Thursday, August 13, 2009

Church of Others: Interim Notes

I found my off the cuff notes during the workshop so before getting to new monasticism in this series, I want to slip these perspectives in. These postings lol have something of the quality of the workshop itself which went off the beaten path from time to time. See posts below for the first in explaining this series and posting the resources.

carryover conversations:

One of the best questions that came up, and is common anytime this topic is raised, is: how can ministers do this and still get paid? Great idea but how to make a living at it?...This is really worthy of a separate post and I will do that later, but basically I said that ministers who were doing this were usually finding ways to be tentmakers, bivocational, to get their money from various other sources, sometimes so-called secular is actually preferred, sometimes in a field that might be able to draw on their specific skill sets from ministry. I told about the churches in the suburbs who are folding up, selling their possessions, and many of the families are moving into the poorer urban areas, the abandoned places, and living there transforming their neighborhoods and becoming organic churches without a central building (see Christianity Today article I will try to find and link to). We often ask our church members to have fulfilling careers but to give so much volunteer time to our churches, and it might not be a bad idea for ministers to consider doing the same thing, especially if they are being burned out by church as it is; like the churches they lead they need to have discontinuity with the past, and consider making big steps, revolutionary instead of evolutionary. We talked about what constitutes a church and if a minister is essential in our history and we talked about how even the Cambridge Platform of American congregationalism set out that the church exists first and then elects from its own a pastor and teacher; and how there might be many different forms of ministers as coaches, mentors, helping the various organic cells to think and act theologically without having to be present and leading each cell. Polity issues will be taken up I think in a later separate post but this was an area covered in the workshop. It is an important challenging but also revealing question.

Why name organic?
Our ancestors didn't garden with chemicals; they just grew food; it was organic because it made sense and worked; they didn't know they were doing something that others later would find avant-garde. The focus of organic gardening is on the soil; if that is right, and carries naturally such a diversity and richness of life in one clump held in the hand, then growth of the plants will happen; if soil is not right, or if it takes chemicals and constant work because of them or if you are trying to grow things that are not native to your place, then you will be fighting and losing against Nature and using up more and more resources in the process. Sound like church too often? You bet.
Organic church focuses on soul preparation as gardening does soil preparation. Let the plant DNA then thrive and be sustainable. Church DNA is the mission, vision, value that creates the church, frames it, gives it shape and propels it forward.

Another of the organic church's heresies, not endemic to it but foundational: We must always be failing at something. This means we are always risking co-creating with God something new, but also means that we live spiritually in a state of humility, blessed imperfections, and know that no people no system is perfect (lord knows the best organic gardening must still suffer from drought flood illness of gardeners, etc.), that we are human, will break each others hearts.

In trying to explain organic or missional church expressions, I love Reggie McNeal's story of trying to explain it to someone who finally said, you mean when two Christians are tutoring some kid in math that that is a church? To which McNeil replied, no, I don't mean it is "a" church but that the church is present.

Worship is response to mission, not other way around.

People can be engaged in many different forms of church at the same time, and will be more and more I believe; be a part of a missional faith community but that also goes, together or apart, to be with big church dynamic worship events, and to multiple faith traditions. Transdenominational.

We also spent some time talking about how any church can begin down this road by focusing, as my posts on McNeil's book Missional Renaissance earlier this summer showed, on his three main shifts: internal to external; program to peope; church to kingdom or world. End.

Type rest of the post here