Future Church Forum

Ran an interesting day today at South Perth Church of Christ. It was titled Future Church Future Youth. It was sold as a forum, a discussion day in which 7 topics were floated at the start with 3 spots for discussion. People voted at the start of the day on which topics they desired to have spoken on. The winners today were –
1. The Future of Youth / Kids Ministry
2. Discipleship the Jesus way
3. Incarnational versus Attractional Model
4. (in case we had time which we didn’t) Success and how it’s measured.
Also on the vote board were –

  • Leadership and it’s various expressions
  • Finance Stewardship and use of resources
  • What is Church?

The day went ‘nicely’. Which is what I think I said of the last thing I ran like this, the Postcards night with Steve Said.
Everyone was very ‘nice’ to each other. No biffo!

What was the point of the day? Well it was to create open discussion for painting pictures of how to take church and ministry to young people into the future and retain a sense of unity and hamony between more ‘old model’ and the more radical new models.

It didn’t really feel like anyone was radical today. There were radical things said I think, but no one seemed to react or get offended or even really badly disagree. Which all sounds good, but if what Barna says is true that by the year 2025 that 70% of people claiming to be committed to Christ will not attend a local church then what we know currently as ‘local church’ and all its trimmings is in deep poo poo. Take the basics for example, most of us there today wont have a job in 20 years in the format we have today!
No one seemed to go there, too scary? Maybe we just don’t care? Maybe the comment about future planning is at ‘0’. Meaning we don’t plan further ahead than tomorrow as it all changes too quick.
I thought it funny that people who had ample opportunity to grab the mike and give it all they had were often the ones at the end of the day saying “Oh I thought we might have spoken about this or that, or I hope for more of such and such” yet they didn’t take us there. (I may be guilty of some of this too!)

But maybe, just maybe there are some a bit punch drunk from this conversation and they have been hurt before and feel if they open their mouth and speak their mind they well be labled emergent or as a turn coat or a traditionalist etc. So for some it is easier to leave the hard things to the ones who have already nailed their colours to the mast – Thanks Hamo with one ‘M’!

But what of my other theory…That because we long so much for unity, for togetherness and ‘nicety’ we actually hear things through those rose coloured glasses.
What is said is “You guys pour so much cash into invitational ministry, we need to get out and be incarnational, stop this whole wank about buildings and programmes and so on, get out there and be Jesus”
What is heard is “Our challenge to you, our brothers in the fantastic ministries that are found within structures built with the care and dedication of human hands is that you might share the faith of the Lord in new and creative ways that involve more ministry out in the world in mission”

The response from the traditional church? “Why yes, of course, what a wonderful challenge to us to be more missional. And to you we say, Do not give up meeting together as some of you are in the habit of doing…”

Emergents – “Oh never, it’s a value of ours, to meet together
Traditional – “Oh really? Us too, we must be the same, yes we are an emerging missional church too

Well I mock.

I am not trying to start a biff, even though we joked today about needing more biff and at the same time called for more unity. It’s just that I think we get all mixed up with what unity looks like. I think we think it means all thinking the same way and agreeing with each other, that is uniformity not unity.
Matty B has taught me that more than any one I know. I hate it sometimes but he pushes me around with his desire to dig at our differences and points of view that conflict so that we can learn more about and from each other. It’s kind of like…well, a real friendship I guess.

It was a good day. Another day sometime in the new year would be good, along similar lines, but maybe breaking up into smaller groups for discussion and a kind of Open Space Technology conference would be the go. I’d like to try this.

But in the mean time I shall continue to walk this odd line I find myself walking more often these days. The line between the now and the not yet, the old and new. And under all of this is the line that I walk as a mate to people who I find I disagree with about a few things, big things, but it’s about loving unconditionaly and that’s hard for a sinny dude like me, I want it to be all about me and my ideas and my thoughts and what I like…God forgive my self centredness, help me to love people…no matter what they believe! Me me me me!

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15 thoughts on “Future Church Forum

  1. Was a very good day.

    I myself want to pose a some what different question, from my POV.

    I personally felt like the day went where we wanted it to go. I don’t feel people held back to be’nice’, hey, i could be wrong! I thought the discussion was great and, infact, people simply followed what Graham Taylor asked for, that everything we hear we hear from the speaker’s POV. This meant that, sometimes people MAY have disagreed…but they realised what was said came from that person’s POV and was a legitimate comment. Perhaps, like i often think, they didn’t actually feel the need to ‘argue’ the point? Now, i’m not saying debate isnt good, its GREAT, no one thinks the same about EVERYTHING…but sometimes it’s just not the time or topic or whatever to get ‘heated’.

    I don’t know, i just personally felt everyone respected there WOULD be BIG differences in opinions and as such showed that with their responses, making the comments constructive and worthwhile. Feel free to disagree:)

    On another note i loved today. I just love the way discussion like this makes ME think, makes me realise how far away from ‘the answer’ any of us are and how horribly unsure any of are are about what to do. It’s a good place to be cause it means we can only do ANYTHING when God lead’s us, in my opinion anyway.

