Thursday, February 10, 2005

Maintenance or Mission?

Churches and those that lead them face a choice: Will they simply defensively maintain what they have (beliefs, forms, practices, members,etc.) or will we boldly press forward into our mission? Stated another way: Will their current identity define their mission or will their mission define their identity? It seems to me that most choose the first option in both questions.

Even if they don't start out that way, I think most churches end up slipping into defense mode. "We have to keep our current membership!" "We can't raise those kinds of questions!" "We've always done it like that!" "That's a slippery slope!" The problem with that is that I don't see where the revolution that Jesus started was ever intended to be a static, unchanging thing that needed us to defend it.

Perhaps we need to figure out how to weave things like revolution and change back into the fabric of what a church is understood to be. Maybe we need to redefine the identity of our churches from the ground up. Admittedly, that's what keeps me in Youth Ministry. Right now, that's the best strategy I can find for redefining our identity. I can only hope and pray that there are others out there who are trying to raise up a new generation of revolutionary disciples who see church as an ever-changing community on a mission. With teenagers (and the unchurched), paradigms don't have to be shifted, they just have to be formed.


Fajita said...

Museums are an important part of history. They remind us of life as it was, but by no means prescribe life as it should be. They are instructive to be sure, but not authoritative.

Museums are reminders of revolutions of the past, but they an inadequte structures to empower a current revolution or revolutions to come.

We need maintenance churches. They do actually serve an important service. However, we have enough of them right now. No need to plunk down the resources for another museum church - we're saturated with them. Anyone who wants one has his pick.

What we need more of is mission churches. We need to send missionaries into Postmodernica and love the people of this strange land. We must learn their customs, speak their language, and honor their views of authority while giving them the freedom of God.

David U said...

Really good thoughts Adam! Chris's response is a good one, as always. The revolution takes place when people can leave an institutional mindset behind and replace it with a missional or relational one. Easier said that done, huh? Stay the course, brother!


Gabe said...

Obviously I'm biased in some ways because of my connection with Mission Alive and Gailyn Van Rheenen. While I think youth ministry is a commendable to thing to work in when trying to create a paradigm shift in the church, another possible quicker method is to plant new churches where the DNA can be set as Missional. Planting churches that bring people into relationship with Christ and his church can change the paradigm from Maintenance to Mission very quickly, whereas with youth ministry it will take a generation at least.

Phil said...

Gabe, I'd agree with you, but not everyone's geared toward the planting paradigm. You're right, it is a quicker method, but we can't just abandon the established churches either.

Milton Stanley said...

You've explained quite well the dichotomy facing church leaders. I wrote about your article, by the way, at my blog. Peace.

John Schroeder said...

Change perhaps, but "revolution" is a very strong word. Those who are so anxious for change run as much a risk of throwing out good stuff as those afraid of change risk holding on to bad stuff. I did a full post on this here

Anonymous said...

Like Gabe, I also have a particular slant since I'm a church planter with Kairos Church Planting. I thought you described our current dilema very well. We have an emerging generation that needs to hear the Gospel and few churches who are living out mission in order to reach them.