Who am I? Who am I for? Why am I for them?
There are questions that go to the very core of who we are. As we have already discussed the various generations might choose to answer these questions in quite different terms.
- Builders are for the country, the establishment.
- Boomers are for the kids, and they’re still paying for them.
- Xers are for themselves, and the world.
- Yers are for whatever cause captures their interest.
Of course those are generalisations but even those four glib stereotyping statements give us an indication of the problem of a ‘one size fits all’ church. It is almost impossible to be a place that meets everyone’s needs… almost.
To discover if the church is a place where people can belong the church needs to grapple with its answers those same questions.
Who are we for? What are we for? Why are we for them?
These are questions that are central to our very reason for being and yet I’m not sure we, the church, could answer those questions well.
We could say that we are for God, we are for the poor and we are for them because we believe in Jesus, God’s son, and he told us that we should be for the poor.
But that does that really answer the questions?
Yes. And no. And maybe.
And that’s a problem. The answer works ok for Builder’s and for some Boomers. It appeals to Builder’s sense of ‘doing the right thing’ and building a better world. It appeals to Boomer’s need for a bit of certainty in an ever-changing world.
It is particularly problematic for Xers and Yers. They want to know the detail. Which poor? Define poor? For God? What does that mean? Why should we do what Jesus says?
I’ve had a look around at some church websites to see how people answer these kinds of questions. Most don’t. At least not in an up front way. Some have a go in a ‘mission statement’ or like my own Synod who have a list of aspirations.
I like Mars Hill in Grand Rapids approach. If you visit their website you find a ‘who we are’ sections that has a sections headed ‘What we believe’. In there you find paragraphs on theology, values, mission, serving and membership.
The Values section has the arrows you might have seen in one of the previous post:
For Xers and Yers the answers to each of these directions; backwards, forwards, inward, withward (got to love those made up words!), outward and upward, are vital and I think we need to answer each of these questions for each of our churches:
Backwards – where have we come from? What is our ‘big story’? How do we fit in the story of faith?
Forwards – where are we heading? Who are we travelling with?
Inwards (one we almost always avoid) – Why are we here? Do we value the wholeness of people? Do we value their mind, body, soul, emotion and experience?
Withward (community) – How do we as a group of people live together? What are the rules and expectations of our community?
Outward – Who are we serving? Who are we fighting for? Who’s lives do we make better?
Upward (celebration) – What does God mean to us? How do we show that? How do we share that in our community?
Once we answer those questions we need to be honest about who might share our answers.
I used the phrase ‘mixed economy’ in part 2 and this is where it becomes important. Even if the generations can agree on the answers the next step is ‘How?’ and I don’t have a problem with that and I don’t think the church should either. In fact I think we should embrace it.
We are kidding ourselves if we don’t think we already have ‘niche church’. We all serve a group or a type. Why not be honest about it and serve a varied menu?
And that brings us back to ministers…