Thursday, April 03, 2008

the missional God is an ordinary God

This place was build so that people who gathered can read their hymn books. A comment made to me recently as a person gazed around the Opawa building. It was a reminder of the history that faces us everyday.

I enjoyed my time with the Board also – it helped to make me more aware of your context and the ‘ordinary’ things that you face in the journey. Another comment, another person, a reminder that amid all the mission changes is the ordinariness of everyday.

As one who has made a journey through alternative worship to community development work to parish ministry I find it disheartening to read your seemingly gleeful evaluation that ‘now the parish system has been legally blown open’. A comment made here. It’s a heart cry that God might be considered missional among plain parish and not only sexy fresh expression.

The organisers are looking for alternative worship… but, of course, since it’s a conference, I have no control over the space at all – over the lighting, seating, where the focus of attention will be… i can’t do stations, there will be limited multimedia capacity… up until now i’ve been fighting the limits and getting nowhere. today i’ve just given into them, and stopped thinking it needs to be alternative. it just needs to work with the people and the context. A blog post naming the stress of being asked to be emergingly alternative in showcase settings.

Can God be a lifegiver among the ordinary, in the plain parish, in the places where the hymn books go, in the limitations of conference settings? Is resurrection really that powerful, that inclusive, that revolutionary?

This is the real challenge for missional church. It’s not to start a hot new thing for 20 years olds, or to import the latest flash song/video clip/alt. idea from another context. It is to truly live the claim that God is life-giver in our here and now. This is surely the heart of Incarnation – God with us – not in some idealised, abstracted other.

Posted by steve at 10:17 AM


  1. Steve, yes, God can be a lifegiver in traditional settings as well. That is what we are working toward in our 151-year old small town church that is very traditional. Missional isn’t about style in either worship or buildings. Missional is about heart, God’s heart for God’s world. You don’t have to change style to find the heart of God. You can, it might help, but God can be found by octogenarian as well as the Millenial, regardless of style. Thanks for this reminder. – Chuck

    Comment by Chuck Warnock — April 3, 2008 @ 2:05 pm

  2. steve, i probably didn’t articulate what i meant very well… i think if i were to be honest to the people who are coming to the conference, and to finding the best way of expressing the reality of god as lifegiver, i would do stations and i’d use multi-media / flash / song / videoclips… that would be the authentic way to express it to this community. It isn’t for every community, but it is for this one. the reality of the architecture and timetable stops me from doing that. that’s where my frustration comes in.

    Comment by cheryl — April 3, 2008 @ 4:31 pm

  3. AMEN!

    Seems to me in an age of rampant comsumerism and image that there are always going to be forces pulling the other way and it is best to just ignore them and humbly & locally do your thing in faithfullness as a co mmunity.

    I’ve come to appreciate that many emerging church experts aren’t doing the stuff locally. They are going around as experts without a context.

    I love living locally.


    Comment by Andrew — April 3, 2008 @ 5:52 pm

  4. Andrew… is that directed towards me?

    i want to question the assumption that local is the only authentic context…

    Comment by cheryl — April 3, 2008 @ 6:17 pm

  5. cheryl, what i liked about your 1st comment was your willingness to name the real, the simple fact that there is a gap between community at a conference and worship with/among your people. and yet you are willing to live with that gap. that names so much of my experience. i have spent too many years chasing after idealisations, and i simply want to make do with where i am, to live into the tensions.

    as to your 2nd comment, i agree, i think that globalisation means “context” as only local is not the only context. context can be “glocal” to use roland robertson, we can live in non-geographic contexts.

    i read an honours dissertation last year of someone who entered second life and found in the process a more incarnational, embodied faith,


    Comment by steve — April 3, 2008 @ 9:03 pm

  6. Great post, Steve.

    The ever present quest of the Church is to incarnate the Gospel of Jesus…

    Comment by Mark — April 4, 2008 @ 3:12 am

  7. Cheryl,

    Absoutely not. You wern’t even in my mind as I wrote it because we don’t know each other (although I do enjoy your occassional pieces in The Age – hint that I too live in Melbourne). No it was referred to far greater and more famous people (who I won’t name out of courtesy and at risk of the log being removed from my own eye) who purport to be experts and don’t dewell locally.


    Comment by Andrew — April 4, 2008 @ 6:03 pm

  8. Cheryl,

    I just read your second comment. I’ll certainly grant that local isn’t the only context but it is where people live and work and play. So I guess I have to ask what you mean by local and what it is in my comments that make you ask your question?


    Comment by Andrew — April 4, 2008 @ 6:09 pm

  9. andrew… no idea when i read back on it now! i suspect i was having a paranoid moment. perhaps i took it personally because what i’m doing now isn’t local, and because local, on its own, isn’t enough to feed me. i work and play in a number of contexts, one of them is geographically local. on its own, i’d go mad. without it, i’d go mad.

    Comment by cheryl — April 7, 2008 @ 4:47 pm

  10. Cheryl,

    I’ve had state, national & international roles and while I have immensely enjoyed them all and certainly enjoyed the travel I ultimately found it fruitless without being in something earthed and profoundly local. Making the switch back into a local role has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done (by far) and especialy fighting the natural ambitions of a 30-something male (in my case) but it has been clearly the best ministry thing I’ve ever done and I am sooooo very glad I’m off that fruitless conference presenting trail and now only let myself away 5-10% of my time. If you wanted to discuss it further I’d be quite happy, seeing we are both in Melbourne.


    Comment by Andrew — April 7, 2008 @ 5:00 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.