Robert Dale states: “New paradigms always create translation challenges especially for the church, a conserving institution by definition. The church has too rarely anticipated challenges and changes. We have been tempted to live in a world that no longer exists. Consequently, the future has too often surprised the church.”
The vocation of the church to embody the very Kingdom of God
‘on earth as it is in heaven’ is far too high a calling to not respond to these shifts with a sense of purpose and complete mission.
Significant breakthroughs in ideas, thoughts and new constructs of organization do not happen overnight. Thomas Kuhn suggests that scientific discoveries rarely happen as a natural outgrowth of the previous knowledge base, but rather by means of peripheral
‘revolutions.’ There tend to be a few individuals who begin to perceive reality in ways qualitatively different than the established mindset of those practicing ‘normal science.’
The need for change comes from a small group of ‘pioneers’
who sense that the existing model is“riddled with anomalies and is unable to solve emerging problems.” Historically within the church, those thinking pioneers are not seen as helpful to the mission of the future but rather as distracting voices and perceived as ‘troublemakers’ within the religious system.
It is my view that the pastoral leader of the future cannot be tethered to a desire to be fully accepted by the established thought of the day in exchange for the pursuit of a calling to incarnate Gospel communities where they are not presently flourishing. Pioneers are needed to seek new lands and opportunities, by nature they do not add to the present establishment. The church can no longer be seen as an entity located in a single facility or an institutional organization and its related activities, but must now be transformed into a gathered people in community as well as a ‘sent’ people with a common calling and vocation. The large centralized institutions of the past built on the tenets of ‘modernism’ with its Enlightenment gods of science, technology and industrialization are increasingly losing their magic.
By definition, a missional community is a ‘sent’ people. They are fast, mobile and resourceful. They can adapt and change according to
the land and climate. Missional communities are a gathered people on pilgrimage together. They are the Ekklesia ‘called out’ of the world and then sent back into the world; “foreignness is an element of its constitution.”
A pilgrim people is rooted in the mentality of only habitating a temporary residence, they are on the move have no fixed abode.
If the people are pilgrims and on the move, this would necessitate a pastoral leadership that is also incarnational in its time and space. There is increasingly a movement away from a monopoly of ordained men who hold the power seats of Ekklesia and do the work of the ministry on behalf of the whole people of God. A generation of pastors are leaving a vocational presence within Ekklesia and going on the move with the rest of the people on mission. Leaders are incarnating their vocation within the culture in order to offer the ministry of Ekklesia in the “ongoing life of the Christian community in shops, villages, farms, cities, classrooms, homes, law offices, in counseling, politics, statecraft and recreation.”
Many are finding that it is no longer adequate for the minister to function primarily within the professional role of being the preacher,
administrator of programs and counselor for the flock. Rather, they are sensing a calling to lead the Ekklesia within the reality of being a church without walls and seek employment in culture where they can engage seekers and the unchurched.
There is a movement from an emphasis on professional clergy, who are center stage in the singularity of the gathered church event, to
“Christian professionals who are ministering in the world and in the marketplace.” Many are finding their calling not in being a pastor to the community, but by locating themselves vocationally as a mission outpost within the community.
Missional Communities, they are a thing. Trouble-makers or church? I’ll write more about them . . . . or just move on.