Still sitting at the Sydney airport…oh hum…Nice café/bar though – Bar Roma.
Steve Hinks (ACOM Principal) has given me permission to share some of his future book about … well the church I guess.
Some of his thoughts were shared yesterday at the ACOM staff mini-conference. His thoughts focus on the nature of this current debate on what we have been calling the missional church (for want of a better term!).
Let me clarify before beginning, that I met with Mark from Whitford Church recently and he made the comment that he lead what he believed to be an ‘emerging missional church’ – not entirely attractional, but not completely incarnational. Now by many definitions he’s dead write. I guess it all depends on what you are comparing it to! Whitford has ‘emerged’ from an old model of ‘doing church’, it is what we call ‘contemporary’ and when it comes to evangelism and ‘mission’ it’s streets ahead in structured missions programmes and ‘teaching on reaching’ etc than many churches I know. I don’t disagree with Mark in this at all. But at the same time, I think Mark would agree with me that Whitford is not a ‘home church’ or 100% ‘incarnational’, that it does rely strongly on mobilising it’s people into the many programmes of the church, including the running of our gatherings (Sundays, Fridays, Wednesdays etc). (Note – I am not making a judgement call on these issues, just trying to state the obvious, sorry to rave on here).
For the purpose of this brief summary of Steve’s comments I have changed his term ‘Missional Church’ to ‘Emerging church’ because in part I agree with Mark W in that many large churches are in fact quite ‘missional’ or maybe ‘missionary’ in their focus.
Steve’s paper was titled The Missional Church Debate – Missional Church (eg Forge) verus Large Church. (I’m not sure I see these 2 as mutually exclusive. – Scott’s comment)
Steve believes we need pioneering, experimental ventures eg pub church, beach church. We must diversify and explore. He says we are in a hinge time in history: a period of uncertainty for the next 15 years.
He notes some of the difficulties with the ‘emerging church’, there are no real runs on the board, some of the models seem hardly reproducible, not family friendly etc.
He notes some of the advantages of the ‘large church’ are that they are well positioned to pioneer and diversify. (If they are secure enough to relinquish control– Scott’s comment) They have people, money and acumen, the very things being criticised by the ‘emerging church’.
BUT…The thing from his paper that caught my attention most was his break down of history, not by time zones or culture types (Gen x, Post Modern etc) or by issues like industrial revolution, information age etc. But by communication periods. He shared a concept he picked up from Rex Miller – the four eras of communication:
- Print Era. Typified by a pulpit, head knowledge, intellectualism, liturgy, hymns and people with credentials.
- Broadcast Era. Typified by a stage, head and emotional knowledge, experience, a crowd and being entertained, praise and worship, and people with charisma.
- Digital Era (lets get rid of ‘post-modern’!!) Typified by a chair, it’s holistic, superficial, experiential/personal, faith stories as worship, people with connection.
This digital era, Steve says, is not about ‘po-mo’, this excludes many people. It’s about a digital world – that will shape a new era of church.
There is a heap more stuff he gave to us, very thought provoking, very ‘hinge’ if you like. ‘Hinge is a picture that Hamo often shares, one that I really connect with.
We need these hinge leaders who perform a vital link, sometimes even a peacemaker link, between the ‘crazies’ (respectfully!) these guys who are playing and experimenting with the new and the not yet and with the more stable, ‘larger’ (in most cases) churches.