Lately I’ve watched on as friends on FB have advocated for their various causes, the most prominent being the role of women in the church, aboriginal rights and environmental issues. Often the words and the rhetoric are strong and stinging. There is little room for explanations or exceptions – just ‘bull at a gate’ rage – to the point where sometimes I want to ‘hide’ their profile.
Unfortunately it seems this is stage 1 of getting people to listen – saying things so starkly that heckles and defenses are raised – that ‘surely not me’ is one of the first responses. Prophets tend to do this. They tell the truth that needs to be told – often in a way that is harsh and uncompromising – but that’s because ‘gentle truth’ rarely changes anything of a structural nature.
When I think back to the early days of the missional church when I was part of a serious critique of the established (attractional) form of church, the language I used and the tone I took was intentionally provocative and even inflammatory at times. No one pays attention to a quiet voice asking ‘have you considered?…’ But when someone says ‘the good ship Christendom is sinking and we are singing and listening to sermons neither seeing nor caring’ then it raises some ire.
I wrote this piece on ‘Incarnational v Attractional Mission’ in 2005 and it was my most read and most commented post ever – until my blog went thru an upgrade and all the original comments were lost…
I feel like I had a good 7-8 years of speaking and writing prophetically about the need for the church to turn itself inside out – essentially, to get less focused on trying to get people into the church and to get more focused on trying to get the church into the world. That was a small part of it, but in my ‘Forge’ days it was an assault on the whole structure and form of what was the dominant paradigm of church.
Fifteen years ago we were voices in the wilderness – spiky malcontents making trouble and strife as we called the church to move back into mission. The book that started it all for me was The Shaping of Things to Come by my friends Alan Hirsch and Mike Frost. It was incendiary – brutal – and answered the question of ‘Evolution or Revolution?’ (of church) with a hearty ‘Amen’ to ‘revolution’. Burn it down and start again!
Yeah – it was that gnarly.
But now …15 years later everyone is missional – even if they’re not – they use the word to describe and give cred to their church activities. Because now its ‘compulsory’ to be missional – to show how you are engaging the community etc etc. (I fear the word has lost its original intent and potency and that mission has become a lowest common denominator way of describing anything we do that involves non-church people.)
But – we are at this place because of the work that was done clearing the ground by the prophets.
Maybe one day soon we will see women no longer second class citizens in church, or aboriginal people as lesser humans, or environmental care as a good idea if it doesn’t cost too much.
In the meantime when the prophets rage take the time to listen and do some honest self assessment. More than likely they are right. We just don’t like being told.
Great Andrew. I have always been so frustrated when I hear of those against women in leadership etc BUT these same people were supporting women on the mission field – what was the difference.
Same situation re Aboriginals – I think of the wars where the Aboriginal men were not recognised after the wars as was white man.
Thanks Eileen – always a challenge to move into new spaces
“…environmental care as a good idea if it doesn’t cost too much.”