Their are too many people fishing in this pond – Confessions of a Frustrated Missionary

20 Aug

“If you want to build a ship, don’t summon people to buy wood, prepare tools, distribute jobs, and organize the work, rather teach people the yearning for the wide, boundless ocean.”
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“A great deal more failure is the result of an excess of caution than of bold experimentation with new ideas. The frontiers of the kingdom of God were never advanced by men and women of caution.”
-J. Oswalk Sanders

Just adding a few more thoughts as I go through the book called The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch on the missional church.
see also The Missional Church and the Wizard of Oz

Hirsch explains his history in the church that I and he would sum up in two different phases.

Phase I: From Death to Chaos
Lot’s of radical conversions, including his own. It was not uncommon to have a bible study in the living room while a drug deal was taking place in a back room.

Phase II: Becoming a Church-Planting Church
“…a desire to pass on the faith by creating new communities that were relevant to the subcultural context but faithful to ancient gospel.” They planted a church in the red light district, a church for Jewish people and a church for the dance/rave scene. Some were more successful than others. They found that their mother church became more and more normal and mainstream in the process and “Without anyone noticing, we had lost our original call and missional heart.”

So what led to this church becoming a place where people from all walks of life were encountering Christ and being transformed to a church experiencing nothing but transfer growth (members of faith going from one church to another)? Hirsch says:

“A combination of recent research in Australia indicates that about 10-15 percent of that population is attracted to what we can call the contemporary church growth model. In other words, this model has significant “market appeal” to about 12 percent of our population. The more successful forms of this model tend to be large, highly professionalized, and overwhelmingly middle-class, and express themselves culturally using contemporary, “seeker-friendly” language and middle-of-the-road music forms.”

Basically, from what I understand he is saying that about 12% of the population already find the gospel as viable good news. That is they come from a Judeo-Christian worldview. He believes that “95%” of churches are mainly going after these people because they are “low maintenance.” There aren’t a lot of doctrinal struggles or lifestyle changes necessary. So, naturally these people will go to the church that has the best speaker, music, and programs for their family because churches have advertised themselves as a product.

A church that is playing it safe is a church that is always asking questions about the small details about how they can present the best product to the people. They may get lots of members (transfer growth) but suffer from lack of baptisms (new life). I’ve heard it said that if you want neat, orderly and tidy then go to a graveyard.

Next post I’ll look at some of the things they did to break out of this mold. Hint: It has to do with the irreducible minimums.

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