Moved Mountains

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

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Positive About the Church - Synchroblog

A facebook friend of mine - Sally Coleman - came up with the idea of making February the 2nd a day for posting positive stories about the local church (sorry Sally, I'm a day late!).

As someone who often grumbles about different aspects of the local church, I was challanged to participate in this synchroblog. One of my new years resolutions this year was to learn to express the positive more often and the negative less often in all circumstances and what better place to start than with my very own local expression of the church.

Our fellowship is one that has been through a lot in recent years. Around 5 years ago we experienced a bit of a split when all the young families left to attend a mega-church in nearby Bunbury. This left Alyssa and I as the youngest in the congregation by about 10 years.

There were problems with the leadership at the same time which saw a few more leave along the way. In the end we were left with a shell of about 15 regulars, the majority already well into their senior years, conservative, old fashioned but completely committed to Jesus and to being the only expression of the local church in our community.

Around 3 years ago I took over the pastoral role in the hope that we could take things in a more missional direction, changing from what until then had been a very "believer centred" church and into something that was focussed and committed to the broader community in which it existed.

What we saw in the ensuing 3 years was an amazing period of personal and spiritual growth as a group of older people (and I was always told "you can't teach old dogs new tricks") began to explore what it meant to be a decentralised, disinstitutionalised, community serving expression of faith. To break with long held traditions and even to begin to question core doctrines that had been held to faithfully for decades without question and to allow God to work in us and in our lives and through us through serving the community outside the comfort and safety of our meeting place.

While to the casual observer, looking in from the outside, we probably still look a lot like a conservative, dying church in a growing suburban community, the reality though is something very different.

I am so very proud of the people I call my brothers and sisters (even though most of them are actually old enough to be my parents and grandparents) and the way they have allowed the message of Jesus to challange them and change them and change the corporate and personal foci of their faith.

We are still growing and the journey is far from over, but already I know this community is in a better place because of the presence of the local church within it - as an active part of it - rather than as an enclave on its edge. And for the way in which a bunch of older people have completely challanged the stereotype of stayed, unchanging, evangelical conservatism, becoming instead more and more the salt and light in the difficult missionfield of affluent suburbia.

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