Yesterday the latest edition of PRAC magazine
arrived at my home and as I read it I felt great hope and synergy
PRAC is a publication of Crossover download storm warning dvd that old feeling online download , an Australian Baptist group focused on helping churches get serious about evangelism and this most recent copy contained material that I would rate as well worth a read when it comes to missional thinking.
The edition includes two excellent articles – ‘Council Meets Again’ by Brian Winslade and ‘Third Servant Baptist Church’ by Dale Stephenson.
Brian Winslade’s article asks how do we gear our churches to emulate the actions of the Jerusalem council who decreed that ‘we should not make it hard for the Gentiles who are becoming Christians’. This involves asking what is core to the gospel and how do gentiles then figure out an expression of faith that is distinctly theirs. It is an appreciation that we need to allow the gospel to take root in a group and for the church to take whatever shape is culturally appropriate. This kind of missional thinking will go a long way to breaking down the one size fits all mentality of church that dominated the late 20th C.
Here’s an excerpt:
I have a sense, metaphorically speaking, that the Jerusalem Council is once more in session. Those
of us with a long personal Christian history need to appreciate that God is doing something new in
our world, and the shape of the future will likely be very different from the past. We also need to face
the fact that non-church Western society no longer understands us. In many ways, we speak a different dialect. Certain theological boundary fences and emphases don’t make sense and have little to do with our core message.
He finishes the article by saying:
Now might be our turn to do something similar. Let’s embrace experimentation in mission and outreach, and deliberately give creative expressions of Christian mission room to find their place. Who knows, we might just cooperate with a fascinating new movement of the Holy Spirit!
As a rabid experimenter and tinkerer those words are music, and it is encouraging to think that maybe we are becoming much open to church in a variety of forms.
Dale Stephenson has also written an excellent article on the importance of defining how we assess our progress as churches. I always find ‘measurement’ a challenge because much of what is not measurable or evident. I also find the pooh poohing of faithfulness in the face of apparent absence of ‘results’ as very short sighted. On the basis of this thinking the OT prophets were absolute losers who should have been written up as failures rather than people we admire.
Dale’s article suggests we do need to be accountable for our actions and when we know what outcomes we are seeking then we can take this more seriously and pursue it more carefully. He writes:
I believe that Churches tend to concentrate too much on numbers and not enough on outcomes. We take comfort from what I call pool data, for instance how many people attend our services, rather than the strength of each individual’s faith and commitment to Christ, to community, to service and to the world. I call the measure of these commitments stream data
and I believe they more accurately reflect the Church’s faithfulness to its mission than how many people show up on the weekend. leaders need to measure the increasing commitment of their flock through meaningful outcomes, yet I rarely come across churches or pastors who exercise this level of accountability.
I believe there is a great challenge in front of us to measure well rather than simply default to ‘how many bums’.
Perhaps what I am reflecting on here is that the messages from the ‘centre’ (denominations etc) are now on a very similar frequency to those that are being offered from those of us at the edges.