This post is the sixth post in a nine-part series reflecting on InterVarsity's Ambition conference. For more posts in this series, check out the series frontpage (Series: An Ambition for Mission)
About halfway through the conference, we were joined by Kim Hammond. Kim directs Forge America and turned out to be a very funny man.
Kim claimed that there were two imaginations competing in the Western church: a consumer church and a missional church. Both can grow. Both (surprisingly) can produce fruit for the kingdom of God.
But they are so different. In the consumer church, everything is evaluated and picked apart. Scripts and plans abound. Growth is managed and steady. And the leaders ... well ... as the leaders go, so goes the church.
The missional church plays well off of it's foil (and we know we're dealing with a foil here ... no church would call itself a consumer church). There are no spectators. Everybody participates. Growth in numbers comes as everybody engages more and more with God and his kingdom. And the movement extends beyond the personality of its leaders.
Whether or not you buy Hammond's taxonomy of churches, one idea from his sessions really jumped out. Here is a man who passionately wants to see everybody equipped for mission. Mission mobilization keeps him up at night.
Three things in this vein kept popping up in this sessions:
1) Teach new language
People used to sitting in an audience will only take initiative if you engage their imagination. New stories and phrases re-form and re-shape expectations. And this leads to more active engagement with God's mission.
2) Give license
I find license one of the hardest words to spell and one of the most difficult things to give. But if you want people deeply engaged with God's mission, you need to give them license to try new ideas, to innovate, to start their own things.
This runs counter to so much of the church growth material we engage with all the time. It releases a ton of sideways energy. A lot of ideas don't take off. But if success in ministry is measured by the people being formed, this may be the best path.
3) Train in the field
Teach mission in the context of mission. Books and theory are so helpful. But, divorced from real action, they don't amount to real learning. Many of us are attempting to learn to become missional by reading books and attending conferences. Few of us are attempting to learn mission by doing mission. And even fewer teach this way.
I loved my years in ministry in Virginia. But when I look back, I'm saddened by how much time I spent talking about things and not doing them. I talked about evangelism much more than I went out and shared the gospel. I talked about justice much more than I went out and helped the vulnerable. I talked about making disciples, but made so few. And my students went and did likewise.
Because I was doing more talking than doing, I had little to invite people into. Because I was running around so much, I had a hard time bringing people with me.
This is something I'm still chewing on. I want to make some changes, but haven't quite figured out what this looks like.
The next post in this series will be on storytelling and mission. God can get a lot of mileage out of a good story told well. A link to the post will be posted here as soon as the post is posted.