I have several friends who recently planted new churches. They have had their own set of challenges inherent to that endeavor. I, however, chose to want to be an asset to a church that was already existent and was wanting to move toward changing: more missional in focus and more organic in building structure. So here I am, and I am really enjoying it most of the time.
Last night I attended a meeting of a taskforce designed to help the area churches of my denomination to reach some consensus about what to do with 6 acres of land in south Meridian. The land is part of a larger parcel, which will be the location of senior housing of different sorts. This smaller 6 acre plot is being held open for other new ministry possibilities and the churches are participating in a task force to determine what might that look like.
While all this is exciting, I also found that the challenges of more traditional minded Lutherans and ideas about “non-traditional” type outreach which some of us were espousing, weren’t that distantly separated as I once thought. Sure the immediate responses and the apparent and stated differences in goals, over time and dialogue demonstrated themselves to not be so far apart after all. We all get used to doing ministry in a specific way and with specific perameters, the challenge comes in when we encounter folks who aren’t so set on staying in those normal patterns. Then we have a decision: how will I respond to this person and their ideas.
On the other side, as one pushing the normal and acceptable boundaries, the challenge over here is to not disount the passion with which these others want to represent Christ and not to assume that they will be unable to make the switch. They may be unable to make the switch completely, but what will they offer to the overall outreach we are attempting to follow God’s leading into? that is an important question.
The other important question is all about interpretation. Yes there are so many unchurched folk in our area, and more coming. But the question I return to is “Why are they unchurched”? Is it because they don’t have any type of religious or spiritual belief system? Is it because they are atheists? Is it because they don’t have a church that they could attend in the area? I think the answer to all of these is “no”. Is it because there appears to be no practical or compelling reason to be involved in a faith community? Is it because we are part of a post-christian nation, where the assumptions that people need church are called into question? Possibly. I am not so sure that I have the or an answer for this question, but I do believe that it is the question that we need to be asking and allowing what we discover to shape us, at least in some degree and in expression.
What I do know is first, we need to stop distrusting each other and be open to hear and consider new ideas and options, as well as have the traditional perspective help shape some of that brainstorming. Secondly, we need to ask the “w” questions: why are the people around us unchurched? why do we not have more practical outreaches into our communities? Who is missing from our communities? Where do they congregate? What ways could we be a gift to people outside of our church, with no strings attached?
These and other questions drive me.