Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Message in a Bottle

Traditional forms of church planting have often been exercises in building time-capsules. Most traditional churches are a snapshot of a community remaining in the mode and cultural form in which they were born. This quickly makes them irrelevant to the rest of the culture around them because the surrounding culture moves forward and changes with time.

The Gospel is not culturally stagnant or irrelevant. The Church was never intended to embody a single method or form. It was always intended as a community expression of the Gospel being lived in the culture. When a church is designed and born as a cultural institution rather than a living collection of personalities, it is built around the wrong things. The goal of such a church is its own survival and maintenance, not changed lives or cultural impact. Therefore such a church is concerned with things like attendance, programs and attracting more customers.

Instead, at its best a church should be a group of believers simply being. They think more about things like sharing life, experiencing relationship with God and each other, and spreading that existence around. They exist so long as their gathering makes sense and has an impact on the world. The goal is doing what they do—not continuing to merely exist.

Some see the measuring stick of church success in longevity. However, many a church continues to exist exactly as it was born long after it ceases to have impact. They are dead and simply fail to acknowledge it because they equate death with failure. Perhaps a better indication of success would be descendants—how many communities and generations of communities are left when the first church is no longer around. To some it may have died, but to the more observant it has been poured into numerous multiplications and continues in ever growing, new manifestations.

Which footprint would you prefer: time capsule, or civilization?

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