Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Journey Ahead

If it were a simple matter of discovering a new vision in an old context, then maybe the journey would be easier to plot. But that's not our situation. We need to reimagine church for a new context. If we look for a vision before we recognise the changing context then we are in danger of imagining only what we are used to imagining. Let me explain it this way. If all we have known is a pattern of being the church that focuses upon getting people into the church, then we will reimagine the church in exactly the same way. We will be pushed towards developing programmes geared to filling the church.

On the other hand, if we recognise a new reality, a reality that focuses upon getting the church out and active in the community, building relationships and reconnecting people with the God who misses them most, then we will imagine a very different church. At least I hope we will.

To help plot our course we need to identify some of the key themes that will help us along the way. At this point we need to make one thing really clear.

Everything flows out of our personal and corporate relationship with God.

We should not take this for granted. We should carry this like a valued possession,wear it like a badge. I believe that everything Jesus did arose out of his relationship with his Father rather than his ability to do them himself. He was fully God and therefore capable of performing miracles in his own right, but he chose only to do what he saw the Father already doing (John 5).

Accepting this principle means that anything we do has to arise out of a deep and intimate relationship with God. Jim Packer, commenting on the state of the American church once said, "The problem with North American Protestantism is that it is three thousand miles wide but only half an inch deep."

The last thing we want is a lukewarm, shallow version of Christianity. That simply will not satisfy and may ultimately prove to be the real reason people have left the church of many years. They're bored with an expression of Christianity that lacks the life of Christ. As Sweet and Viola put it:

To be perfectly candid, there are few things that are as dull and boring in life as a Christianity without the living, breathing, radiant, triumphant Christ. It's a first-degree snoozer. If you could bottle it, you would have the cure for insomnia. 
Jesus Manifesto

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