Thursday, December 29, 2005

Maintenance and Mission Revisited

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.


Mike said...

Adam - I actually had a little time today to surf around and read a few blogs for the first time. These past several posts have been excellent. I'm heading toward 50 next summer, and it gives me such great encouragement to read stuff like this from guys who are so much younger. To me, the "missional" focus that you've written about and the perspectives of N. T. Wright aren't just passing fads. They are an invitation to enter the world of "mere Christianity": following Jesus into this world that God deeply loves. Keep writing, brother. Mike Cope

Adam said...

Thanks for the encouragement Mike. Your work has had a profound influence in my life. Thanks for all you've done and all you are doing.

Brennan T. Hughes said...

Great job on your eschatology paper, Adam. I really enjoyed it. In the last section, you talked about a new kind of Restorationism, which is a theme I'll be writing about over at Piercing the Membrane in the next couple of days.

I'm also right with you on the maintenance vs. mission question. The fallen world operates on the principle of entropy, and this even works on the spiritual plane, hindering us from changing our momentum when situations call for it.

Keep up the good work!

Agent X said...


As a fellow reader and enthusiast of N.T. Wright, and fellow inheriter of the Stone-Campbell restoration heritage, I am thrilled to find such in a fellow blogger. I traced you down by viewing profiles that read Wright.

Good blog. I will visit again. Keep up the good work.

Matt Wilson said...

Before I went this week on my trip to New Orleans with some adults, high school students, and college students I was thinking that if we continue to bless the kingdom of God, God will bless us and our ministries. After spending a week mucking out houses, putting up dry wall, hearing the stories, and praying with the hurting and confused, I am totally convinced that God calls us to be the mission. I think you put it so perfectly by saying that if we try to balance, one still rules over us (in most cases the maintenance becomes the dominant trait). Personally, I think it's all about being the hands and feet of Jesus.