The conversation has, for me at least, changed.
10 years ago, 5 years ago for that matter, these were questions that were circulated around, “what could happen if we had a church that ________?” or “What if the church was a place where people just _______?” It seemed like all of the talks that were being had dealt with the church; its composition, make up, and activities, etc…
The end result of those conversations was a 6 year experiment in flat leadership (where everyone was perceived as functionally equal), open source (where everyone was able to contribute directionally, situationally, content wise), de-centralized (without any governing committee or person, decisions were made by consensus or not at all), communitarian and incarnational (where we attempted to BE the church rather than GO to church, living near each other to create opportunity for further exposure and relationship), organic (little structure, if any; constant reliance on the Spirit–eventually becoming synonymous with perpetual spontaneity) and Christ centered (as opposed to “issues driven”, an entire focus on the person of God as opposed to the activities of God).
It’s interesting because today I hear many of the “hot” church planters (even Guru’s for that matter) toting these ideas around. They, and many others we lived, are the sexy new methods. Interestingly, for me, they are now (in some ways more than others) old hat…we lived them to their logical conclusion the ultimate extreme; we road tested them and found that some drove better than others.
What’s funny is sitting at a restaurant or coffee shop with one of the new champions of these notions. I’ll listen to their passionate and intense rhetoric about “following the Holy Spirit”/being spontaneous, tossing aside leadership roles in favor of function only models where everyone can be anything and everything, throwing out events and embracing incarnate organic church lifestyles…and then I yawn. I’m bored. Or those bizarre moments when I mention something as random as “growth” or throwing some sort of event or planning an “outreach” towards the community–only to be rebuked for my lack of Christ-centeredness (because of planning). In the end, the new guru’s are disappointed by me. They don’t understand why I feel more comfortable in an brick and mortar institutional church (Mennonite, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, Orthodox) or not in one at all (All faith embracing spirituality discussion groups/centers for transformation and mutual support). Either way…the questions that I was asking, that are now being asked with a great degree of mundane regularity are not the ones that interest me any longer. And I really can’t explain that.
The goodness of God, the bigness/all expansiveness/(un)knowability of the Divine, the transformation of the entire person/locality/world, the life of justice/mercy/faith/and love practiced by individuals and collectives, art and hinting about things too big for cognitive expression, discovering a new way of thinking by living the question and embodying the certainties, surviving/coping/medicating/figuring out how to hope again, letting the symbol become the real (communion IS the reality…don’t kid yourself into thinking its only a shadow)…these are the thoughts that keep on coming back to me…The other stuff…well, I get it…I just am not there any more.
Oddly, I sense that a lot of the others–the ones who began asking those same questions around the same time–find themselves in the same place.
For them also, it would seem, the conversation is shifting. Interesting…I wonder where it goes next–if anywhere.
Filed under: church, kingdom | Tagged: center for transformation, christ centered, church planting, decentralized, doug paggit, emergent, emerging church, flat leadership, house church, kester brewin, life in the way of Jesus, Mark Scandrette, organic, pete rollins, portland oregon, spirit lead, spontaneous, the conversation, the emerging conversation, Tony Jones, vancouver washington | 2 Comments »