July 22, 2011

the nature of the church

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I've been thinking a lot about the nature of the church lately. There's several reasons why this has been on my mind.

First, and obvious to most I assume is I'm employed by a church. Over the last several months, I've been working on a project to launch a new worship service aimed at reaching a different segment of the metro area population. As a guy pegged as "missional" or "emergent" in some published material, I've received some guffaws. Certainly, there is something "attractional" about this approach that seems to be a naughty word these days in missiological circles. But the concept of worship and when and where it is done strikes at the core of what the church is. As I've worked on this project, I've thought a lot about this.

Secondly, I've led a faith community that's met in our home for over seven years now. This little, seemingly insignificant community has accomplished some incredible things over the years that would take too long to list. And it is made up of people that I am deeply proud of and love so much. They are a mosaic of neighbors and friends; the convinced and the skeptics, the weak and the strong, the young and the old. Yet, for the first time in its history I announced recently that the group was taking a hiatus, a Sabbath. We need to think about what we are, what we're doing, what's next and quite frankly and selfishly, I needed a break. With a full time job, three children and three seminary classes I wasn't finding time to clear my head and think about this little group thoughtfully and prayerfully. I do intend to think about this little group during this time. And I hope others do as well. Suffice it to say, they are in very real ways church but in ways that are quite different than the 140 year old institution I work for.

Third, two of the classes I'm currently taking at Fuller are pushing this question about the nature of church quite a bit for me. One is a church history class, which is helping me put a lot of concepts of the church into context. The other is a class on the "missional church." Missional. There's a depth to the term that has been lost in its popularization. I imagine that Bosch and Newbigin would be annoyed at how it is frequently used. But I do think how we think about mission is directly related to how we understand the nature of the church. I'm going to rehash some of the stuff I've penned for my classes, altering it for this context.

Here's what I'm not interested in: either/or. The world is not so black and white as we'd like to make it. All models of church life are broken because they are made up of people as broken as their models. I live comfortably somewhere in between the organic and the institution, the emerging and the traditional, Anabaptist and Reformed. It's a lot more fun when you stop pointing the finger, get off your high horse and attempt to work out this stuff about Jesus' kingdom with those God has placed around you. It requires something: that we listen. First listen well if you choose to engage.

So, yes, I'm entering back into the blogosphere with something more than snapshots of street art in San Diego. Maybe not as noble as the latter but I feel like writing some of this down will be helpful for me. It would be an added benefit if it strikes up a productive dialog.

First up: metaphors we live by.

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