I actually have a heap to say but have been buzzing around the country like the proverbial blue arsed fly for the last few weeks, so the blog has taken something of a back seat. Get ready for a post deluge…
I have just returned from a very valuable and productive 3 days in Melbourne meeting with the Forge National Team. Our job was to begin the process of re-examining everything we do and re-evaluating it in light of the fact that Forge is now 11 years old and in a new phase of its life cycle. We are no longer the new kid on the block and our message is now ‘out there’ and infecting the mainstream.
With Hirschy no longer physically present I am aware that there have been questions raised of whether the Next Gen leaders have the ability to sustain and keep developing the movement, or if Forge will fade into insignificance along with many other good ideas that ran their course but relied heavily on a dominant personality to give them life.
There is no question that Alan is a phenomenal thinker/practitioner and has been the catalyst for some radical shifts in thinking in the Oz church, however if the energy in the room over the last few days was anything to go by then Forge is alive and kicking and as potent as ever. FWIW, we regularly do ask the question ‘has our time come?’ ie. ‘Have we done our job and need to disband and get on with something else?’, because we don’t want to be a tired lame institution that is simply propped up by a sense of longing for the olden days, but at this stage that time still seems like a long way off.
When people ask if our job is done, we only have to look around to see how many churches are genuinely operating with a missional incarnational (MI) paradigm. Many have aspects of ‘incarnationality’ (is that a word?…) present, but it is not the undergirding philosophical and theological framework from which most operate.
We agreed that the concept of MI is out there and has definitely been listened to by a wide range of people. In places the language has been adopted (and sometimes co-opted) but we are a long way from seeing a dominant shift in praxis.
While we did work on the issues of purpose, mission, identity and outcomes the purpose of our time together was anything but forming a ‘document’. A document is as useless as tits on a bull if the people present don’t know and own its content and then live it out with passion. What value about our team is that there is no shortage of sharp clear thinking and no one feels shy about offering their thoughts.
In his book ‘Good to Great’ Jim Collins writes that the best teams are where people can ‘go hard’ in the meeting room and yet still love each other and enjoy time together outside. I think that describes us pretty well. Forge national meetings are no place for the faint hearted, but by the same token when the day is ended we seem to party very well together also.
The last few days were significant especially because it was the first national team meeting where Al wasn’t present. It was our time to own more deeply the things we have been speaking of and living out, or it was our time to lose our way and wander off down a dogleg. I think it is a testament to Al’s ability to embed the DNA of Forge in each of us that there was actually a lift in the energy of the group as we pondered the new challenges ahead.
We did finish up with a couple of statements, but they aren’t transformative in themselves. What is of value is the conversation and debate we had to form the statements and the sense of shared ownership that emerged from the time we spent.
Our mission statement was “to birth and nurture the missional incarnational church in australia and beyond”, but over the last few days as we grappled with the questions of what we are doing now, we modified it slightly to ‘helping cultivate the missional incarnational church’.
In terms of ‘who we are’, we described ourselves as ‘a network of missionary practitioners who are cultivating leaders for the missional incarnational church’
Ultimately what we hope to see and what we will be working towards over the next period of time is the establishment of a significant number of healthy MI Communities all around Australia either by the establishment of new works or the transformation of current churches.
We have used the word ‘cultivate’ in our mission statement quite intentionally because, like the farmer, we recognise that we can provide the environment and do all the right things, but ultimately the final result is beyond our control.
Anyway, that’s the latest on what is developing with Forge in Oz.
I think we have exciting and challenging times ahead