What’s missing today is a high-quality discourse on rethinking the design and evolution of the entire system from scratch.
The quality of the results produced by any system depends on the quality of awareness from which the people in the system operate.
Since writing the first batch of posts on Missing Generations I’ve been lucky enough to be part of two events and several conversations which have expanded my thinking on some of the topics I raised. I think those events and conversations have at least begun to produce a quality of awareness…
The Church is perfectly designed to achieve what we are currently achieving. (Alan Hirsch)
Those were the opening words of Alan Hirsch at a recent conference, The Shaping of Things To Come… in Scotland. He and Michael Frost were talking through some of the thoughts from the book of the same name (
The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church) and Hirsch was basically saying that our focus on pastor/ teacher leads to a focus on an intellectual style of engagement. We have pretty much ignored other forms of ministry like apostle, prophet and evangelist. That means we skew our thinking in one direction and that has led to the church we have today.
That analysis would certainly explain our present forms of worship and even our liking of austere buildings. We could trace that back to the reformation and tie it to the Enlightenment but it also chimes with a second conversation I was part of with Brian McLaren. The link below is Brian’s podcast at a recent conference and he was saying the same thing at the event I was at.
Brian McLaren at children,youth and a new kind of Christianity http://www.woodlakebooks.com/files/CYNKC-Brian%20McLaren-Christian%20Faith%20and%20the%20Next%20Generation.mp3
His assertion is that we are telling the wrong story, or at least telling the story in the wrong way. That stems from even further back than the reformation and Brian blames those pesky Greco-Romans and their philosophy. He says that the story we tell is transposed onto Plato’s ‘Cave’.
So our version is:
McLaren’s assertion is that our story is something very different. Our story begins with the Exile. That cycle of exile, rediscovering a relationship with God, returning and forgetting again. Genesis is the prequel and the sequel is Isaiah and his vision of the kingdom which leads us to Jesus and the incarnation.
One of Hirsch and Frost’s thoughts is that we focus too much on one particular end of the story of Jesus. We focus on the cross, resurrection and the return. We forget the incarnation. We forget an amazing and hugely significant part of the story, the life of Jesus, here on Earth.
Michael Frost talked about ‘excarnation’, the opposite of ‘incarnation’. Excarnation means stripping away flesh. I wonder if that’s what we have done in the way that we tell the story of Jesus, or in how we behave as Christians? It would seem that rather than being an incarnational community, a community in the flesh, we have become in many ways an excarnational community, a community of thought.
If that is true then it has some serious implications for us. We are, again, telling the wrong story.
And that leads to us doing the wrong things. We focus on learning rather than sharing, study rather than community and maintaining an institution rather than participating in a movement.
Hirsch asked the question: Did you get into this to run a club or build a kingdom? Why do we spend all our energy doing the former and not the latter?
I’ve come across this video in a couple of places now. I think part of the trap of the club is that we are stuck in a cycle of property ownership and wages. What if money was no object? What would you do?
Is the Church, all wretch and no vomit?
A final thought for now:
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Einstein
Tags: church, Theology, URC, worship