I have been chewing on this for a while as the language of ‘selling out’ has been used around the place quite a bit lately and I am not sure its always used appropriately.
There have been (quite legitimate) questions raised about whether Forge is selling out by having a national conference, or by working with established churches and denominations. There are questions raised about whether people seeking to experiment and explore with church and mission are selling out by continuing to allow traditional forms to exist side by side new expressions.
I thought it might be helpful to offer my own reflections on this issue, partly because I am often a target of the comment, but also because I think we need to think clearly about what ‘selling out’ means.
I was speaking with a friend recently who moved to an older established church with the purpose of transitioning it to a missionary community and operating with more of a missional incarnational emphasis. However along the way the church has grown quite considerably as new families have joined and put their roots down. These families now request some level of accommodation to their needs – kids ministry, etc. My friend told me he felt like by seeking to meet these requests he had ‘sold out’. (Note to friend: I realise you are may well be reading this so feel free to correct me if I am wrong in what I heard 🙂 )
I disagreed that the actions he were taking constituted selling out.
I asked him if he was still committed to the original vision and dream. The answer was ‘yes – very much so’. I suggested that along the way we sometimes need to make some compromises to reach the end goal and this is normal in any group. By working with these folks he hasn’t ‘sold out’. He has recognised where they are at and is starting there, rather than expecting them to come to where he is at.
I believe we ‘sell out’ when we stop pursuing our core objectives and allow ourselves to be guided by a) what makes $$$ b) what please others with no regard for the consequences.
My friend is still deeply committed to the same stuff as he when he started – but getting to the destination has proved more tricky than first thought. If he ever tells me that its ‘just easier’ to run a few programs and ‘play the game’ than to pursue the original dream and when he tells me that he can no longer pursue the dream because ‘people are leaving’ or the ‘offerings are down’ then he will have ‘sold out’, because the dream will have evaporated and he will be allowing other factors to shape his actions.
Often in these types of conversations ‘compromise’ is virtually a 4 letter word, but I’d suggest its a word we simply can’t escape if we want to live in reality and work with people. My friend must download rated x free henry poole is here free download make some compromise to take people with him on the journey. Its just good smart leadership.
I believe the key is in knowing what you will not compromise on – and this seems to be the place where disagreement occurs.
As Forge has developed and become more accepted by mainstream churches and as we have run several national conferences and formed partnerships with Bible colleges we have been accused of ‘selling out’.
Some of what is happening is a movement becoming more organised and more recognised / legitimate. Some of it is healthy growth. Some of it certainly does open us to the genuine questions of priorities and direction. But its way too easy to throw the language of ‘selling out’ around just because someone isn’t conforming to your own expectation of how things should be.
But having sat around the room with the Forge national team and having debated for several days the essence of our core business, I am very confident that we have not lost the ‘cultivation of the missional incarnational church’ as our burning passion and driving energy.
Once we get to the place of not rocking the boat because colleges will cut our fees, or when we run conferences because we need $$$ to survive, or when we never critique church structures for fear denominations will sideline us and dry up our funds – then we will have sold out.
But to call running conferences, working with denominations and established churches ‘selling out’ is simply not accurate. There is no question that in all of this there is an element of compromise and a danger of losing our distinctives.
I have often been asked if I could ever go back to being the leader of a normal church and the answer is a no brainer. Of course I could, but it would be as Andrew Hamilton the missionary, who would lead people on the journey of incarnational mission. If I couldn’t be true to that then there wouldn’t be much point in me being around. I don’t get many invites…
I’m interested to have some decent discussion on this because I get very weary of the comments that seem to show a lack of appreciation for the process of leading people and fail to recognise the place of compromise and well chosen battles as integral to any longer term journey.