I have been (violently) ill today with a stomach bug. Among other things, this means that I won’t be attending the Casting Crowns concert tonight at Moody. Thats okay. I like Casting Crowns, but last time I went to one of their performances, Deyo opened for them, so it was going to be hard to beat that experience anyway. (My favorite moment from the evening, by the way, was right after Deyo’s set – there was this palpable sense that about 3000 Casting Crowns fans were asking themselves – “Jeff who?” “Does he have an album?” “That was incredible!” I loved listening to and watching the buzz in the audience as Casting Crowns got set up!)
In my sick stupor, I had a chance to reflect a little on a conversation on Mike’s blog that simply will not end. The conversation is attached to a post from last week called Adding by Subtracting. In it, Mike talks about the way that Highland’s attendance and budget may well shrink because of the leadership’s new-found focus on being a missional church.
I’m learning a lot from following this conversation:
- Many people still don’t “get” the idea of being missional. Its just another buzz word to them.
- When people hear phrases like “consumer Christians” and talk about people who seek “goods and services” – a shorthand some of us are famliar with – they begin to fear that they are being judged by these new phrases.
- People perceive that being “missional” – and all of the buzz around it – is just the latest religious fad. It will eventually fade, and then we can go back to church as usual.
- A more viral form of this argument will probably attempt to marginalize those who characterize themselves as “missional.” I’m not hearing it yet, but side-by-side with the marginalization arguments will be an appeal to the effect that we are “missional” already, and have been for a long time. If that message becomes widely accepted, the whole thing is going to bog down very quickly.
- People fear that the missional approach will be divisive. They want to understand how it will interact with principles of Christian unity. Given some of the more unfortunate events in the history of my heritage, sensitivity to these fears is particularly important.
- People still aren’t sure what “church” will “look like” as it becomes more missional. A more concrete vision will ultimately need to be articulated.
- Overall, I am struck by how much of this is a leadership issue. It has much to do with finding language that will help leaders “get over” certain fears about how some people. That may be why some people just haven’t heard or adopted much of the language yet.
Update: I’ve discovered that I feel equally crummy regardless of whether I am lying in bed or sitting at the computer. Thus, I’ve had a chance to continue to follow the Adding by Subtracting conversation. This remark from “John”, who has chosen not to identify himself further, has really helped to summarize a lot of the emotion, I think, and its been good to watch he and Steve, from harvestboston, engage in a conversation that is healthier than I am at the moment:
I don’t necessarily disagree with the move to become more missional (which I think is bad terminology, but we’re stuck with it). My problem is that there seems to be a common thread in the more progressive end of thinking that comes across as, “You poor misguided soul, you’ve done church wrong for so many years. Let me lead you toward the light. If you’re unwilling to move in this direction, you can go find a new church.” Change is very necessary, but should be handled very carefully (and preferably without words like ecclesiologically). I have lived in several communities where a church has undergone a major personality and mission change. Each of them handled it poorly, and there were a lot of hard feelings for a long time. Some of that is unavoidable, but a good bit of it could be avoided by more understanding and better explanation of reasoning.