Dan White Jr has a new book out called Subterranean: Why the future of the Church is Rootedness and I’m thrilled to be a part of his “Blog Tour” for the book. I’m focusing on Chapter 8 which looks at being “Rooted in Locality”.
Most of us have realised by now that things have changed for Christians in the West today.
Not only have they changed, but many aspects of what the church has always believed and practiced are being questioned to the point of being turned inside out by our culture today. As a result we are feeling a bit disoriented and many are desperately trying to find ways to go back to the way things were when the Church was at the centre of society. We felt a lot more in control back then. We knew how to “do” church back then. We understood our identity. Continue reading What is the future of the Church? Subterranean
I remember very well the time that a wonderful elderly lady from the church I was leading, made an appointment to see me. On the day, she came to my office holding a scrumptious cake she had made so we could eat together. She sat down, then proceeded to tell me what a terrible pastor I was. Even though this scenario sounds terrible, it actually wasn’t a bad experience, we had a good discussion- and there was cake! However I did find it interesting to hear her rationale regarding why she thought I could do a little better at pastoring. The issue lay with my title. Since my title was Senior Pastor, the logic went, that meant that I was the one responsible for the overall care of the congregation. The care of the congregation was ultimately up to me and no other. It didn’t matter that we had a Care Pastor and a care team who were responsible for and gifted to care for the congregation, because I was the Senior Pastor, it was basically up to me. That day I became aware of the expectations that some in the congregation may have had around my role and also that I did not share those expectations. The responsibility was all on me and there was little room for a shared sense of ministry with other leaders in the church. I remember feeling burdened by that sense of responsibility. Of course, a role which oversees an organisation will always have that sense of weight and pressure that comes with it, however I feel that leadership should and can be shared. Essentially, there was a dissonance in this encounter around how my friend and I defined church leadership.
There has been a lot written on the theme of the so-called exile that Christians are experiencing in the West as a result of the demise of Christendom. The argument goes something like this, Christians are no longer at the centre of society but instead they are on the margins. Gone are the days when Christians and the church could expect to be in a privileged position in the eyes of secular institutions and be given rights or inroads into broader society. In the same way that Israel was sent into exile by God, we have been sent into exile by our culture as it finds the church unnecessary and irrelevant to its day to day existence. Two great books on this theme are Michael Frost’s Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture  and more recently, The Church in Exile: Living in Hope After Christendom by Lee Beach .
Many Christians like myself have used this image of exile as a tool to help us navigate the uncertain waters of our liminality in the West. Personally, instead of finding the image a negative one, as a few of my peers have, I have found it a source of comfort. It is in humble exile that God purifies us, draws near to us if we let him and speaks to us about the hope of the good things that are to come.
Recently I was at a gathering of church planters and I had a conversation with one planter which made me think again about how we view church leadership.
I’m thinking about planting a church myself, so I am interested in the opinions of others around vision and especially how that relates to church structure. I was in conversation with one planter and I asked him about leadership in his recently established church. I wanted to know what sort of leadership structure he had in place and how it was working. As it turned out, the leadership structure was very similar to that of an established church. It was fairly hierarchical, had different team members assigned to various ministry areas and ultimately responsibility for the church fell on the team leader.
The other day someone told me about a discussion they had with a friend who said that they were leaving their church to join another church. Fair enough I thought, I hear this a lot. What caught my attention however is that the church that this person was leaving, I would describe as being missional and the church that they had decided to start attending as more of an ‘attractional’ model of church. Why the move from missional to attractional I wondered? When I spoke with my friend further, apparently the missional church was small, met in someone’s home and the regular gatherings were too confrontational for this person. Once again I probed deeper. Too confrontational? I found out that even though the church was small it had managed to become a community of people from various backgrounds and socio-economic status. When time came in their gathering for sharing about their lives, many of those who were living a life of poverty told of their difficulties. This person who was economically privileged comparatively speaking, found it disruptive and uncomfortable to hear some of the things that were being shared. This person felt out of place, guilty and awkward in that church. They then started attending another church which was larger and the person said it was a church where they could remain somewhat removed, which had challenging messages and good worship.
I love the Easter season and I’m always sad when it ends. I love the hot cross buns, the music, I love the way that Sydney slows down, I love the autumn weather breaking through the maple tree leaves….the chocolate. Most of all however I love the way that the whole of the Christian community celebrates the one thing that unites us. That old story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here are some things that stood out to me personally but also as a church leader this Easter season. Continue reading Reflections on Easter 2014
I pastor a small to medium church sized church in a middle class suburb in Sydney Australia. Over the last year or so we have been moving from a mostly attractional model to a more missional model in the way that we ‘be’ and ‘do church’. As you can imagine, if you have tried to engage in this kind of journey with your church, you know that it’s not an easy one. Paradigm shifts are never all fun and what sounds exciting on paper, in reality turns out to be a bumbling, stumbling along kind of process. Avery Dulles in his book Models of Church says about paradigm shifts
A few months ago I asked a well respected Australian social researcher Mark McCrindle to speak at our church on the topic ‘We’re not in Kansas anymore’. The idea was to convey through statistics and discerning emerging trends in the Australian landscape, just how different a society we live in today compared to even twenty years ago. One thing that he pointed to was just how displaced and marginalised the church had become in Australian society. When through a survey a sample of the population was asked ‘What do you think your community needs more of?’, people responded by saying that more parks, shopping centres, dog walking parks, cafes were desired but hardly any mentioned churches.