Parish renewal is home remodeling. This place needs to change. But we live here.
It’s a serious negotiation between the comfort and reality of what is, and the necessity and possibility of what is to come.
God has given our church a timely kick in the pants: we must change, we have to change. There is no longer a question of whether this house needs to be remodeled. Apart from leadership or change, our church is not capable of sustaining itself in key institutional areas: facility, finances, volunteer leadership, or staff.
The trick of the thing is that the institutional aspects of church exist to resource and support the organic aspects of church. Much as it might seem the other way around at times, a family owns a home and pays all the bills for a structure that should serve that family. The home is for the family. The institutional church (facility, staff, Sunday service) is for the organic church (the body, the relational web of people). In a healthy situation, the organism fuels and shapes the institution. In our current situation, the lifespan of the institution is not stable because the organism is not healthy.
Our home remodeling project has two major phases.
The first phase is to keep the institution going, and it is only a temporary phase. It is a temporary phase, because if the organism becomes healthy it will be able to fuel and shape the institution on it’s own. It’s also temporary if the organism can not become healthy, because the institution will falter and die at whatever speed it does so. What is the lifespan of this temporary phase? As long as it takes for the organism to start crawling, walking, and then running. Once the organism is functioning, the institution doesn’t need temporary life support any more.
Translated into the language of home remodeling, the first phase is “life support” keeping the bills paid and maintaining the home “as is” buying the family inside time to figure out how to get on the right track.
Phase 1 Action Step: Tffani and I have made a public commitment to some very basic things. If many or most of us were willing to make these commitments, our church will have institutional “life support” long enough to start getting functioning as an organism. Tiffani and I have unilaterally (without the approval of anyone else) formed a Booster Club and asked anyone willing to publicly join us in our commitments to let us know. So far it is us plus ten other families. Here are the commitments we are making together:
- We will actively pray for God’s hand in our lives and our church for his glory.
- We will be at the Worship Gathering unless we are sick or out of town.
- We will give a portion of our income to support the church’s work.
- We will take part in service projects in the community.
- We will make sacrifices to build this church as God guides us.
The second phase is to focus, shape, and resource the organism, and it is an ongoing activity that will never be over. Although we look like an established church institutionally speaking (we have a building, we have a pastor, we have a board?), we are a church plant organically speaking. If we can maintain institutional stability over the next 12-24 months, the hope is that we can get the organism planted and hopefully beyond moving toward or past the point where we are an established organism that is shaping and fueling the institution which in turn is providing resources and structure for the organism.
Translated into the language of home remodeling, the second phase is change and renewal. A family needs to figure out who they are, why they’re there, what they’re about and what they’re not about, how they will be their family and do what their family does. I think as a church this is primarily about what God says church is, what church is for, how healthy church functions. But once things start functioning in a good and healthy way, then the rooms of the house can be remodeled and the space can be used for the functioning of a family and the family will be able to in turn take care of the house. As a family figures out who they are and becomes healthier, they might decide to add on to the house, move to a more appropriate house, or move into someone else’s house.
Phase 2 Action Step: We will devote the Worship Gathering on Sundays in January and February to initiating a conversation in the body about what the Bible says about church, using Dennis McCallum’s Members of One Another: How to build a biblical ethos into your church as a handbook for us to think about and change our church culture. I have asked the Worship Team to take a break from providing music during these two months, since they are a big chunk of our church and we need everyone fully involved. We will do simple music and emphasize prayer, teaching, and conversation during January and February. These two months of focus are a unlilateral action (without the approval of anyone else) I have taken, but the process that will be taking place will involve whoever is actively engaged in the conversation. And we need to have the kind of conversations that are not opinion without commitment, but that are honest talk connected to real life action. We as a family are the only ones who can remodel our own house with God’s help.
Summary: If all else remains the same, we have 12-24 months of financial stability to maintain our facility and staff. If we can start making significant progress in becoming a healthy church, we will have more time than that to get on track and truly become a thriving growing church. My hope is that our home remodeling project will help us clarify who we are as a family, and put us eventually in a home that we shape and fuel so it can best support and resource us as God’s healthy thriving family.