Oxymoron: 'Shopping for a Missional Church' | Part 3
So here’s the problem: I’ve moved to Orlando, Florida. I was a campus minister for eight years, I have a seminary degree, and now am a manager in a Christian missions agency that serves missional leaders throughout the US. But I don’t have a local body of believers to call my own—to serve or lead or embody redemption with. And the biggest barrier to me finding one? Probably myself. (Part 1, Part 2)
Part 3—Chris’ Ideal Church
I still hate the idea of trying to define this: there's a looming consumerism in the tone. But given my situation, I've finally decided to write down... What is My Ideal Church? This is not a carefully constructed theological list: just the thoughts as they hit me.
Missional. By this I mean the sense the church is the hope for the world… not by simply spreading a message, but by being it. I mean a church that thinks of itself as the Body of Christ of whom everyone has a part, and who live as active emissaries of the peace of Christ in their own context.
Not attractional. Doesn’t think that the way to reach its context is first by bringing people within its walls. In fact, a building really doesn’t matter too much to me at all. I’d love a church that is meeting in a theater or a community space, and doesn’t constantly hope to soon upgrade to its own mortgage. Services should and could reflect the expressions of the community (i.e. good art is cool), but to the extent that the show is oriented toward "new customer retention"... sigh. Not interested.
Doesn’t have multiple services. This is a more specific way of saying “not too large,” and while a church with momentum feels good, a church that can’t fit all into one room at once feels too big. How in the heck are we supposed to show hospitality to the stranger if we have no idea who the stranger is?? I sometimes think a church of 100-300 people is probably about right. Bigger, and it’s time to make a new church. All that, and this: there’s nothing like adding your first additional service that suddenly changes the gathered, participatory church to movie attenders. (ps – strong statements should be taken with a grain of salt and probably more humility: see Part 1)
Defines the gospel holistically. Thinks of the gospel as Matthew 4.17: “repent, for the kingdom of God is near.” Sees discipleship as dropping your nets to follow Jesus. Is okay with not framing everything in terms of the Protestant Reformation works vs. free gift (e.g. does not constantly say “theres nothing you can do to earn God’s favor.” I agree with this. I just don’t think it always applies). Sees types of sin that' are bigger than just personal sin. Thinks the gospel is initiated by and modeled after Jesus’ life, death, AND resurrection.
Embraces plural leadership. Completely weird to most of the American church is the idea that a senior, charismatic leader can be a bad thing. I believe strongly in the “plurality of leadership” which requires multiple equals to agree together to lead. It not only saves the church from potential one-headed blindness, but blesses the church with multiple leadership gifts and the MODEL of multiple leadership gifts: DNA that can be reproduced at every level.
Meals together in homes. The theology of the table has gotta be one of the most neglected but potent possibilities for the church today. For years, our home fellowship group of 25 got together on a Tuesday night and cooked dinner together: chopping in the kitchen, setting the table, praying and eating, and especially cleaning together. The team character dynamics were hard to overestimate: laughter and service and sacrifice and goal accomplishment. The biblical symbolism leads straight to Eucharst/communion. Not the mention the amazing stand-out hospitality guests felt when they were invited to share the love. For me, this is the image of discipleship and evangelism in a postmodern world.
Encourages art for arts sake. Embraces creative expression of its members, but not simply “in order to reach unbelievers” but because the biblical community models always seem to do this. Regular use of artistic talents reflections both creation and mission.
Serves the poor. Because of the central role of the this metric whenever God speaks of whether his people are faithful or not. I hope for an American church that recognizes its significant wealth relative to the world’s Christians, and tries to like one “who is given much.”
Liturgical-Historical Sense. Realizes that the “band and the talk,” can be a relatively anemic approach to gathered worship. Is willing to think about the historic patterns of the churche’s worship and include silence, creeds, loud and clear reading of scripture (where we listen, not read along in our NIV study bibles), and see communion/Eucharist as a crucial “we-ness” that be part of our regular rhythm.
Yep. So there’s at least part of an ideal sketch. Next thought? How even writing this out partially undoes it.