A couple of questions have bugged me for a while now: If we achieve the goal of everyone living a missional life then what is the purpose of the church as an institution? If the point is to work with God so that everyone is exhibiting the Kingdom of Heaven, then what do we do when that is the case?
My tradition is pretty clear that we understand the Church to be the “provisional demonstration of what God intends for humanity.” In other words: we are God’s demonstration classroom, the place people should be able to look and think, “Ah, that’s the way we should be doing this thing called life.”
And yet, we’re not really demonstrating anything. What we’re basically doing is fighting with each other over who’s got the right idea of how we can save all those darn heathens. It’s not a terribly productive strategy.
It is a strategy, however, is born from a belief that the Church is merely a more holy Social Service Organization. Many (if not most) of us believe that Church is little more than a glorified Rotary Club: We show up once a week, pay our dues, and do some service projects. I think we need to look beyond this. Rotary is great, but it’s not what the Church is called to be, I don’t think.
There is something exciting to me about the Church not being a Social Service Organization, but an intentional community of people sharing a similar space and working to rehearse life the way they beieve God intends it. But this would mean giving up the need to own every damn thing we want and be in control of everything. It would mean giving into collaboration and community in ways we have not yet been comfortable.
Among other things, this would change who we think the pastor is (not CEO, but Community Architect) and what we understand evangelism to be (not coercion…i mean conversion, but inviting them to be functional part of a community in order to possible start another one).
This is a place where I think the New Monastics have something to teach us. Can we learn it? What would a Mainline incarnational monasticism look like?