Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Emerging-Missional Church as a Catalyst for Grassroots Community Transformation

Long title - but it says what I'm thinking.

The following is really just a bit of me thinking "out loud" or at least in Verdana 12 point! If it doesn't make a lot of sense to you that's cool - I am still trying to get my head around it all myself. But I really think that somewhere in here in this current train of thought is an important point - how it looks or will come together in practice I'm not sure. But I am sure that there is an important link between community development (really community transformation and that's what I'll call it from now on) and the gospel.

In the time I have spent around the church this isn't something I have heard much about. Don't get me wrong, the "kingdom" is a topic I am very familiar with - but only in the sense in which "kingdom" is something eschatalogical; something still to come and not something that exists in the here-and-now. In the same way I have heard a lot about the way Jesus transforms this world, however beyond changes in individual lives I have not seen much evidence of this beyond the 4 walls of the local church building.

Hear what I'm saying - the fact that people can change is a huge thing. This is powerful evidence of the way in which a relationship with Jesus Christ can change lives. But in my experience it seems to often stop there. Sure, people stop swearing or drinking too much or sleazing around. They might stop speeding or cheating on their tax return too. But as far as these changes flowing out of the church buildings and into the communities in which these people exist, well I just haven't really seen a lot of it happening.

This is where it all starts to come together though - where the Kingdom and the transforming power of Jesus Christ actually meet. After all, what is a kingdom without a king, or for that matter a king without a kingdom?

The New Testament (and in many places, particularly the Psalms, the Old as well) paints a vivid picture of what this kingdom looks like and who is in charge. It paints a picture that leads me to no other conclusion than Jesus intended us, His body, His church, His bride, to be the means through which His kingdom exists in this world, and that this kingdom is to be a place of safety, refuge, peace and ultimately salvation, for all who find it and exist within it.

A place where those who don't "go to church" on a Sunday morning can still experience the transforming power of Christ for themselves because His kingdom, the place where his power is at work, is all around them. In their world, but not of their world.

If this is the case, then it means the kingdom has to spread beyond the confines of the local church meeting hall. The transforming power of Jesus Christ cannot be limited to those 4 walls and the people who dwell within them. Rather it must be allowed to flow into the world around it - to give it flavour and light, to influence, to love, to serve, to transform!

In Church Re-imagined Doug Pagitt describes this as the act of bringing heaven to earth:

It's tempting to see service as a way for the well-resourced to reach out to others. But that perspective makes service a kind of condescension - drops of mercy bestowed upon the "needy" by those who are "blessed" - rather than an outgrowth of our desire to work toward making things on earth as they are in heaven.
Can you imagine a church that is involved in this kind of kingdom work? I can - and I want to be a part of it!


upstream said...

I think you're right on the money in all of this and especially in the fact that it challenges and disturbs the way we currently view kingdom.

I am currently working with our guys to make our 'church service' actual community service at least once a month as an expression of how the church functions and displays the kingdom.

Typically I find most people just want to have the normal 'service' and focus on personal change - not the wider community.

This is major paradigm shifting!

The Creature said...

I'm looking at doing something similar with out young blokes. I am stuck for oportunities down this way though!

I think the guys in our youth fellowship have heard the message often enough to know it. But what I really see them struggling with is the idea of living it.

None of them come from Christian homes so they aren't receiving much role modelling or reinforcement from that side either.