We were joking the other day with some friends about what we might be doing next now that formal ministry seems to be over for us. Amidst the swinging from crazy ideas and incredible vision to sheer panic and scary dreams about the future, we find ourselves reflecting on all sorts of things. The truth is that rather like one of the legendary large artworks of the inimitable Rolf Harris, it's difficult to, "see what is it yet."
In my dreams, it looks very different to the usual experience we have of church. It's rooted in relationships, built around common values and shared experiences. I know this is what all church experience ought to be, but it isn't. That's the truth. When faith becomes institutionalised it requires an organisational system to maintain itself. That system generates demands and expectations that are sometimes in danger of becoming the defining criteria above the core message. It's the nature of an imperfect expression of being the body of Christ with which we all have to do battle whether in or out of the local, traditional expression of church. Whatever we do in the coming years will not be perfect, it might not even be better.
Having a blank sheet of paper does give us the opportunity to begin from scratch and ask ourselves what are the key things, the non-negotiables that we would want to put in place. I don't have a definitive list, but one of the things I know will be important is a resolute determination not to criticise and moan about the established church. It doesn't help anyone. I also know that whatever happens, it will probably not happen spontaneously but will require a degree of intentionality about it. With that in mind, I think we will need to be able to describe the boundaries and the ethos of the thing really early. Like now would be a good time!
So here are a few thoughts about some key ideas:
Firstly, whatever group assembles, we will need a clear, shared vision that we all buy into. If some of us ultimately see the end game in terms of a gathered group of people in one place of Sunday mornings singing songs and listening to sermons, and others don't, then we would need to get that sorted pretty quickly.
Secondly, we would need to be fully committed to spending regular, quality time around a shared meal. Call it what you like, but relationships are built over time and not through worship services alone.
Thirdly, we would need to agree to live as an extended family. Put simply, we care for each other without abdicating that responsibility to one person alone.
Fourth, it's shared leadership. More like parenting maybe that CEO-leadership, but based on a plurality of leadership gifts distributed among a group of leaders.
Fifthly, and remember these are not in any specific order, a deep commitment to pray and to incarnational mission.
There's a lot missing I know, but it gives you a flavour of the things that are going through my mind at the moment. To those who have listened to me over the years, some of it will be instantly recognised from previous conversations.
More to come, I'm sure.