Over the last few days an interesting discussion has been taking place on the yahoo ‘reframe’ list concerning this thing called ’emerging missional church’. My friend and co-worker Geoff has posted his thoughts on his blog.
Funnily enough my thoughts are quite different – yet we both live and operate in similar ways…
Here’s my post:
Words are very slippery.
As an ex phys ed teacher I often wondered what I would call my kids because after 10 years of teaching so many names had come to have such negative connotations… there is no way I would ever call a boy ‘Derek’, after the Derek I taught few years back.
Reality is you may like Derek as a name. I don’t. I’m not sure I ever will”
When it come to words to describe things I think they do matter, but the meaning or nuances we attach to words depends so much on our experience and understanding of them.
Up until a few weeks back I wouldn’t have given you two bob for the term ’emerging missional church’, as it seemed to have such a vague meaning. I have always been content to describe our work as ‘missionaries in our own backyard’, however the more I have pondered the term EMC the more it sits very well with me.
Emerging – this was the bit I really didn’t like, but” now I actually hope I am always part of the ’emerging’ church – the church that is constantly adapting and taking stock of where it is at. If we are a missionary people then that is an imperative because the world is always shifting. I hope that I will be the 85 year old guy at church who supports the changes the young 50 year old pastor wants to bring in even if I don’t always understand them, because I appreciate the fact that the world changes and we need to adjust our stance too if we are to engage with it.
I hope any church I lead (I’m ok with ‘leadership’ as a word too J) will be constantly ’emerging’. I sense that the moment we stop emerging we ossify. So from seeing it as a ‘nothing’ word I have actually come full circle. I also like its earthing in emergence theory, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergence ) with a sense of something coming together that is from the people and not orchestrated from above.
Missional – again this is a difficult word because it’s the ‘in’ word. Everybody is missional now – even if they’re not. But as one who feels his specific calling is to be a ‘missionary’ in Australia its simply an adjective for who I feel I am. (And yes, missionary is a word with heavy baggage too!)
In my experience it doesn’t have the same ‘combative’ tones Geoff mentioned, but perhaps that’s where our paths have differed. Or maybe it’s also that I view and approach mission in a different way? (Then again maybe we don’t – but the word resonates differently for us)
If mission is sharing God’s love with the world then let’s be missional churches – we can’t not be. I sense for some that ‘missional’ with an intentional edge to it feels abrasive or intrusive. However Jesus was the one who came to ‘seek and save what was lost’ – a very intentional act, the one who sent the disciples out in twos to preach the kingdom of God etc. And if Paul or the early apostles are any kind of models, then intentional strategic mission (with a very pointy end sometimes) has some strong roots in scripture.
Church – so” this is also a loaded word, but again I am for redeeming it rather than ditching it. As the body of Christ – his representatives here on earth we are ‘the church’. (I appreciate Geoff’s take on this, but I also see other images of the body throughout scripture.)
Again I have had very positive experiences of church all thru life and have developed great love for ‘the church’. I sense part of my own calling is to be about developing expressions of church that resonate with the people in my neighbourhood and in that I am very content.
Actually as ‘Upstream Communities’ in Brighton, we see ourselves very clearly as a missionary team – much like any overseas mission team – there to do mission and see indigenous faith communities develop. If the EMC is simply about funky new ways to do ‘post-modern’ church then I’ll pass on it. ‘Funky’ churches don’t produce disciples of Jesus Christ any more than meat and two veg churches.
Hopefully as those of us who are exploring new ways of doing mission express ourselves in different ways we will discover healthy ways to make authentic disciples of Jesus. That’s gotta be the end game.
So”all these words sit well with me and they are an accurate description of my experience.
Will we ever find words that fit perfectly our lives and experiences?
I doubt it!
So while it definitely matters what words we choose, we also need to simply step back and appreciate that words that resonate with you may not with me and vice-versa.