Monday, February 27, 2012

Starting Where You Are

Perhaps one of the greatest and simplest inventions of the last century was the map at the mall with the dot that marked the spot where you were standing when you read the map:  “You are here.” On one occasion I thought to myself, “Where else would I be?”  But it does make sense, doesn’t it?  We must start where we are geographically, in time, in life, and in leadership of the church.   It would be foolish to start where you are not!

There have been a number of outstanding books written over the last two decades about the missional church--a church that is “on mission with God” or acknowledges that it is part of the missio Dei.  The most creative and less helpful ones are those that assume that you are either starting a church from scratch or that you are willing to commit ministerial suicide by instituting radical change in an established church in order for it to become missional. 

The most helpful volumes are the ones that are written for those who lead traditional churches that are plateaued, are declining, are seeing a new understanding of what it means to be the church, or lack spiritual vitality.  These books acknowledge that you have members who expect pastoral care, you have to subscribe an annual budget, you have an church building that may need repairs, you have established constituencies within the congregation built on certain interests—music, youth, missions, etc—and that you are dealing with a leadership body that you don’t select—church council, deacons, session, or parish council.

For the most part, I have been part of churches like that.  I participated in one new church start that survived and worked on another that didn’t, but both were rather traditional in their approach to “doing church.”  Therefore, when I write about the church, I am coming out of an established church tradition.  At the same time, I believe that it is possible for such churches to embark on the journey of “becoming missional.”  Whether a church can ever be a truly “missional church” is debatable, but becoming one is a worthy goal and one that any church can work toward if it decides to begin that journey.

I love the church, but I recognize that it is led by and composed of individuals.  These are persons that have accepted the call to be the people of God, but they are still flawed, seeking individuals.  I hope that as I address issues related to the missional journey that my readers will understand that I appreciate the daily challenges involved in “becoming missional” but also the great hope it gives to each congregation.  We look to the stars, but our feet are on the ground.

1 comment:

Eric Spivey said...

I do believe it's possible to lead a traditional congregation to become missional - it simply means it has a different look and feel of a new congregation built from the ground up. Of course, I often wonder what new congregations will look like after 125 years of living and serving together. They will be the traditional churches of their day. Thanks for the words of encouragement today.