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.
“sold out” isn’t a word would use of forge. this notion comes from a sense of being unfaithful to your core beliefs and there has been no indication of this from where I’m sitting.
what i wonder however is whether forge’s position is changing in the wider Body landscape – this is not a negative thing.
I think that the message forge has been carrying for a number of years is less “offensive” to many mainline denominations, than it was when it started out. forge has continued to gain more credibility as the years continue, and as more dialogue happens between people from different parties.
therefore, i wonder if the early position of “prophet in the desert” has begun to morph into one of the “welcome disciples at the table”. like i said – this isn’t a bad thing.
i guess this peaks my interest in who may raise up to fulfill that edgey, prophetic, outcast-type role the church has always needed to keep it grounded and reflecting honestly on itself.
i remember one of the first times I heard Hirschy speak – he talked about the nature of all living things being to find equilibrium, and how the points of most challenge and risk is always on the fringes, whereas the most balance and routine and safety is found towards the core. I simply think forge has moved quite naturally towards being a recognised part of the core of the Body (or has the core started moving towards the fringe thus creating a new fringe???)
this isn’t criticism, rather commentary of perceived reality from my particular point of view (which may or may not be worth 2c)
In the Anglican church in Perth you just have to be evangelical to be an “edgey, prophetic, outcast-type”
I have to go and eat my locasts and wear my sack cloth.
Any fringe dwelling prophet without love is just making a nasty clanging noise.
As someone comitted to working with an existing church that is seeking to be more in line with Jesus’ model of mission, I/we are extremely grateful that Hamo and the Forge crew are willing to help us imagine and act.
Sold out to what? Jesus called the pharisees a brood of vipers, yet spent a fair amount of time teaching and serving in the temples, as well as out in the streets and houses of the people.
I hope I will always sell out my plans and dreams to better fulfil God’s.
BTW – I should add that this isn’t written with anyone in particular in mind, but it is an attempt to address what i think is an important and recurring question.
Matt – I think we need to keep looking to those who are in the fringe places, but my guess is that we may not like what they say or do!
Chances are they will critique my way of following Jesus and I will feel threatened.
I only hope I have enough grace and discernment to listen and learn from those who God may use to shape the next leg of the journey.
They will likely be younger than ‘me’, may not like ‘me’ and may even want to rid the world of people like ‘me’!
I think that there are people on both sides of the fence who believe theirs is the only expression of church. Remember it is Christ’s Church and we are called to be faithful to Him.
I have felt called or pushed out of traditional style of church and yet recently it seems God has directed me back into a largish church. I will continue to seek to introduce others to an incarnational approach to mission as that is what I am passionate about.
I think I once said to you Hamo that I pray that all my congregation did what you guys are doing in Butler.
I dont think there is sides so how can we “sell out” apart from loosing the vision of being incarnational in our communities.
I guess the issue is whether we or (anyone for that matter) remain true to our core beliefs or whether we give up because we find it too hard, not enough $$ etc.
The mere words ‘selling out’ have such a disparaging tone to them that I hesitate to apply them to anyone.
Perhaps cricket in the early 80’s was a good example – as is the current Indian cricket comp.
The only people who have sold out are those who do it simply for the money and who don’t give a rip about cricket any more.
No doubt there are still plenty who love cricket, but maybe there are some who just want a quick buck
Nicely put. I think Jason Calrk’s recent re-post of his critique of emerging churches is appropriate here: http://jasonclark.ws/2006/10/13/whats-rightwrong-with-the-emerging-church/
From my perspective it sounds like you are sharing not selling. The money changers in the temple were selling not sharing.
You have no idea how timely this post is for me. Thanks. I am firmly convinced of living the missional life, but I am facing a few opportunities right now that will allow me to better provide for my family while helping more people live on mission. However, it might require me to “compromise” some of my missional values. So I am trying to decide if taking these positions and joining with this denomination would cause me to “sell out.”
It’s a natural part of any organisation to change. You say Forge is undergoing a period of becoming more organised etc.
I remember being part of Christian Surfers with a National Conference theme of “Growing Up”. The National Leadership realised that in order to further their impact they had to change.
The other thing that I think is important to realise is Forge is not a homogenous unit. If your mission is to further the mission of the church (or words to that effect) then you will have a variety of people involved and connected. Within that hopefully will be some right on the fringes doing crazy stuff that I (or you) don’t agree with, along with people working in the centre.
