

So my question is – what is your church known for? Is it for it’s fundraising – for putting o great entertainment/events, or is it known for its campaigning – speaking with a moral authority to condemn what is wrong, or is it known as a “go to” resource to make things better in the community.

If we are not known for the last thing – how do we reshape church to give and invest in the community, rather than just competing to be a better church?

Please leave comments and enter the discussion if you have ideas of how we make this happen in our churches!

  1. chris permalink
    September 29, 2017 1:40 pm

    David – there is already an abundance of organisations in society dedicated to feeding the hungry, providing shelter for the homeless, visiting those in prison and healing the sick etc. Generally they are doing it far more effectively than the local church. All too often the local church is no better than a talking shop and if anything, merely adds to division and exclusion in society rather than solving any of its problems.
    Most of these organisations are crying out for more volunteers and financial assistance. They have stepped into the void where the church should stand and are already ‘being jesus’ to those in need. So why not allow the church to continue its death spiral and let those that want to help, take their resources and compassion to any local organisation that they feel an affinity for and join in.
    The church has made itself irrelevant and there are very few that add anything to society by remaining open.

    • September 29, 2017 4:26 pm

      Chris. Thanks for your comments I agree with much of what you have said, not least we should be working with our neighbours in the organisations that exist and nor competing with them. However for the reasons given in part one, why I love the church, I don’t agree that the church is irrelevant nor dying. It is very much the opposite. What needs to die is the way we do and organise church which is shaped pretty much by Constantine and the practices he borrowed when the church was made the official religion of empire.

  2. Chris permalink
    September 29, 2017 8:18 pm

    Well we can agree to disagree on the relevance and vitality of the church.
    If you want to get away from Constantinian inspired practices, Then perhaps the church needs to get away from Theology that shares the same root.
    There are small pockets of people who have taken the time and considerable effort to examine their beliefs, theology, how they read the bible, what they think about god etc and discovered that much of it doesn’t actually stand up to scrutiny. There are fantastic resources out there to help but deconstruction is a painful (but necessary) growth process that very few will actually engage with.
    How often do you hear people really questioning why they think like they do? Or why they believe what they believe? For example, in your first post you say that ‘the church is god’s plan for the universe’ How do you arrive at that statement?
    Who taught you to believe what you believe to be true about god? Why do you believe it?
    Who taught you to read the bible the way you do? Could you discribe your hermaneutic ?most of evangelical christianity has adopted one which is inherently violent and sacrificial, so what results do you expect? Do you get the picture?
    You want things to change, but what are you prepared to change to get there? How safe are your sacred cows?

    • September 29, 2017 8:48 pm

      The changes I advocate take us back to a vibrant pre Constantine church that actually had a mature theology, so this blog isn’t really about deconstruction of theology but rather about the practice of the church. Which is in itself a big enough challenge!

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