  2. i think that the format of the day was problematic for really stimulating a free-flowing dialogue… having the person speaking using a roving microphone usually brings a certain kind of control to the discussion which prevents quick interchange and response, and in fact made you very conscious of not wanting to “hog” the mic. i had a bunch of things that came to mind during the day, but felt like it wasn’t appropriate to jump in and say them, and i felt like i had already had too much air time. just a thought for a future event…

  3. great job Vawz!

    i love the way you walk the line and bring us all together to have these conversations.

    as much as people may walk away not necessrily have ‘got what they wanted’ i think we would all say it was really valuable just to ‘be’ (haha!) with each other in the room and hearing each other.

  4. i’m still laughing at your “wank” comment.

    on a more serious note though, i remember coming away from the postcards night thinking that what people felt was needed was a unified banner of peace between all of us – that the most important thing was there would be no quarrels and strife amongst the brethren.

    which if left there is great for the local ladies craft group – but it seems a group of practitioners are looking to actually wrestle with some deeply significant ripples within the church movement, in an attempt to catch the Spirit’s roaming and possibly be prophetic heralds of the dawning of the next part of the journey for the church.

    i think the concept of an open forum for discussion between any “man and his dog”, also might detract from certain people’s willingness to be open and authentic. i would dare to suggest (with many valid reasons) that very few leaders in our churches today, especially the biggies – would be willing to bare anything below the surface to anyone outside their own leadership teams – if not only to other seniors???

    another thing working against many people is the concept that they must remain loyal to their “team”. any radical and wayout idea or theory on church leadership and the “way of the future” must first be aired with the recognised leadership of the church, whom then has the responsibility and right to decide whether those thoughts and comments are appropriate for public airing. you do not simply represent yourself, your own thoughts and struggles – you represent your team!

    whether we like it or not, there is a very real perceived atmosphere of leadership censorship alive and well in and around perth. and the idea of having an open and honest forum for discussion and debate, is very unlikely to propser in such an exisiting broader environment.

    maybe the sort of holy biffo you are looking for scotty exists within smaller communities of people who truly trust and respect each other – who desire to allow God the freedom to be whoever he chooses to be on any particular day – rather than some God who has given a chosen few in senior leadership a precise step by step plan of every major decision the church needs to make in the coming 5 – 10 year plan, and who’s job is to sell it to the faithful “yes” men and women who fill their pews week after week.

    PS – i thought, because i kinda don’t have to worry so much anymore about the thought police cracking me over the knuckles, i’d claim “bastard son status” to throw these very real personal concerns out there.

    to those of you concerned about your job security being at risk if you were to comment honestly and passionately about any of the stuff raised today or in this post – use your brains and sign up for an anonymous blogger identity so you can atleast get some of this stuff out of your head! stand up and take a colour and nail it to your post – i dare ya!

  5. add this to the mix – from someone watching and commenting on current trends – here’s a quote from allan jamieson’s recent book “a churchless faith”…

    “What [Alan] Jamieson has found in his studies has surprised him. In researching his book, A Churchless Faith, he interviewed 108 leavers. Most were not marginal churchgoers who finally quit but organizational linchpins. Ninety-four percent had been church leaders — deacons, home-group leaders, elders, Sunday school teachers — and 32 percent had been in full-time ministry.

    “…Why won’t someone at least listen to the tough questions?” ‘If Christianity is about community, why am I so bruised and battered?’…”

    posted at http://prodigal.typepad.com/prodigal_kiwi/

  6. Good stuff, I concurr with OB1, about the make up / size / format of the group. I wonder if anyone has been part of the open space style of meeting I mentioned on the post? Thanks Middo, I think I hear your heart inthis, and I am not wanting to pick fights, just get some serious strategising and dreaming about a way of doing church that, quite frankly, may be down right offensive to the way people see church these days. People are protective of what the feel comfortable with, defensive, well I am anyway. Thanks Middo, we will talk more inthe pouring rain on our hike today!

  7. Oh, and Matt, (you bastard!)…Thanks mate, you stirrer! I love your heart for the church…not the one on the corner!
    Oh are we not so trendy and hip saying bastard and wank!! We might be back sliding whoooo next thing you know we will be drinking full strength beer!

