THE RADICAL MIDDLE part II

Four years ago when Renovator Ministries began a conversation with the world in regard to Christlikeness our board adopted the following mission statement:

To encourage all to live the Kingdom Life Now- through knowing the constant presence of Jesus Christ:  by walking with Him intimately, learning from Him continuously, obeying Him constantly and trusting in Him with complete confidence.

Now through web blogs, church workshops, transfomative groups and videos we have been attempting to do that.

From time to time we have discussed our honest frustration at the minimal impact the church currently is having on the culture and the lack of a substantive formative approach to the Christlikeness of the flock.

We have also to  advocated the development of the organic church or the church we see in 1Cor. 14:26.

About a year ago Renovator Ministries began a serious discussion with a young pastor in the Chicagoland area, we explored and dreamed if it was possible to have a 1Cor. 14 church. Our discussions always had us meeting in a park or a house or a bar, etc. but not the sanctuary of the church. From everything we read that just would not be “organic.”

This past summer the young pastor had a time of real soul searching similar to the discussion we read of in George Barna’s REVOLUTION. Barna is having lunch with his pastor friend Gary, he has just pushed back on Gary’s  ambivalent thoughts on what he and George do as church leaders by saying  if you truly did what I am seeing believers (REVOLUTIONARIES) are looking for in the church today would you not lose people, not make budget and be considered a failure in the eyes of your colleagues? Gary paused then said “I guess the bottom line for me is that I feel lousy about {my} this behavior because I can’t win. I know that God won’t judge my service as a pastor by the church’s budget or attendance, but you are right:others will. So even if I have the Kingdom in mind and I’m able to move people closer to God, that victory will be irrelevant-or worse- to a lot of people if it does not translate into bodies in the pews.” Page 133 Revolution by George Barna 2005 Tyndale.

Shortly after this soul searching I met with the young pastor for a time of further discussion on the organic church. I had never seen him more excited. George “I’m ready to focus on the those who are truly seeking to be transformed and I want to have a service for them.”  He continued “I think I will call it 1:14, you know after 1 Cor 14.” We continued to talk and fashion what this might look like. We wanted it to be as organic as possible and still be in the sanctuary. Yes I said the sanctuary. We arrived at this strategy as a “radical middle” or first step for those who want more but would never leave the sanctuary at this point to find more. We did and do have some non-negotiables:  1. The pastor must decrease in the service and the Trinitarian Presence increase. 2. The interacting of the people with the people must be WORD and SPIRIT driven and be the central focus of the meeting. 3. Smaller group prayer weekly. 4.Worship both planned and spontaneous. 5. A missional component to be inserted as the gathering nature becomes more of a communitas. See  EXILES by Michael Frost, Chapter 5, 2006 Hendrickson.

A month ago we went live with the first service and for the life of me I did not think my pastor was ever going to give up the mic and allow the Spirit to speak through the people. But can you blame him this was going against all the years of seminary and the many years of preaching and teaching he had experienced. The worship and prayer time went very well but when it was time to give control of the service over, things momentarily stalled out. Not only was his past experience holding him back but  fear that the congregation would not respond was gripping him. Finally he let go and what took place for the remainder of the time was truly a miracle of God. One after another was ready to share with the rest of us the work the Spirit did with the assigned Psalm for the week. We are now a month out and not looking back. The pastor readily relinquishes and the Spirit speaks through the people. Revolution is thoroughly underway and we are in the sanctuary.

We are working with critical Kingdom Living Now text to help the folks move to an apprentice/Master relationship with Jesus.  Communion will be introduced in the next few weeks but only after a three week period of examination by the folks shared interactively with one another.

Now for you organic purist out there let me state would I have preferred to not stay in the sanctuary, of course. But it’s not about me or you. It’s about where people are and the ability to move them to a place where transformation can begin without a violent uprooting of what they are comfortable with. Our goal, in fact every church’s goal should be transformative change one heart at a time not the planting of organic churches or the preaching of a  ear tickling sermon.

Knowing what we do, that a weekly sermon passively being listened to week after week has little if any transformative effect in the life of the believer do we have any choice but to move in a way where the expectation is set week after week for purposeful and intentional engagement of a spiritual exercise in community designed to move one towards Christlikeness in an apprentice/Master relationship right where they are at-in the sanctuary.

Thus we have not a traditional service nor a pure organic church but -THE RADICAL MIDDLE. A radical middle that will week after week after week in community develop the the character of Christ in the life of the believer.

I unashamedly urge you to go to your knees in prayer and seek God’s direction for your church in this regard. At stake is the restoration of the reputation of Christ to our needy culture and the ability for your church to truly move with God where He is at. Is there any more important agenda that that in times like these!

georgea

One thought on “THE RADICAL MIDDLE part II

  • December 13, 2010 at 8:37 am
    Permalink

    I have seen the video and read the blog entry on The Radical Middle and I find it a worthy direction of the church. That said, I believe that the reason there is certain popularity in folks wishing to discount the church are two reasons. As you mentioned in your first entry regarding The Radical Middle, the pastor’s preaching/teaching time must be a result of his personal study and experience. Each church is a unique representative of the universal bride and I believe to speak adequately and worship fully, the pastor must preach/teach personal messages that are a result of God working in his life. However, some recent studies indicate that as many as 80% of pastors get sermons from such links online as pastors.com. Without the authenticity of a pastor’s own experience he is unable to relate to his church in a way that is unique and delivered in the context necessary for the local body.

    The other reason that the church is easily ridiculed is that people fail to understand how Christ views the church. I am currently teaching on Revelation; we are going through the book verse by verse (I expect to complete it by Oct of 2011). In chapters 1-3 we found it significant how the individual, or micro, spirituality had implicit effect on the macro (church-wide) spirituality in regards to the seven churches. We have allowed the church to become an institution where the corporate body’s action serves the purpose of individual spiritual expression and discipline.

    With that second point, I believe you are on to something of enormous worth regarding people’s understanding of the church, the encouragement of their participation, and the expressed responsibility we need to have in the continuous cultivation of the church as the predominant method by which Christ uses us to minister to his creation, as ministers of the reconciliation. However, I do still see the need for the shepherd, the authority of a leader within the church, and the necessity of preaching and teaching by one given those gifts to the local body.

    Matt

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: