Monday, February 18, 2008

Long Post, but More Goodness from Reggie McNeal

Synopsis from Reggie McNeal's book, The Present Future.

New Reality Number Three – A New Reformation: Releasing God’s People

The first Reformation was about freeing the church. The new Reformation is about freeing God’s people from the church (the institution). The current Reformation finds church members no longer willing for clergy to script their personal spiritual ministry journey.

Congregations that help followers of Jesus live abundant and missional lives understand the new Reformation. Those whose message is an appeal for church members to make the church successful and significant will lose when the institutional loyalists’ money runs out.

People outside of the church bubble are not waking up on Sunday morning hoping to find a church they can help make successful. If they do come to church, they are looking for a platform to run their lives on.

Wrong Question: How Do We Turn Members into Ministers?

The first Reformation preached that all the people of God are called and gifted for service. The church, however, has interpreted it almost solely for its own use. This myopic vision has resulted in ministry being defined largely in church terms and lay people often being viewed as functionary resources to get church work done.

Many church members have come to see spiritual gift inventories as a recruiting tool for the nominating committee and church staff to use in “mining” church members’ talent to fill church jobs.

Church leaders view the recruitment difficulties they are experiencing as a motivational issue rather than understanding the significant shift in how people are making decisions about how they will spend their lives.

Too many church members view clergy as professional ministers who have been cranked out by the church industry to manage church stuff…Many laypeople see ministers’ role as the complaint department for disgruntled club members who want to be catered to.

Some unhealthy leaders refuse to release ministry to laypeople because they would then lose their own identity.

The typical church strategy for recruiting and deploying ministry is missionally counterproductive. We ask people (that are often brought on to many modern church staffs) to leave their place of greatest connection and influence (their homes, their businesses, their schools, their communities and community organizations.

Tough Question: How Do We Turn Members into Missionaries?

How do we deploy more missionaries into community transformation? This is going to need some significant soul-searching and ministry reprioritization. Your church budget may shrink. Your church calendar may get less crowded. You will lose control of the church ministry. We will be challenged to quit gauging our members’ spiritual maturity by how much they “support the church.”

The Need for Missiology – McNeal is calling for missiology to come back into prominence. North America is the fifth or sixth largest mission field of any continent.

The point is not to adopt the culture and lose the message; the point is to understand the culture so we can build bridges to it for the sake of gaining a hearing for the gospel of Jesus. (He compares learning our culture to language training for missionaries).

McNeal feels that there is a reluctance to connect with people outside the church is just further evidence that the church culture in America is a cultural phenomenon that is more about a particular religious culture than about Jesus or his mission.

It seems that Christians in N. America practice their faith in a segmented approach, separated from other parts of life (business, family, and so forth).

A Quick Primer on Postmodernism – it is a search for meaning. It allows for ambiguity; it embraces opposing notions (paradoxes). Everything is sacred; nothing is sacred – both are expressed in post-modern thought. Postmoderns are very spiritual. It is a spiritualism that hungers for meaning and connectedness. It is a spiritualism that seeks to unite people of faith. It starts with an affirmation of the basic goodness of humanity). Redemption is about loving others and serving others. Righteousness is less about coming to terms with a perfect God but about getting relationships right with other people. A relationship with God is assumed (a challenge to our evangelistic techniques). The postmodern definition of sin is stunted life and stunted potential, a sense of corporate guilt that the world is not the loving place it should be. There is little tolerance for institutional-brand religion that focuses more on its own support and survival than on helping people.

McNeal states that our modern church culture may be more secular than postmodern culture.

McNeal things a lot of church leaders and church members are intimidated by all the God-interest in the culture at large. He thinks we don’t know how to hold conversations about God. We’ve only been taught to sell our brand of religion. We look at people as “prospects” for membership rather than spiritual beings with the same quest for God.

He feels that many people outside the church are more spiritually passionate and enthusiastic about God than many church members (Madonna?)

A Missionary Movement – What we need to do is two things: create a culture informed by missiology and create venues where people can practice being missionaries.

Ideas he gives for informing people missiologically:

Discuss generational cultures; discuss the emerging cultures; explore community needs; expose yourself to a missionary church; build for the community; adopt a school…

He tells us to get out there – insist that each Sunday school class or small group should have a local missions project.

He also tells church leaders (staff) to “go first.”

These ministry efforts are not add-on things to do but should be part of the community orientation that is fundamental to the church’s mission.

Look out! Turning members into missionaries will precipitate a crisis, both in individuals and in a congregation. Member values (am I getting what I want out of this church?) may clash with missionary values (am I partnering with God’s work in people?)

Is our time spent at church doing church functions hindering our ability to develop relationships outside of church (which he calls the club)?

He recommends we examine our church calendar and begin to reduce the number of activities for club members and start doing more away from the church. Start partnering with other believers from other churches to establish community ministry initiatives.

Adopting a missionary approach will require us to change our scorecard. We may need to start tracking how many initiatives we are establishing in the streets, how many conversations are we having with pre-Christians, how many volunteers are we releasing into local and global mission projects aimed at community transformation…

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