*what follows is the final entry of the discussion here at the Diner on my reading “The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church,” by Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch. Feel free to check out the previous 5 entries–June 7 through June 11–before you dive in to this one. It’ll give you some context.
I’ve said before that I don’t buy the myth that “people don’t like change.” Usually, this phrase is used as an argument as to why a suggested idea should be put on the shelf. The reasoning behind folks saying that is well-intentioned…they just want to make sure that the people affected by suggested changes are thought through and treated with concern. Nothing wrong with that.
But I think people are okay with change…provided two things: First, that the reason for the suggested change is explained satisfactorily. Second, that the suggested change is shown to be somehow more beneficial than the status quo. So, yes, if the change isn’t understood or seen as inferior, then sure, people won’t like it.
For example: It gets super hot and stays super hot here in Texas. All summer. And this isn’t like some places where it gets to 95 during the day but drops to 65 at night. No, it gets to 101 by about 2PM. It’ll be 95 at 11PM. It won’t get below 85 overnight. It goes like this for weeks…maybe even months.
Now, if you didn’t have air-conditioning and were getting by with fans and damp towels on your neck and I tell you that for a one-time payment, and an increase to your monthly electric bill and some small upkeep costs (like filters, yearly maintenance, etc.), it can be 72 degrees in your home all summer.
That’s a change.
And sure, you’d have some questions that I’d need to clearly communicate. Like whether or not that one-time payment could be financed to within your budget. Same for the monthly payment. Then you’d have to weigh whether or not the comfort was worth the cost. But as long as your concerns were addressed and feasible, you’d likely be on board with the…
…change. See? It isn’t the change their against necessarily. Just practical concerns.
And, Frost and Hirsch are suggesting radical change in the Western Church in this book. They point to decline in denominations (even the vaunted Southern Baptist Convention is experiencing numeric decline) and some other data, but here’s the first quote to deal with today:
As we keep saying, what the church needs is deep-seated restructuring in order to make a place for the genuinely missional types of leaders in our churches. There are of course exceptions, but by far the majority of seminaries that we know basically produce pastoral and teacher types of people who are sent to maintain established churches. This is not a time for more maintenance! In the West at least, maintenance is tantamount to decline, and we have effectively been in long-term decline since the Enlightenment…Giving space for those disturbers of the status quo will require massive permission-giving from all levels of established denominations, who currently give little indication that they are really willing to let that happen.
A quick question: Why are they unwilling to “let that happen” if they’re in varying degrees of decline?
But I’m okay with change, generally speaking. Maybe it’s because of how much change is generated in student ministries. I mean, every single year we get a new group…seniors leave and the new kids come in, and the entire dynamic is different. We have to spend a lot of time being flexible because of flat tires or lost reservations or even drug-cartel violence in your favorite city to do missions in.
And don’t even get me started on my personality. I have always admired rabble-rousers (especially punk rock, even if it died due to it’s inability to replace what it smashed–which was everything…and grunge. And the American Revolution is one of my favorite historical studies). In fact, my favorite stories of Jesus involve him turning over the tables in the Temple (twice, the first time is my favorite one because he makes a whip out of the curtains)…or the Sermon on the Mount–given the context, it was highly revolutionary, man.
The authors bring up two things that are necessary to get change going: “Encouraging Holy dissatisfaction” and “Embracing subversive questioning.”
“One of the great weapons in the revolutionary leader’s arsenal is to cultivate a holy dissatisfaction–to provoke a basic discontent with “what is” and so awaken a desire to move toward “what could be.”…The real revolutionary, perhaps the only one, is the person who has nothing left to lose. Rub discontent raw and throw salt on it–our times are urgent; Christendom must be brought down and apostolic faith and practice established if we are to be true to our call as followers of the revolutionary Jesus in our day.”
Quick questions: Why are these types of people unappreciated in churches? Shouldn’t we value their presence? And, in your opinion, are the times truly “urgent” to this degree?
Oh, and anyone else like that difference between “what is” and “what could be?” That’s pretty much where I live.
On to the subversive questions:
Another invaluable tool for the reconceptualizing of the ministry and mission of the church is the art of subversive questioning…they force the hearer to a self-awareness and a personal search for answers.
Some of their examples (based on their belief that Christendom’s focuses are on buildings, Sundays and clergy) of “subversive questions” would be:
Is a church still a church if it doesn’t function like a church anymore?
If we could start all over again, would we do it the same way?
What would our church be like if we:
a) No longer had a building?
b) No longer could meet on Sundays?
c) No longer had your pastor or ministry team?
Good stuff, right? At least you could see why I was drawn to much of this book, right? In fact, I’d encourage you to read it for yourself and have your hair blown back and your thoughts about church challenged…whether or not you agree.
I think I’ve given you guys enough to think about…so have at it, patrons. And I’ll be moving on to a book called The Tangible Kingdom pronto.