In preparing to launch a faith community called Ecclesia, in our soon to be open coffee shop in North Colorado Springs, I decided to reread a book by two missionally thoughtful pastors/authors, Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch. The Shape of Things To Come has been a pivotal book to many who want to move to a missional model of living out their faith. It has also been the bur in the saddle of many institutional church leaders. I don't think Alan and Michael set out to irritate corporate churches (or maybe they did), I just think talking plainly about the failings of Christendom will obviously make friends as well as enemies, even unintentionally. I risk the same here.
One of these sections of their missional propaganda talks about three areas that need to be readjusted in the Western church.
1. The Church needs to be Incarnational, not separating itself from culture in large buildings, but rather being among those who need the Gospel. This means moving from an attractional model, where programs and events pull people to the church building, to being a sending community, where the followers of Christ live out their faith in everyday life. Jesus once proclaimed to a religious group that he came for the sick, not the spiritually healthy. Perhaps we should follow his example. Christendom, way back before we were born...way, way, way back...decided that religion would be ruled by the State. We started building cathedrals and instituting hierarchies of church leadership. We have held on to those structures even today, and it seems we won't have our hands pried away.
2. The Church needs to be Messianic, not dualistic. By dualistic, they mean that we often view our world and our life in terms of things that are good and things that are evil. We separate out the good from the bad so that we are not polluted by the bad. While I understand not wanting to be infiltrated by things that might take me off course in my apprenticeship with Jesus, again, we must question how we will be able to minister to the "sick" that Jesus came for if we stay away from the culture they live in. How do we heal lepers if don't enter the colony? Is all creation not God's and our job is to simply try and redeem what has been stained by sin? That seems very different than avoiding the parts of His creation that are in turbulence.
3. The Church needs to be Apostolic in leadership, not hierarchical. Today, most churches are looking for a CEO that specializes in growing the church bigger. A "Lead Pastor" today needs to be more of a strategist of programs, than a prophet/teacher that guides people in their spiritual journey. What if church leadership structures looked flatter? What if gifting from Ephesians 4: Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher, became the sought-after giftings of leadership that would then "equip the saints" as Paul put it poetically.
As Ecclesia launches this month, these three points seem to be obvious building blocks of the foundation of our community. A community that will live incarnationally within the rhythms of the city around us. We want to see the beauty in all of creation, and bring light to the places that are dark, not run from, or be aggressive against those things that have been stained by sin. We want to share together in the leadership and movement forward of Ecclesia as a community of faith. Without flattening the leadership structures, we risk setting up a system where the audience comes to be talked to by the leader....sound familiar? Sure, there's a leader, but somewhere I remember a suggestion from someone that the best leaders are servants first. They lead from behind.
Well, I probably have done what Hirsch and Frost unintentionally have done...make some people mad. Know I'm not against large churches, but I do think it is time we face the structures and rhythms that keep people from living out their life in a missional way. After all, being missional and incarnational is not a strategy...it is simply the way our Rabbi taught us to live.