Sermon over at http://aintsobad.typepad.com/pastorspal may help with all the stuff we say here. Titled, Continuity: Acts 1:1-11.
The Church as Institution, Day Seven
So nearly as I can tell, citizenship in the Post-Modern world gets you two things. They are, in order, the opportunity to listen to other stories and the chance to tell your own.
How you tell your story probably grows out of your generational metaphor; conformity, control or community. Still, you will most likely get to tell your story if you listen to the other stories out there because that will mean you are out there listening to the other stories.
LIfe stories are like opionions and belly buttons used to be. Everybody has one.
The Institutional Church may fail most miserably as it confines its story telling to the local facility at the approved meeting time(s) to a shrinking portion of the population. This is a recipe for failure.
Dinosaurs once ruled the earth. Now we suck them out of the ground to power our cars. So much for the ruling body.
The act of the Holy Spirit through the Church, on which the Church depends for its survival in the 21st century, will be primarily evangelistic/missionary rather than organizational/administrative. The Institutional Church, that is, will have to go from what is to what can be.
Think of it; the greatest growth is always from none to one. All other growth is numerical. Growth from none to one is growth from nothing to something.
When Isaiah gets his call from God in the Temple, the Scripture gives meticulous detail about the arrangement of the Temple, of the angels, of the soon to be prophet, of the Lord’s presence. No other human is mentioned in attendance.
There are two possibilities. One is, Isaiah is the only one human being in the Temple at that moment. Or, among however many, he is the only one who gets it. He is the only one who sees angels and hears from God. He leaves on mission.
If you are the only one in attendance or the only one who "gets it," the growth is still exciting; from zero to one. In zero to one growth, there is potential. Before the zero to one growth, there is opportunity but not potential.
We hear it said, "We have to start these new little units because there are so many people out there who will not come to the church as it is.’ This is church-goer as shrinking part of the population, incontrovertible fact in most places.
This is also difficult thinking, is it not? Perhaps our thinking should be, "Form is not function. We might change the forms of what we do in facility, scheduling, budgeting, staffing, in order to make Institutional Church accessible to the persons we connect to in the Real World."
Such change, or willingness to alter forms, must (I seldom speak in imperatives, but here is one) come from the laity. A staff leader who fiats conflicting change from a paid position in the Institutional Church is already wrong and soon dangerous.
Understand I am a pipe-organ playing hymn bleater who believes the Doxology is the best ever praise chorus. If I do not hear the Bible read when I attend divine worship, I feel short-changed.
I also want to love the guy who does not know Romans from Revelation. He has a story. I feel really comfortable listening to his story until I realize some of my liturgical, ecclesiastical worship forms will scare, or worse, bore him out of his faculties.
The evangelism method of the Christ is to "go and tell," not to "come and hear." There is some of the latter in what He does but not until there is a lot of the former. He never stops sending His messengers to the world.