Church Innovations’ Partners Post

January 18, 2010

How Does the European Church Look?

Church Innovations has for 6 years co-sponsored an International Research Consortium that brings together social scientists, theologians, and church leaders.  A few of our partners in that consortium have invited Pat Keifert and me to give a paper at a conference in Århus, Denmark, and also do some consulting and presenting with local church leaders.

 

So off to Scandinavia we go in late January and early February.  Off to lands where mostly there still is a state church.  Off to the home country of so many of our colleagues and friends in the Midwest.

 

My intention is to continue making blog posts and even posting on my Facebook page as often as I can. So watch for those. I am really interested in your opinion, so post some replies, if you would.  I plan to share with you some stories of local congregations, their triumphs and their sorrows and their questions. Wouldn’t it be great to connect in meaningful ways across such distance and seeming difference in settings? 

 

I mean, what’s it like to offer worship services in a 900 year old building?  What happens when thieves break in and, instead of stealing sound equipment for the contemporary worship service, they make off with a 500 year old altar painting?  What is worship attendance like when everyone in the neighborhood of the local church is actually a member in that church since their infant baptism? How does the music compare with ours?  

 

Can’t wait!  Come with me!  I leave in a couple of days.

Peace. Pat

January 15, 2010

How Does the Missional Church Look?

Hang in there with me. I have a question for anyone reading!

 

The 2010 Church Innovations Think Tank, co-sponsored this year by World Mission Initiative and Pittsburgh Seminary, where it will take place, will be entitled “How does the Missional Church look?”

 

Some people who read this blog may not know anything about the missional church movement. It is a large and complex set of small waves which, taken together, become like the movement of water in a giant bay or gulf. That makes it hard to sum up in a short phrase or two. Having made that disclaimer, you might think of the missional church movement as growing awareness and activity that leads local churches and the systems that support them toward mindfully being taken up into the very life and mission of the Triune God.

 

So how does the missional church look?  Three kinds of answers are possible:

1) it looks Ok or not OK; it seems to be doing well or not so well

2) it looks like a busy seaport where all different kinds of vessels are coming in from a trip, being outfitted for another, or being sent off with supplies and support for a big voyage

3) it looks carefully at its neighbors as well as its members for the gifts and relationships it needs to do and be what God has in mind for it to do as part of God’s life

 

This blog is written first for the congregations in the Bremer project, where churches study themselves and their neighborhoods in order to better live into God’s missional calling for them.  The project equips those congregations with a spiritual discernment conversation tool as well, so that they can discern what God might be calling them to be or do in their particular location, a calling that might cause disagreement or multiple possible directions to decide amongst.

 

So Bremer project congregations, or anyone else reading this blog, what do you know that you didn’t know last year about yourselves, your neighborhoods, and God’s call to you? What disagreements have arisen about your life and work, if any? How are you planning for a future looking to God’s life and mission for your direction?  If you can tell us that, we’ll know a few answers to the question “How does a missional church look?”

January 6, 2010

Why all this focus on peace, shalom, abundance?

 

When we used to walk along the gulf in Thessaloniki, my Greek friends would assess the state of the water:  ripple-free was Dead, and churning was Alive. And Alive was good and abundant (shalom).

 

For our Bremer Grant congregation partners, who are each in their own ways encountering their communities and engaging in their challenges (Sudanese immigration, denominational affiliation, being supportive as they raise teenagers, steering a faithful course as they encounter new needs), peace, shalom, and abundance are especially valuable commodities.  This peace of God is not placid, free from waves of disagreement, but energetic from riding through the roiling sea.

 

In the US you can still find persons who have been life-long active members of local congregations.  If those life-long church goers are honest, they will tell you there has never actually been a time in the church without some controversy or another. In the intervals between big social controversies, the local church had its own disagreements over money or staff or direction. And between all of those conflicts, individual persons have had their own times of struggle and pain over life and death and their own faith walk.  It might be said, in fact, that congregations are the only persistent form of large-group voluntary social interaction where, at any given moment, war is about to break out somewhere with someone. 

 

The thing about Christian communities is that they are exactly the places to be during times of struggle. Individuals wrestling with life need to know they are cared for by others who also wrestle. Groups struggling with one another need to know that, as they disagree over particular issues, what holds them together is that they are all called to a place in God’s mission in the world, a mission bigger than any number of sides on any number of questions.  At Church Innovations it is really our privilege to walk with churches as they decide how to keep being trustworthy places where you can wrestle and still do the work God has called you to share, striving side by side. Such striving side by side means that while you may profoundly disagree on some key issues, you agree that your disagreeing matters less than your responding faithfully to God’s call to God’s mission.

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