I wanted to follow up on my post from yesterday about young(ish) mainline pastor types planting churches because there is a thought that I want to flesh out a tad more. I am struck by the reality that we want to “play like its a new church, yet be paid like it’s the old church.”
“Old Church” sets its benchmark with the questions “How many? How often? How much?” (hat tip Reggie McNeal) When you can track how many people are showing up for your programs and how often they are showing up, you have a pretty good guess as to how much they will be forking over. In cash. Not time or talents. We’re talking treasure here. And so “old church” tries to maximize the many, the often, and the much. That’s the way the game is played, and that has defined “success” for as long as any of us can remember.
“New Church” hopes to not fall victim to that mentality, but those interested often hold on to one significant piece of it: Old Church Salary and Benefits. Often, it’s because we go to get trained to “be a pastor” before we’ve done anything else in our lives. We’re scared to death of not having the security of the (even meager) paycheck. So we try to convince others to let us play a different game than the one that brings in the cash. We don’t want to sully our hands with that Old Church score card, but we’re willing to take the “support” and we justify it by saying they told us this is what they wanted us to do.
So all of this was bouncing in my head today when I stumbled upon a couple of posts from the Tall Skinny Kiwi, Andrew Jones. I used to read him all the time, but had stopped a number of years ago. I’m glad I found him today. Here’s the two posts I glommed onto:
In the first post, Jones lays out much more clearly than I why we should not pursue “church planting” if it even remotely resembles “Old Church.” His basic thesis is that “church planting” seeks to maximize the Old Church Scorecard (my words) to the detriment of measurable society transforming practices. Because of this, church planting ignores those who are not rich and without status. Church planting sets up a consumer mindset among new members and promotes competition among and within churches.
“Boo,” I say. That’s not a church culture I want to be a part of.
Luckily, Jones offers some hints of a better way (yes, I said “better”) in his second post.
I’ll encourage you to read it for yourself, but he lays out 11 practices of what he’s calling a “New Jesus Movement” (NJM) that seems to be catching hold in Asian countries that he visited over the last year. I’d like to see how they fit with Mainline sensibilities.
1. Bible Study
Done and done. Mainliners (quite to the contrary of what our Evangelical friends think) take the Bible very seriously. When I teach folks using the Historical-Critical tools I learned in seminary, they eat. it. up. Taking the text seriously, but not coming to it blindly has transformed many peopel’s lives. I know it did mine.
2. Open Houses
Hospitality is an assumed way of being for the NJM. Jones talks of people crashing with others allover the place while they were being loved and their lives were bring transformed. Jones described a decidedly non “what’s mine is mine” culture. What’s mine is yours – freely and unreservedly.
3. Fringe Focus
These communities were not the pretty people. “Christians” have bought the lie for too long that we’re supposed to be popular and loved. Well Constantine lied to us and we believed him. We’re the freaks on the fringe called to love other freaks on the fringe.
4. Simple Habits
Things were simply done and one didn’t need to be a “professional minister” to lead anything. Jones relates that Bible Study, for instance, consisted of reading the passage and answering 3 questions: 1) What does it say? 2) What does it say to me? 3) What am I going to do about it? And then we hold each other accountable for our answers.
We’ve made this too complicated (not complex, there’s a difference).
5. Good Business Products
I love this one. These are not NPR/Public Television Pledge-a-thon organizations. They were financially stable from running a micro-business.
6. System for Rehabilitation
For the NJM, “sanctuary” is not the place where worship takes place, but where people could come and be nurtured and loved into Christian maturity.
7. Native Flavor
Whatever was done had a decidedly indigenous commitment. the practices and gathering reflected the place they inhabited. In the Asian countries Jones visited, “Western” things were conspicuously absent to his eye. The NJM allows the incarnation to radically influence the life of the community.
8. Daily Rhythms
Jones found people were together almost every day, usually around meals. This was not a once a week kinda thing.
9. Not outreach TO but outreach WITH others
For the NJM, being a Christian is a way to be a decent human being, and they would often organize outreach to the poor and marginalized with their Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and atheist neighbors.
10. Something for the whole family
It seemed, from what Jones observed, that there was a concerted effort to minister to the whole family a person came from and not just the one.
Prayer was a casual and normal part of everything they did.
Notice that worship is nowhere to be found. It seems to fit nicely with Jones’ thesis in the first post I listed. As he says,
Also, the intentionality of the movement was focused on impacting people’s lives with the gospel and NOT on creating community or starting churches which they saw as a natural outgrowth.
When I say to Young(ish) Mainline Pastor Type People, “Please go plant a church” these are the kinds of things I mean, and I am grateful for Jones giving better words to the idea.
So… Are you up for it?