I do find it ironic that a portion of our national gatherings involve sitting in a auditorium listening to someone talk. This year there was an emphasis on other ways of imparting knowledge, so it’s not just about listening.
I don’t know a better way to do that. I would also add that the venue chosen was fantastic and the Life Expedition people are doing a great thing in Melbourne. I found myself inspired by the little I heard of them and it was better than just hiring any hall/church/auditorium.
One more thing. As long as you are aware of the possibility of selling out, then you can guard against it.
Yeah I agree Gaz.
I guess I use forge as an eg because its close to home, but I am more concerned about how we see the notion of ‘selling out’.
I really think we misunderstand it when we see any compromise as evil.
A constant focus on the goal is the key – a few strategic navigational moves along the way is often the different between actually getting there and just finishing up cynical!
And I’m sure that where you are now you will have to make your fair share of compromises 🙂
As an outsider to the whole Forge movement, Gaz’s comments about ‘Forgesong’ 🙂 are interesting.
Does it send a double message when, in appearance to an outsider at least, your conference appears to have many of the same elements as other, more ‘normal’ church conferences have? Is it not true that one of your values is learning in community, and not having the whole ‘paid speaker’ thing happening? Or have I got that wrong?
Btw, in answer to your original question, I dont think working with a whole variety of churches is selling out, I think it is being wise. If you really believe in what you are doing, you should be prepared to work with whoever will work with you to spread the gospel.
I agree with your assertions Hamo, the very words ‘selling out’ almost define themselves…to sell means to trade something in, usually for money. So to sell out would, logically, mean trading in something that had been of worth for the money, rather than keeping what is of worth.
I love the fact that Forge is working closely with more established churches. If Forge truly believes (and I think they do) that church needs to change for us to reach 21st Century Christians, then they need to be partnering WITH Churches to help them see that. So many Christians within established churches don’t even KNOW there is any other way of doing church, how would they learn or grow in these ways if Forge refused to work in partnership with churches?
I love what Forge is doing and feel strongly that part of my future is going to be in the gap between established church and forge type thinking. I want to see more Christians getting out of the pews and into the mission field, our backyard. But to do this I feel I need to work within established circles, opening their eyes to the world on our doorstop.
Keep up the good work!
Selling Out doesn’t relate to compromising on structures – it’s about compromising on principles.
Has the Forge organisation compromised it’s principles?
Hamo – have you compromised your principles?
Frankly I think your connections to established churches is what stops you from selling out and I think that is the best way to go. Better to be moored to a rock than floating adrift (bad analogy I know) – just pick good rocks. Like Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Alexandria…
Although, that suggests that established Churches are more ‘grounded’ than non-established ‘churches’ (big C, small c thing again).
I would agree that Hamo’s connection with both forms of church is good practice, in that it indicates his capacity to work within both mediums and offers him an opportunity to speak to both about the strengths and weaknesses of the other (informed as opposed to just opinionated).
So – the ‘practice’ is good, but does that automatically make it a good principle?
Maybe a more constructive way of putting things would be to ask the question what has changed in Forge? That with this change has values, practices been compromised?
My association with Forge has been roughly 8 years and there has been significant things that have changed (My experience is Victorian based and I dare say experiences change from state to state).
-Allen and Deb not been around like they once were.
-Some of the main speakers at intensives 8 years ago rarely are seen in Victoria conferences now(Maybe different in other states)
-A lot more interns are getting credits from colleges. (It seems harder to find the person who is doing a missionary project and goes to Forge to put a language to what he is up to. Maybe this is just my wrong perception in Victoria)
-Transition stream in the last 3 years.
-Forge, is a lot more recognized in main stream churches.
-Major conferences like ‘dangerous stories’ are becoming a bit of a ‘highlight’ on the Forge calender.
There are probably more, but just these I think have changed Forge. The core values may not change but those who taste or have full on Forge experience will certainly have a different experience and understanding to what I had 8 years ago.
Personally I think the whole Christolgy=>Missiology=>ecclesiology is bread and butter Hirsch teaching and foundational for
Forge. My concern is Churches jumping on board been ‘missionary flavored’, yet really not been serious about Christolgy=>Missiology=>ecclesiology