Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Church of the Perfect Storm

Leonard Sweet's new book of essays by church leaders is called "The Church of the Perfect Storm." Good if you are trying to reveal to church folks why there is so much storming going on in your churches, in communities, lives, etc. My favorite essay though was by Bill Easum--his are "mid-storm equations for ministry" to help do God's work in the midst of the storm, not just trying to ride it out.

1. Fractals are the guiding principle of mathematics in the emerging world (and so should be in your church in this world). How complex is your church? If you put it under a microscope you should see its complexity growing; of course this is natural with organic missions; it is impossible with a focus on organizational stuff. In how many ways, and they will vary, is your church existing in multiple forms?

2. He sees five major forms of church life emerging in the foreseeable future.
First, islands of strength within mainline denominations. (I think we see that happening; and the covenant or learning between those islands of strength and health should be focused on rather than through geographical covenants with churches with different mission even if they are in your own association and in your own city).
Second, numerous forms of marketplace congregations that have no institutional form whatsoever.
Thirdly, smaller, less institutionaly based, emergent churches that is ancient/future in practice.
Fourthly, the house church, and it becoming more organized than before.
Fifthly, continuation of high-committment, disciple-making, culturally indigenous megacongregations.

I think if the DNA of mission vision values is consistent between these five major forms, as I think it can be, that you can even mix and match and partner up some of these forms, such as islands of health among mainline partnering with and helping form house church networks.

Multiplication, not addition, is the norm. You will be judged by how much chaos you have going on in your church, and that's a good thing to have, because people with healthy DNA and desire to be culture agents will "self-organize for ministry" in the midst of the most chaos. Everything will depend on leadership formation then, and that will become the focus.

As before, Easum casts warning signs for churches that seek to let their democratic polity be their rudder during the storm. Churches based on congregational democracy or representative democracy (elected bishops, etc.) were formed in the heights of modernity; they tend to lose out to more apostolic forms birthed in pomo times. Congregational churches will thrive to the extent they learn how to circumvent as much of their governance as possible, he says.

If everything depends on cultivating the leader who will lead the self-organizing ministry in the chaos, then the purpose of the church as putting and cultivating these leaders in mission in the world, and not within the functions of the institutional church, is how leaders will be grown. We won't talk of "religious leaders" but of "spiritual guides."

Ministers will learn the best thing to do as ministers is "you are the curriculum. Just let them hang out with you." Hang out with leaders on the mission field, which is where Jesus would be, getting hands and hearts dirty, and hanging out doesnt cost anything, he says, unlike programs and curriculums.

Pray more and plan less. Get rid as much as possible with anything having to do with "annual." It prevents how fast you can change. Get rid of annual budgets, annual meetings. Think about budgets in daily, monthly, or quarterly forms or better yet quit thinking about them at all and think instead about "liquid pools of money from which any one of the core ministries can draw."

All possible with a clearly defined DNA, and focus on leaders who embody it, and then not worrying about the rest. Is it corny in this sense to say you can then, let go and let God.

Type rest of the post here