Thursday, 3 June 2010

DECONSTRUCTION.3. – ‘Re-Imagining’

"Every day people are straying away from church and going back to God."

Lenny Bruce

This quote brings us abruptly to the point. If we don’t act now we face, well I’ll leave you to ponder that.

One thing is for sure there is wide spread decline across the breadth of the ecumenical spectrum. It encompasses the western world as we know it.

We need to undergo personal and corporate transformation, morphing, re-imagining, re-enchanting call it what you will.
“The Church in the west is well and truly in the midst of a post Christendom and pluralist position, we compete with a number of entities.” Eddie Gibbs.

"We live in extraordinary times in the western world, when church attendances are diminishing but spiritual hunger is rising." Dave Tomlinson.

Our mental models are deeply embedded within us; we are like a rabbit caught in the headlights of the world we live in; paralysed!
Are we in the process of losing our faith personally and corporately?

We have a direct need to Re-imagine our call and what it is we are supposed to do in the midst of the deconstructive process

1. By providing the arena and creating a safe space, people can find their vocation through experience, experimentation and connections. Interestingly Crep’s states that; ‘The Church’s job is not to save people but to shape the space in which God calls them to himself.’ I would go further and state the leader must set the pace and fashion this by his personal Missional life. This ‘Spatial Evangelism’ is not just done in a program or project and is not linear or two dimensional it has volume to it, three dimensional, spirit, heart and venue. It encompasses all of the week, time and space the leader works in. This space is made safe by core values and virtues: providing a positive culture to live and work in.

2. The next question is to ask what this means for the next generation of leaders. The leader’s shape in the 21st century needs to be aware of past and present but is not shaped by ‘being right’ or driven by ‘meeting needs’

3. Engage in the FOUR aspects of the journey which are interrelated, leading to one another and to action and back again. It’s messy and sometimes chaotic yet the leader embraces this as it reflects how life happens around them. What they try to do is to look for God at work and then ask;

How can I interact with this?

Cultural Reflection: - Culture comes from the Latin word culturus, from which we also get, cultivate. ‘Technically speaking, culture is the vast array of symbols (language, clothing, icons, ideas, hairstyles, stemware, obscene hand gestures and pretty much everything else) by which human beings cultivate our life experiences.’ Elsewhere Newbiggin defines culture as ‘Understanding the sum total ways of living developed by a group of human beings and handed on from generation to generation’
Understanding and the application of this is crucial for the leader if they are to position themselves to influence others in the next century. The leader is aware he can’t escape culture and doesn’t try to subvert it; rather he adopts a counter culture posture that doesn’t divide sacred and secular. By embracing this paradigm they show alternatives that people can chose without having sectarian threads embedded within them, its inclusive and not exclusive allowing people to join the movement.

Missional Reflection: - this component is always contextual and always situational to the present yet the leader holds a biblical narrative alongside it this allows them to shape a better future than currently expected. By being unashamedly spiritual, experiential and incarnational the leader shows by example how Christ can transform the arena by human interaction. The main advantage here is that it can work in all settings not just Church or Christian organisations.

• Spiritual Reflection: - This is no longer the realm of the professional clergy, but intrinsic to all believers. A priesthood for all, that includes more than the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, solitude etc. but because of reflection it promotes action, which forms habits and set the tone for the leaders life. Followers watch and repeat this cycle in a manner that is suitable for them in their context.

• Theological Reflection: - is linked to the mission and setting they find themselves in, Jones says: Theology; ‘reasoned discourse about God, religion and spirituality. Literally words about God, from the Greek word logos (word) and Theo's (God)’ the leader is cognisant that all truth is God’s truth and is happy that Christian theology does not have the sole claim to truth.

However the leader can translate the truth into the idioms of biblical narrative. A great example of this being the Apostle Paul and his visit to Athens, ‘It is plain to see you Athenians take your religion seriously. When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, To ‘The God Nobody Knows’. I’m here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, knowing who you’re dealing with. Theology has a practical outworking and this relationship link informs each other about the outworking of mission.

What is interesting is that a linear sequence is excluded. Cyclical and seasonal influences are rhythmic and ritual to this process. I find this exciting as it reflects my own journey: I have become dissatisfied with next-level thinking and the next new thing. I feel more at ease exploring the dimension of the present. Webber explains how there is no ‘correct point of entry’, this allows free flowing dynamic and organic relationships and networks to be created.

This freedom to explore the dimension sets us free instead of being like salmon swimming upstream to spawn, trying to get up to the next rapids, only to find the next fish ladder and ultimately death. McKinley in his book talks about pastors and leaders and how they love to build the kingdom, but Jesus didn’t, he simply stated ‘the kingdom is…he simply invited his followers to see it, embrace it and believe in it.’ This enables the leader to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’.
The trouble is we like to think in levels of achievement as it gives us a sense of power and control; ‘if I work hard and do the right thing I can move to the next level.’ More appropriate leadership for the context of the 21st century in light of this discussion must be that the leaders ‘be’ first, and ‘do’ out of this sense of being rather than to ‘be’ as a result of doing.

Our previous models have at the centre of them works to achieve and build things, this is changing but it will take time and courage to achieve this.

Concluding Remarks.

If the 21st Century leaders can position themselves in the flux of learning, unlearning, being at home with experiments and tradition, paradox and chaos they can bring about a marked change in Spiritual climate we find ourselves in. One of the greatest skills a leader can learn is the ability to learn from their mistakes. We may get knocked down but we must get up again.

I finish with one last thought from the book Reimagining the Church, by Frank Viola.

But is the church really different in every culture? …..Or is it that the church has over adapted to modern western culture in its theology and its practice?

Speaking of the problem of over contextualisation, Richard Halverson writes; “When the Greeks got the gospel, they turned it into a philosophy; when the Romans got it, they turned it into a culture; and when the Americans got it, they turned it into a business.

hope you enjoyed this series;
speak soon

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