I’ve posted about this a little before, but it’s on my mind again so we’ll revisit an old subject:
It is an identity shaping choice that must be grappled with by every church and every Christian. Will you focus on maintenance or mission? Will you doggedly fight change and innovation in order to maintain your forms, or will you boldly innovate and change in order to pursue your mission? I received some feedback to the original piece I wrote on this which implied that this was a false choice and that there was a way to pursue both or find a middle ground. I disagree and submit that even when both are supposedly pursued, one is the slave of the other. Slight innovations are “permitted” as long as they don’t radically affect forms or, alternately, loose ties may be maintained to traditions while innovation is “pursued” to accomplish the mission.
I think it becomes a question of what God is actually trying to do and how He works. Does God desire for the things He created to be static and unchanging or does He desire for them to be dynamic and “going somewhere”? In one scenario, God creates a static, perfect world that is supposed to stay the same. We mess that up, so He sets up the church which is to stay the same in the midst of a ruined world. On the other hand, what if God created a “good”, dynamic world that is “loaded with potential”…that was supposed to develop and go somewhere? What if, even though it went off course, God didn’t give up on it? What if God established the church as something that was “good” and loaded with potential? What if it was meant to be dynamic and going somewhere?
I continue to land on “Mission” as opposed to “Maintenance” as the defining characteristic of the church and I continue to assert that these choices are “opposed” to each other. Do you know what you call a living organism when it stops changing? Dead.