Upstream Un-distinctives

As I was writing yesterday I thought it might be helpful for us to remember what we are not seeking to do and become. While I agree its always more helpful to describe something in the positive, I thought it might be worthwhile to also describe who we are not and why we have made those choices.

So, at the risk of offending some of you here are our ‘un-distinctives’, the people we hope we don’t become…

As upstream communities we are not:

• Concerned with developing a large and attractive Sunday meeting. For many churches this is a significant priority as a means of attracting people (often existing Christians) into attendance. There are plenty of these kinds of churches around suburbia and we don’t feel we need more of them. We believe discipleship tends to happen more effectively in up close relational settings and that larger gatherings, while inspiring at times, do lend themselves to a passive consumerist mentality.

• Aiming to employ full time pastoral staff. We will intentionally travel light with any role that requires financial support, as history has shown a tendency for church members to shrink back and allow ‘experts’ to do ministry once trained and paid clergy are involved. We believe everyone is capable of serving and we don’t want the community to be dominated by one paid person.

• Looking to invest our financial resources in buildings. We will use homes and local facilities as required, but we will not seek to develop a dedicated worship centre. We believe the enormous dollars required for such a venture could be better spent elsewhere.

• Seeking to depend on programs for our community connections and gospel presentations. leatherheads divx download We place a high priority on a personal commitment to genuine relationships and see these as the primary way to connect with people and to communicate the gospel message.

• Wanting to complicate things. The biblical images of church are simple and organic – family, flock, body, but over the years we seem to have come to view church as a corporation with complex organisational structures and CEOs as leaders. We are not seeking to deny the reality that church is both organism and organisation. But to avoid getting caught up with elaborate organisational structures, we will seek to ensure that we are a network of smaller self sustaining, multiplying communities who can operate with minimal structural support.

• Seeing church as a product to be marketed but as a community to be encountered. Generally speaking we will not seek to promote ourselves in the community as a way of attracting new ‘customers’.

• Seeking to establish a parallel universe. For some time now churches have sought to offer Christian versions of secular activity. We would choose to get involved in local activity rather than creating our own sub-culture.

• Suggesting we have found the perfect way to do church. We are an experimental group who do want to provide an alternative to the current dominant expression of church. Because of that we want to be free to change and adapt as needed rather than developing a larger, less fluid structure.

So… none of this is a dig at anyone out there ‘having a go’ in a more typical church expression. But it does give a description of who we see ourselves as not aspiring towards.

One thing I am increasingly conscious of is the power of the current form of church in our imagination. We have been so dominated by one expression of church that it is hard for anyone, including those of us experimenting, to actually think any different.

So, feel free to make comments and ask questions.

Much of what I write is a ‘work in progress’ and open to critique and reforming if necessary.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *