As we prepare for the launch of our Autumn programme at church I'm acutely aware that if we are going to thrive in the new cultural reality that is the post-modern 21st century world, we must be careful not to assume that it will work because it's well planned and carefully packaged. As I've said before, we must let go of the idea that if we build it they will come. They won't.
I'm in the process of reading Alan Roxburgh's Missional Map Making, and a fine read it is even though it's quite difficult to get to grips with at times. The central point is that the world is no longer what it once was and it no longer behaves according to the story that shaped us in the past. In other words the maps don't work anymore and we need new maps to navigate our way through the new reality.
In church, the only map we have for growing the church is usually an evangelism map. So we develop strategies for outreach programmes and missions and invite big name preachers to come and fill stadia. But the map doesn't work anymore.
To draw a new map we need a new imagination. And we need to ask some important questions. Questions like, "What made the early church attractive?" Yes there was some planning, but the fundamental shape of the church was decidedly different. Take the foundation for example. Yes, Jesus is the rock on which we build, but Paul said the first layer of bricks were the apostles and prophets. Our first layer by contrast tends to be pastors and teachers. It's an important difference.
The new map we are beginning to draw, albeit every so subtly, is that whatever happens it must begin with spiritual formation. With discipleship.
So I was pleased to come across an article posted a while ago of a non-exhaustive list of important things to consider when moving from what church has been in the past towards what it can be in the future. Yes. that's all about the buzz word missional, but we're not trying to stick a new label on an old model, as some seems to be doing. We are trying to think afresh about what it means to the church, the body of Christ.
Our Autumn programme is all about discipleship, about trying to encourage everyone to take seriously their spiritual life and set some goals for personal development. Out of this we hope that relationships will be forged with the people missing from the kingdom and opportunities for mission will arise quite naturally as we cultivate them rather than transplant them.