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Transforming your Church

Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God (be transforming). You'll be changed from the inside out. (Romans 12:2; The Message)

In the classic movie, The Wizard of Oz, a sweet (albeit naïve) Dorothy experiences a tornado of change and all she knows is where she isn’t… Kansas!

The Canadian culture and church have gone through a tornado of change and sometimes all we know is where we are not… “Kansas” (Christian Canada). Unlike Dorothy, we don’t have a yellow brick road to follow to solve all our problems and get us back to “Kansas.”

(A side note here… it would definitely not be a presupposition of this article that the goal is to get back to Christian Canada, and frankly I doubt that Canada was ever Christian!)

So how do churches respond to the challenges that so many face today? In recent decades, prophetic voices have been calling the church back to its mandate of participating with God in his mission of redeeming and reconciling “all things” (see Colossians 1:15-20).

Charles Ringma makes this poignant observation and reframing: “The missional church vision is not a programmatic response to the crisis of relevance, purpose and identity that the church in the Western World is facing, but a recapturing of biblical views of the Church all too frequently abandoned, ignored, or obscured through long periods of church history. It is a renewed theological vision of the church in mission, which redefines the nature, the mission and the organization of the local church around Jesus’ proclamation of the good news of the Kingdom. Missional churches seek to respond to God’s invitation to join Him in His mission in and for the world, as a sign, a servant and a foretaste of His Kingdom.”

There are many ways that the church has become well-adjusted to our culture, and if we are to effectively participate with God (become flourishing), we need to be transforming away from these areas towards Kingdom values and practices.

  • From Consumerism to Cause

  • Church should no longer be about placating the wants of religious consumers and move towards empowering Christians to participate with God in his redemptive work.

  • From Counting to Kingdom

  • While people and money can be positive indicators of effective mission, when we make attendance and increased giving our goal (our marker of “flourishing”) we make radically different decisions than if we make Kingdom impact on culture our goal.

  • From Determining to Discerning

  • A subtle way many churches have imbibed in our culture’s values is by how we plan…most churches offer a perfunctory prayer and then determine their mission, values and objectives. If we (as we should!) believe that God is active in our churches and our world, then we move to a posture of discerning what he is doing in us, our communities and our global communities and participate with him.

To transform from determining our plans to discerning and participating with God’s mission, many churches have invested a period of time in a communal discernment process of “Looking.” This process includes discerning workshops, sermons, small groups and the individual practice of lectio divina. Throughout the discernment process churches are asking the question: “I wonder if God is saying that we could participate with him by…”

Each posture of discerning includes elements of listening, prayer, biblical and theological reflection, cultural awareness and exegesis and other practices of discernment.

  • Looking Up

  • Letting the nature and activity of God shape who we are and how we live

  • Looking Around

  • Moving into the neighborhood (John 1:1, 14) to see what God is doing

  • Looking Back

  • Leveraging God’s past work to shape his present and future work (Habakkuk 3:2)

  • Looking In

  • Becoming internally strong to empower your external focus

  • Becoming that sign of God’s Kingdom on earth (Ephesians 5:25-33)

  • Looking Forward

  • Moving from a posture of discernment to participation

  • Discerning and articulating God’s calling, culture (values) and foci for fruitful participation with God in mission.

We may not have a yellow brick road, but we do know that God is faithful, and it’s when we transform away from the values of culture and live into Kingdom values and practices that our churches can indeed be flourishing!

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