When it comes to God’s Mission and its Church, words like recapture, regain, reclaim, and even resuscitate are used to reinforce the idea that the only way forward for the Mission and its Church is to go retro. In order to advance as a church, we must certainly understand our history, but I’m not so sure we need to emulate, copy, or worse, mimic it. Popular are thoughts like; “We must learn to change our way of thinking to a more Hebraic form,” or “We must embrace those components and catalysts of revivals gone by.”
Living in a developing country and watching its church grow, I’ve noticed a trend. The church here wants to be what the church was in the U.S.A 20 years ago. It’s only natural that the trends of long ago were first based in real experience, then written about in journals, then made their way to books, then to handbooks about books, and then eventually and hopefully put back into practice into the lives of others. With various language barriers and cultural obstacles, implementation becomes something old and borrowed and superimposed on what God is doing or saying currently. By the time most trends are recognized, analyzed, interpreted, and codified, God has moved ahead.
The “Leading Edge” is obliterated with antiquated ideology and practices. The Church is supposed to be a people who are constantly being renewed in the transformation of their minds, not the stagnation of them. What God is saying now with respects to the mission and its church may be different then what He said at any previous stage in history. More simply put, what “worked” back then may have expired, gone out of date, or simply become irrelevant for today.
Now, I’m not saying that those prescriptive, commanded, and eternal concepts of the mission and its church have changed, but I am saying that there are probably a lot less of them then we think. On the whole, I think there are a lot less prescriptive tenets of the faith and a lot more descriptive ones. The church tends to get hung on the descriptions of the previous and prescribe compliance for everyone.
There is a leading edge. There are those who are on the leading edge. There are those who listen and look to God and sense where that leading edge is. These are those who go where the Father says to go, do what He says to do, and say what He says to say. Call them whatever you wish, prophets, apostles, forward thinkers, etc. The church is not only being transformed by the renewal of their collective minds, but also maturing. The entire reason for the giftings in Ephesians 4:11,12,13 is ecclesial (church)maturity.
“Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Until we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:15)
The church may need to understand the message of its history, but it doesn’t have to drink its milk. A few questions:
1. How does one determine what is prescriptive and what was descriptive regarding the mission and its church?
2. How are those on the leading edge of mission and church verified? How can we know what they saying, what they’re doing, and where they’re going is in line with God’s will?
3. Does the church really have to go back to the past in order to progress?