Thursday, April 24, 2008

SAVED BY THE SECOND-TIER REJECTS: Why The Marginalized, The Minimized and the Screw-Ups May Save Us Yet

And if I may jump in.....(here is Alan's encapsulation of the everyone's input into the conversation thus far...)

Recession? You think so? Is anyone saying the great "D" word yet? Is that so far out of the question? Although it's apparently a flash-in-the-pan, "panic" response, the global quandary this week over food shortage, hoarding and escalating prices absolutely and unequivocally ought to call the Church even closer to a better-embodied life of sustainability. One which, as Jason Evans points out, must finally scuttle beyond theologizing and stop whiffing on the fumes of what could/should be and establish ourselves in even greater practical realities. And some are a heckuva lot further down the road than we are on this, I should say. But there's a move afoot, nonetheless.

I think what ultimately must be at stake here in the shadows between our evolving, theological vantage points is whether or not we are erecting calamity-proof structures which will allow the people and mission of God to thrive over-and-against the prevailing economic delusions of not only King George, but HIS predecessors, successors and their ilk the world over. Here, we may as well dispense with the faux, duplicitous notion of the two-party system, neither of which offer real ways out....only enslaving diversions and false solutions found deeper down the rabbit-hole. The kingdoms of this world are on the decline, in spite of the ascension of the ultra-elite to their fleeting states of power and wealth. We do believe another Kingdom is breaking in, do we not?

I have been mentoring a young church planter here in Oxford for well over a year now. Every week in our local independent coffee shop, we at least sit down for a few hours,
sharing life and conversation- looking at each other down our containers of Church Planter Ambrosia (large caramel latte with whipped cream, in my case). As you might imagine, we cover a few bases on a lot of developmental/leadership kinds of things he encounters in his journey as lead planter in a college church. They hold two large-group weekly worship gatherings as well as weekly community groups and have been exploring a communal living situation of their leaders for the last year with some interesting results and seem to be doing well in this context.

The planting paradigm he finds himself in was one I was entrenched in nine years ago. The equation is roughly similar: trained church planter+convention/state/local association agreement/funding+lots of promising talk= successful church plant that can be modeled back up the rungs through the local association, the state and, finally, the national convention levels...the great butter-up, lick-and-chew-you-up-then-spit-you-out syndrome (though not necessarily intentional).

Get it up and going, garner the attentions of the denominational supers and for the two-year time-period in which you're promised a salary of sorts from the denominational coffers, things can be titillating. Until churches promising support bail out on you. Until the association you were called through misplaces your housing support money and ultimately says you can go to another local association because "we can't afford" you. And now they find themselves- mainstreamed and moved-out- here in the land where intellectualism, Budweiser and bloated real estate are the triune gods of this section of Butler County. As more or less vagabonds and misfits staring down the opportunity toward these more organic structures but still unsure of how much to unhand the fading church paradigm, maybe their hands will be forced; maybe ours will be too.

Stripped of opulence, influence, prestige and status- the Church that flourishes has a certain destitution as its fuel. And this- toward unheard-of realms of the transformative power of God across the board. For if this is indeed the end-game we are mooring upon, then the coming darkness looms less forbidding, shouldered by the misfits on the margins.