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12/10/2006

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So where and what is the value of non-Pioneers? Can old people be pioneers? Can the eye say to the foot, "I don't need you!"? Can't this also become a cult of personality(ies)?

Good point.

Matt... atempts at answers...
1. Good question, I would say that there is tremedous value in non-pioneers...eg. intercessors, mentors, pastors, etc. in fact it could be argued that the church has not seen the importance/dismissed/even crushed pioneers and therefore there is a need to redress the balance... actually I do think that we are in a particular moment, business and biology would call it an 'adaptive zone' when we particularly need pioneers. Whilst my heart might want to say that is simply about the paradigm shift, lets be honest the modern church has failed to engage with the modern world never mind the post-modern!
2. yes of course old people can be pioneers... sorry if I gave the impression otherwise... though I'm not sure how?
3. no - see above
4. Yes, of course it can... anything with humans in leadership can become a 'cult of personality' there are plenty of traditional churches that are just that... in all traditions (I won't give examples I'm sure you can think of as many as I can)... wether they be pastors, preachers, worship leaders, theologians, priests, etc. etc! So it's no more a danger with Pioneers than it is with any other leadership 'model'/style.

Mark
I realise that your reply to Matt was concise and "on the run". I would appreciate it if you could amplify this generalised remark a little more:

"Let's be honest the modern church has failed to engage with the modern world."

I what ways or spheres do you perceive this failure?
Grace and peace.

Sure Phil, firstly I am specifically talking about a western scenario (I guess also I can only really talk about a UK context, and of course there are noteable exceptions to all the 'rules')...

1)The church in recent history has seen a huge decline in it's numbers (The 'decade of evangelism' and the charismatic renewal (toronto etc) in the UK happened at the same time as the fastest fall in church attendance ever) although the numbers of people who say they believe in God remains high (circa 80%), the number who say they are 'practising' Christians and/or go to church is getting lower (around 6-8%)

2)The church has failed on the whole to engage with the social and political needs of 'modern' society... in the UK we have issues such as the rapid rise of suicides, violent crime, teenage preganancy, decreasing social mobility, increasing poverty, individualism, materialism etc. Yes groups of christians are engaged in these issues... but there is little cohesive, prophetic word and action... we are not identified anymore with mercy and justice.

3)... perhaps we have 'bought into' the myths of the modern culture too strongly; rationalism, consumerism (particularly... we go to church for God can/does do for ME, and for the worship, liturgy etc. I like... so many of my peers if and when they move travel around churches trying them out to find the 'one that suits' them), marketing over substance, franchised models rather than relationships, easy answers rather than sacrificial commitment etc. rather than being counter-cultural where it matters and being sympathetic/affirming to culture where it may help people reach for God.

4) we have become too focussed on meeting the needs of the gathering (see Youthwork in particular - circa 96% of all 11-14year olds engaged in any form of church youthwork (including the uniformed clubs, scouts etc.) are children of church members - in the UK) developing structures and models of leadership to manage 'gatherings' and putting our resources into places for gathering, rather than hospitality. Also we have developed a siege mentality; everyone is out to mock/get us, we need to retrench, to structure our own death... and simply to hang on to those we have!

5) Pete Rollins says that if we do not address the great questions of the culture, then the culture will find other ways to explore and address them... it seems to me that we have got so caught up in individualism - a modal soteriology, and cultural inclusion we have stopped listening to the questions... eg. the search for spiritual well-being, harmony etc. that we see amongst those who engage in contemporary spiritualities ("the new age" etc.) - into which we have failed to 'preach' shalom (holistic spirituality, peace, harmony found in created purpose and in relationship - not prosperity theology (either material or spiritual), or the question of ecology - even the Conservatives (our version of the US Republicans) realise that to win elections you need to have a strong commitment to ecology and ecological concerns, and creation spirituality.

6) we, the institutional church have become part of the establishment rather than the people! As established orders have become mistrusted, deemed to be untrustworthy, self interested, corrupt etc. and considered irrelevant - of a dying age... so have we!

I would love to say that the modern/established (I am ceasing to use the words 'inherited' and 'traditional' if I can, I don't find them that helpful as there is a huge amount of spiritual, social and theological wealth in church history, that in recent years had been abandoned/ignored which is deeply helpful now) Church was great in it's own age and we are simply 'readressing' the Gospel, as Theilike says, to reach the 'new' culture... but many people have argued that the Modern Church has fiddled while Christendom burned... harsh I know, but it cannot be doubted that if the Modern Church had been succseful in engaging with the people of it's own paradigm we wouldn't be where we are now. The flip side, I suppose, is that the 'enlightenment' as a paradigm was one which was impossible for the Church to persist in... but maybe that ignores the majesty of God... God's ability to speak into and challenge any culture? Whilst in many ways I welcome the collapse of Christendom as a new opportunity to enagage with a missional God... it seems impossible to ignore the sense that it's demise is at least to a point a 'failure' of the church... that is if we could/can equate 'christendom' with the soveriegn reign of God in culture, which TBH I'm not sure about.

The lessons, for me and for the mission/community of God in the changing culture are not to sit still and focus on maintaining the status quo, not to 'buy into' cultural trends and icons that are aporias to the Mission of God, not to become focussed on me and us, our concerns, stylistic or theological preferences etc. but on the people we live amongst and the calling God has placed on us.

Nice post.
Hope to link to it soon as currently working on a post on something simular bringing in issues of the sacrements, Luther, and challenging the whole rethinking within the culture, tradition and bible thing.

From The Next-Wave Ezine by Michael Spencer, some similar observations from a US context...

The Reformers did much that was right. They also failed at some key points. A fully articulated, cross-cultural missionary theology was one failure. That failure was repaired by later generations, but the idea that the church is to become comfortably allied with the dominant conservative culture remained. Today, thousands of dying churches are memorials to the influence the church once had in culture, but has no longer. Many of those churches have specifically said no, over and over, to making changes that could reach the culture. They are dying rather than embrace missionary principles that could save them.

Emerging churches have sent up the signal that the church is not the expression of a post-war boomer and greatest generation culture. They are ridiculed for “tattoos and piercings” in the congregation, but this is because many critics are invested more in the preservation of a cultural expression of the church than in a missional approach to the Gospel that goes with culture, and goes into sub and counter cultures. It is not a matter of “holiness,” as some blogs strangely assume, but a matter of Christ for all people and all cultures.

http://www.the-next-wave-ezine.info/issue94/index.cfm?id=17&ref=COVERSTORY

Mark-
Thank you for the reply. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and reflection. I think you and I are coming from very similar places. I posted what I posted because I am often concerned that when we swap an old model for a new one, we end up cutting off part of the Body. I was initially worried that my comment would be read as a bitter and ungracious criticism, and I am glad that it was not. Thanks again. By the way, Amen to the failure of the Reformers to articulate a solid missional theology. I am Presbyterian, and I am often horrified at the lack missionality within our church's Confessions (Westminster, Heidelberg, Scots, etc.). It is no wonder we have struggled. Let's give thanks to Christendom thinking for that omission.

Matt,
No problem, and no offence taken ;) I completely agree with your comment, my desire is that we resist the need for 'the new' for the sake of it, and resist the need for 'models'... but wake up to the call to re-imagine faith, church and mission in a changing context... whilst at the same time are honest about our failings and weaknesses... it would be stupid of me to think I have THE answer... but it would be dishonest of me to say that I don't believe there is serious critique to be done about what has become known as 'church'! In some ways I suppose we are in the business of equal measure revolution and evolution; deconstruction and reformtation.

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