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11/10/2008

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Mmm. I'd say that is all blatantly obvious. The problem is that we are not in an ideal situation to do anything much about it.

We attend a city centre Anglican church next to the city cathedral. It is a very old building with interesting architecture, archaeology, history, stained glass windows, etc. But the maintenance of all this interesting stuff - primarily for the benefit of people outside of the Christian family - is a tremendous drain on resources.

Many of the most active people in the church - who tend to be academics, teachers, managers, civil servant, solicitors, artists, etc - profess that they are uninterested or ambivalent about the building. Many of us feel that we are not happy contributing financially when it all appears to fall into a deep black hole which is the endless building fund.

The emphasis for some time has been on 'worship', by which most people mean singing on a Sunday, Alpha, and so on. Many have embraced the idea that Church should mean much more than this and truly want to change the emphasis onto mission and explore what that might mean to us in the future.

I'm convinced that this is not an unusual situation for many churches in the UK.

There appear to be several possible responses to this.

1. Attempt to ignore the problems. Continue as normal whilst they escalate.

2. Tackle the building problems by expecting other people to pay for them. Apply for grants, hold raffles, etc. In our case, it feels like we have probably exhausted all the possible routes for further funding of the building fabric. I have some problems with the notion of asking other people to pay for your church building.

3. Run away and start a church in a community centre without such pronounced building problems.

4. Treat the financial issues as an opportunity for mission. How do we set in place enterprises that legitimately bring in money to keep the structure upright which means that we can direct our giving towards things we feel more comfortable supporting? At the same time, how do more people get personally involved in the building works, which not only affects the cost but encourages the development of community?

For me, 4. seems like the most rational and positive alternative. If we can raise money to pay for the decaying building whilst engaging our community in legitimate profitable enterprise, providing a service which is in tune with the nature of being a Christ-like community, I think that we can turn a problem into something really good.

Sorry for waffling Mark.

I agree, it's pretty obvious... and I don't disagree with your thoughts - I like what you say as option 4 very much, but I'd say 1) this isn't necessarily about maintaining buildings rather about maintaining congregations/services... and 2) that I'd amend your option 3 - in that your phrase "running away" implies flight, but there is a possibility that one could leave behind a building or a service in order to move "forward" or to step out in a different way (I heard this week about an Anglican Church in Walthamstow which is selling it's building and changing the way it does life - not by meeting in the same way but in a different venue but a) changing the way it does it's gathering - meeting in a home for food and worship and b) taking on running a local community market etc. So in other words there is a 5th option - moving away, in a positive step, from the focus on the service/congregation (and maybe the building too, but not necessarily)

Whilst I have some sympathy with the overall logic of this issue as your report of Mark Frost seems to present it, I've come to believe that there is a hidden flaw in the argument (as it's presented). It's this: it assumes that it's possible for us to abstract "mission" from "worship". Of course, it's quite wrong to see "mission" purely in terms of building up attendance figures for acts of worship. Nevertheless, try reading the New Testament with the assumption that these are two completely different concepts, and my guess is that you'll get into some textual difficulties, and some even bigger ecclesiological difficulties. If we ask "what is the Church for", then without including worship as a key component of its existence, we end up reducing the faith down to either conversionism (where the Gospel is reduced to either intellectual or emotional assent to some proclaimed text), or a social project (expressed either in terms of a particular social prescription or by conformity to some set of social mores). Both of these are inadequate outworkings of either the Good News (in the New Testament) or the People of God (throughout the Bible). Having flirted with an approach which tended to down-play worship's significance to mission for the past few years, I'm convinced that unless it's the hub of our vision, then we'll just end up being shipwrecked on a reprised version of one modernist ideology or another; or become updated versions of born-again McGavranites.

Right. It is obviously complicated and one church is not the same as another. For some, moving might be entirely legitimate - I'm just pointing out that staying the course and dealing with what you have might also be an opportunity for mission. And you're right about maintaining congregations, though sometimes this appears to be linked to the building.

Paul, Frost did state several times that he does not mean to suggest that Mission should become the "priority" or the focus of church life rather that it should be the thing around which we "organise" church life... he stressed that he does not believe we should worship less (in terms of corporate worship) nor that it has a reduced importance, rather that how we worship together should flow from mission; the logisitics - time, venue, style etc. and that worship - praise and prayer - naturally flows from mission (he suggests more naturally than the other way round! he admits that he differs on this from Sally Morgenthaller) i.e. we have something "real" to pray and praise about. Oh, and I think he would want to be holistic in his definition of "mission" in fact I pushed him on this. I was concerned that what he was saying could be heard as "conversionism".

Unfortunately, I think we still default to the language of compartmentalism both in terms of Mission and the wider life of the church.

Really fascinated with all this Mark, and with your response Paul. It begs the question which could be horrendously simplistic but I think with the current 'ancient/future worship' debate currently taking place within the worship scene, does worship drive mission or mission drive worship? Is it an 'either/or' or 'both/and?'

How much of a profile or weighting does 'worship' have in current emerging churches/fresh expressions?

ok, for another aussies perspective, check out this little video by fuzz kitto.

http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/index.php?ct=store.details&pid=V00532

mission + worship

i think it's very helpful for this whole debate

steve

Thanks for that Steve... that very much echoes/reinforces what Mike was saying!

oh well, same msg, different hair. at least fuzz is better looking than mike :)

steve

Hopefully you should think that it shouldn't matter where the start point is worship or mission as it seems to me that idealy it should end up being more like oposite ends of the swing of the pendulum.
the asscent to worship becomes the fuel to mission which then equallt becomes the reverse back to worship
and in one sense they become completly inseperable

but theres also a sense that at its crest worship (in the sense of pushing into the otherness/holyness of God and purisuit of his ways/knowledge of/experience of him) should always become a drive out to mission and pursual of serving/finding God in the other. and at its crest again often when we find outself running out in the pursuit of living out the mission on God in the world and we sense more that we delve deeper immerse ourselves more in the mystery of God.

I'm not sure that it matter where you start focusing on as true worship will always lead i think to mission eventually and vice versa (even if it does atke eyars/decades/ages) I guess the problem is alot of what we call worship in the modern christian experience is much more akin to a faux religious high induceed through self congratulation emotionally stiring music, lights, sound and emotional maniputaltion. Something i'm starting to understand more and more like a drug and can cause drug like addiction.

Gday Mark

Thought in process here...

I actually want to ask that, at the moment sounds something like "what do we disorganise church around?"

And I think both worship and mission are inseparable parts of the process of disorganising ourselves into a virus that may, rather than inhabit a time and space (which to me sounds like "organised religion") spread through a number of spaces and times in the same way that, say a weed or a virus may spread by word, deed, action, air, touch...

In this way we participate in worship and mission in order to unsettle and disorganise us. In this way numbers are never a part of the discussion...

I might just be biting at the wrong word in the discussion, (ie not worship over or under mission) but the word "organise" leads me to dream of a dis-organised church...

I'm also a bit uneasy about saying that worship doesn't always flow into mission, and that mission naturally flows into worship (but i may get onto that on another day, as for now i need sleep).

Say hello to the SS crew for me, I've recently opened a quarter cask Laphroaig and thought of you :)

Mark, I know this is a bit random, but I thought this was an interesting contribution to this conversation: http://larryjamesurbandaily.blogspot.com/2008/11/be-redemptive-save-your-breath.html

Some time before, I really needed to buy a car for my firm but I did not have enough money and could not order anything. Thank God my mate adviced to try to take the loans from trustworthy bank. Therefore, I did that and used to be happy with my auto loan.

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