Lead the church back into the world
This is the fifth and final part in a series on Where the Sprit Leads by Archdeacon Emeritus Canon Arnold Hollis of St James Church, Sandys.
The Reformation was about freeing the Church. The new reformation is about freeing Gods people from the church (the institutional church). The initial reformation was about the church, the new reformation is about mission.
The new Reformation is drawing energy from an information reformation. The result is that the church members no longer have to rely on clergy for information about theology or Christian activity in the world. Congregations that help followers of Jesus live abundant and missional lives understand the new reformation.
Many church members have come to see spiritual gift inventories as a recruiting tool for the nominating committee and church staff to use in mining church members to fill church jobs. We know only too well the stress and worry about filling key positions such a treasurer, youth leaders and leaders for many positions in the church. It is stressful for me to place a nomination sheet in the Church for a whole month in respect of choosing Wardens and Vestry and then to find that the Sunday before the AGM no one had placed a single name on it, and, then to see nominations incomplete on the very day of the AGM. We are seeing the end of church culture and the emergence of kingdom growth. We clergy are lacking in the understanding of the significant shift in how people are making decisions about how they will spend their lives.
In the work-a-day world, people are portfolio managers, and business is coming to realise that they do not own the workers; they rent them. Knowledge workers dont work for their company. The company works for them, allowing them to enhance their portfolio skills and talents.
What are the implications for the church? People dont want the church making decisions for them about their personal resources or mission. They dont work for the church. Hence the failure of the church to attract ministers. We lament often the fact that the Anglican Church is not producing ordinands for Holy Orders. Why? Church members dont want to do what they see many ministers doing. Meaning, they dont see much of Jesus, the Carpenters Son in what they are about. On the one hand when they see ministers being where the action is, helping people, turning lives around, partnering with Gods work in the world, they line up. On the other hand, too many church members see clergy as professional ministers who have been cranked out by the church industry to manage church stuff. They have not been exposed to church leaders who are leaders of a movement.
The Anglican Church missed out on the most precious gift of Jesus at the Faith Venture 2009, for the good Lord handed to us on a platter a call to lead a movement - Where the Lord Leads. We should have left the Arboretum and followed the Lord to where his aching, hungry, and longing souls were hanging out. Instead we patted ourselves on the back feeling that the Church had pulled off a pretty nice event. Oh! How my heart aches over the missed opportunity that was ours to have walked with Jesus.
The church industry
Let us look back at the Church Industry. There arent many would-be ministers or leaders who would put up with a lot of the stuff that we take from church members and ecclesiastical authorities. Many lay people see ministers roles as the complaint department for disgruntled club members who want to be catered to. Often we ministers lead the procession in the complaints department. Church members who want to live missional lives dont want to be captured by the same concerns of club members that tie up their staff ministers. This is why so many of our church members seek out and attend Bible Study groups from other grassroots evangelistic church groups, often shunning the very study groups we put together.
Clergy are not without blame in this matter. There are some unhealthy caregivers in ministry who are often so needy for approval themselves that they allow their boundaries to be violated by would-be enablers and church members. They refuse to release ministry to the John Marks of today and able lay people because they would then lose their identity.
Some are CONTROLLERS who search for status under the guise of being caring servants. Some have entered ministry largely for their own needs, and then complain when those needs arent being met. They have a tendency to manipulate and subvert and instill in the church club members from other congregations, ideas and behaviours that are detrimental to other church caregivers in the hope of enhancing their own importance as church facilitators and trusted advisors.
One aspect of ministry about which I feel we are all guilty is our great desire to get high-powered lay people involved in church jobs. We have thought that offering them church jobs would entice them to be involved. Of course, this flies in the face of the idea that God has gifted people only for church jobs, and that others are not necessarily gifted to be part of his redemptive mission in the world. From time to time, as I did during the Lenten season, I pause to point out to my church family that every one of them sitting in front of me is gifted and can be used by God for bringing others into the Kingdom. Our theme for our 2010 Lenten programme was Building Bridges between Church and Community.
How do we turn Members into Missionaries? Life in the church bubble warps ones vision down to the size of ones church. People are discovering that there is life beyond the church.
God took a beating in the modern world. Throughout the modern centuries, God has been systemically taken out of circulation and increasingly relegated to religious ceremony and social club events.
The approach to spirituality in the modern church has been to adopt the worlds educational model. Sunday School reflects the basic assumption that the path to Christian maturity involves the acquisition of biblical information. Graduation from Confirmation Classes in many church traditions largely has to do with the ability to sign off on certain doctrinal positions. If you pass the test, youre in. Faith, in the modern world, is about intellectual assent, not belief in the biblical sense.
The Post-modern World
An honest search for God today would lead the Church back into the world. Room for God is growing in the postmodern world. The names of scientists who believe in creationism is on the rise. Post-moderns are wildly spiritual. It is a spiritualism that reflects a hunger for meaning and connectedness.
Redemption in postmodernism is about loving others and serving others. The cross is the symbol of brokenness. Brokenness is what unites people in the postmodern world. Just when the church began building, the culture began a search for sacred space. The problem is that when people come to Church to find God, they often encounter a religious club holding a meeting where God is conspicuously absent. Culture, desperate for God, comes to church after every single crisis. They are in search of sacred space and sacred connectedness. Instead of dumping a packet of club membership stuff on them, why not interview them about what they would like to see happen in their lives in terms of their spiritual development and personal growth? The church needs to provide life coaching for people. We need to view this as spiritual formation. We have assumed that if people come to church often enough, they will grow. Part of spiritual formation of followers of Jesus should involve helping them know how to introduce Jesus into conversations and be able to pass along pertinent insights to people who are being drawn to God.
How do we plan for the future? The better approach to the future involves prayer and preparation, not prediction and planning. God wants his people to pray and to prepare for his intervention. Spiritual preparation has the goal of getting Gods people in partnership with him in his redemptive mission in the world.
Effective congregations keep score and they play to win. The reason for much burnout, lack of commitment, and low performance in our churches among staff and members is directly related to the failure to declare the clear results we are after. This often results in our energies being directed to setting our goals at carrying out spiritual janitorial work as opposed to missional activities in search of the Kingdom and of leading others into that Kingdom.
Let us be mindful of the phenomenon we are seeing in our times and, that is, that spiritual hunger is fuelling an awakening to God, and most of us do not know what to do about it because we are stuck in the Church in Jerusalem.
Authors note: I have been privileged to have shared some of my innermost thoughts with you, and by the grace of God, through you to the wider community through The Royal Gazette. I am pleased that they have been interested enough to have printed each session word-for-word. I trust that they will find this last segment of the series worthy of gracing their columns. My thanks to the editor of the section of the newspaper in which the segments appeared. My thanks to people in the community and people including leaders from other denominations who have been moved by the series, and who have called to tell me so.
I thank Father Carl Williams to whom I had given a copy of the paper to read after one of his sessions in Faith Exploration. He told members of that study group and together they convinced me to lead the seminar. Just remember, the job is not done; it has only begun. Now it is up to all of us to follow where the Spirit Leads.
Fellow Citizens of the Kingdom of God, we have heard the cry from the Somerset Cricket Club to come over and help. Please stand by for the Call to follow Where the Spirit Leads on Sunday, July 22nd for a morning gathering of the People of God. Join us there and then.
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