First there was "Alpha", then "Cafe Church", then "Godly Play", now it seems to be "Messy Church"... no doubt "Alpha" wasn't actually first and certainly "Messy Church" wont be the last, but all of the above have had their 15 mins in the spotlight, they have been "the latest thing" at one time or another.
Recently I've been increasingly perplexed by this tendency to jump from one bandwagon to the next in the hope that each one will be *THE* answer. Don't get me wrong their is nothing wrong with any of the above models, they all have things to contribute and questions to ask of how we do Church but non of them are *THE* answer in the way churches seems hope... sometimes the thinking seems to be, "If we only do... everything will turn around"
So where's the problem? It seems to me that what happens is almost abusive to the creators, the "model" is ripped from it's context, all the thinking, the exploration, the experimentation is ignored and only the ultimate expression is adopted... it reminds me of what I was taught at school, that having the answer was not the be all and end all, what was most important was being able to demonstrate your understanding. My teachers used to say "It is as important to show your workings as to get the answer right"... all the theological, ecclesiological and missiological workings are actually far more significant and important than the end product. They teach us more than the technique, they help us more than the technique, because instead of simply applying a rootless, thoughtless model they mean we have to look at the context, the culture, the people, Scripture etc. and think much harder about church and mission.
There is nothing wrong with looking at what others are doing and learning from them, but one can't simply apply a model and expect it to work. When you talk to arable armers you find they are not just experts in the crops themselves, they are first and foremost students of the soil... before planting seeds one needs to know about the soil, does it have the right nutrients, is it's ph level suitable for the crop, what is it's moisture content etc. The one needs to understand the context, how much sun does the field get, what are the prevailing winds, what are the average seasonal temperatures for the region, how much rain is the area likely to get, what are the physical dynamics (contours, drainage, public rights of way etc.), what might effect the harvesting methods that can be used etc. etc. Once the Farmer understands these things only then can He/She make decisions about the crop which will thrive best in the conditions... even then the Farmer will need to be able to adapt his/her techniques as the crop develops... the most important things the Farmer needs are the skills to be able to read the signs, reflect on all the factors, to learn and to be flexible... the chances are that if he/she simply plants what was seen growing fruitfully in a different part of the country the crop will fail.
Perhaps it time we began to learn from the world of organics rather than the world of consumerism?