  8. i find matt’s comments about censorship and policing interesting… that kind of environment would not be healthy. in our church i’d like to think that the staff guys can give me an honest opinion about stuff, because after all, if they don’t believe the “party line” then it’s all a bit of a sham. of course, if someone is totally out of sync with the general values and direction of the church, then there are problems to be dealt with, but i’d like to think we can be real with one another.

    but, having said that, i can think of certain spaces i’ve experienced that don’t operate that way, so maybe there is reason to be cautious. but, i guess i’d be really disappointed if one of my staff guys felt it necessary to get an anonymous blogging account so they could say what they really wanted to say… sheesh… it would suggest some big problems that i’d hope were never part of our culture.

    hmmm… but maybe my guys are already blogging… 🙂

  9. I agree the day was great for
    initiating conversations but there still need to be a place of Biffo in the friendly, comfortable sense that is productive and challenging. The people I wanted to have the conversations with were the influential leaders within our denomination and unfortunately they were underrepresented.(though it was great to see the head shed there)

    I felt we were still too focussed on the shape of future church and how it meet the needs within the church but not how it meets the mission of the church. As Alan Hirsch states Attractional conteporary model will best meet be attractive to 12% of the population. what do we need to do to reach the other 88%.What shapes of church are needed to do. Are they new ones.

    I thought the Rod’s video on what is church was powerful because if it was a true Sample of what people think then people said very positive and powerful things about their perceptions of Church. This has to be Kudos to our current leaders for contributing to the these perceptions.

    The discussion on discipleship was great and need mmroe discussion because this is the key to future church. We seem to have a group of people who believe that they have not been discipled and don’t have good example to follow.

    Heres a Chicken/Egg question. Which comes first Discipleship or the Church? Do we disciple people for the church or build the church to disciple? (or is there a different question.

  10. I actually thought the time was pretty boring and pointless (I did miss a couple of hours at the start, and the last half hour).
    A bunch of Christians talking about stuff that in two years time will be forgotten because there’ll be another flavour of the month.
    When I talk to my friends they can’t gt over the fact that church is like a Catholic Church and there are no other options-let alone emerging/contempoaray etc. They think I’m some sort of priest that got kicked out.
    But what’s most important is that they see Jesus in me, something that I struggle to be like.
    i’m just getting tired of all the talk and want to do some stuff. Yes, I’m totally jaded by all the talk, conferences, blogs, books etc that are attached to this sort of talk. It drives me to boredom.
    I was going to say all that Scott, but the mic got taken by others and I ran out of time. Sorry.

  11. I need to add one more thing.
    The best part of my day yesterday was talking to the guy who jump-started my car for an hour in the rain.

  12. mark, i’ve always appreciated your openess to engage with the conversation – it stands to show that you are secure in your leadership to allow diversity and unity to develop in an atmosphere of safety and trust.

    the hard thing i’ve found, through personal experience, is that there are a whole load of young leaders who are asking questions about the “way” and the “why” behind the “what”. these questions are not rooted in a strong opinion that it is “wrong” infact, most of them don;t even know if there are answers to their questions – but they do feel a lack of safety to ask them within their leadership teams.

    i’m not sure if this is partly because of the pace we are doing ministry at – that there is no time to sit around and “theorise” about things that are chaotic and uncontrollable. the problem for me and these others is, that we actually are passionate about the future of Christ’s bride and these queries are deeply significant to our development in this journey.

    And, if we do not get the space to wrestle with these issues WITH some of the current players in church leadership – the new structures we WILL form will be done so WITHOUT a sense of partnership.

    and as gareth alluded to – the reality is, most of us “outsiders” have more contact with people OUTSIDE of our churches than any of our leaders do these days – and we are the ones these people seek to engage in conversations about faith and beliefs – they look to us to answer their questions about church and christianity and history and meaning in light of the life and teachings of Christ – so even just on that point – wouldn’t it make sense to provide a forum for open honest discussion wrestling, as a group of “co-workers”, even if just to help validate these young guys and gals’ discipleship journey? the question that then begs to be asked (and was raised by Big Dave) is – are we actually being discipled or are we just creating another generation of “leaders” (“yes men”) to inherit the family business and carry on as usual?

    maybe this also fits into the category of “utopia”? oh well, one can hope…

  13. Hi guys – sounds like a good day, all things considered. it was a pity I missed it but thems the breaks.

    Unless you deliberately want to create conflict and be aggressive in that a group of loosely connected people are probably never going to feel secure enough to be completely honest.

    Scott I think you said that honesty in disagreement probably only comes in smaller groups with stronger relational commitment. In the large unfamiliar group it’s replaced with smiles and niceties.

    I guess no one seeking dialogue really just wants everyone to be nice the whole time or even friends. But it is about respect. And I think for some of you guys now out of the “established church” that is what you’ve been denied and that is entirely regrettable because that is what your work, life, ministry, ideas thoroughly deserve.

    I guess when people are unsure as to whether they have that respect from others in the group it makes it difficult to truly stick your neck out for fear of being misunderstood, patronised or worse maligned and rejected as nutcase / backslider / heretic.

  14. hi Gaz

    sounds PMT mate.

    i don’t think these kinds of things are ever pointless because we are there together listening to each other. Even if the conversation was ‘safe’ we were still making steps towards each other.

    It was great to see a diversity of ages and stages and like most things we learn how to do it better next time.

    i actually find the conversation important because I am doing some of this stuff. I am grappling with these questions.

    perhpas if people were there for whom this is theory it might have less interest.

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