Traditionalists say: What’s the CABC coming to?! No more Regional Ministers? New staff and website? And now new slogans and catchwords like “Healthy Churches. Missional Churches.” Well, that’s not too weird, but what about “Fusi3on” (I had to take a tutorial just to type it) and “Impact Leaders, Ignite Mission and Infuse Culture”?
Innovators say: Where’s the CABC going?! Nowhere fast. “Healthy Churches” sounds like “stable, same old, same old churches” and hasn’t “missional” run its course (Why does spell check still not recognize that word?!). And what’s with all the “I’s”? We’re getting i-phoned, i-podded and i-padded to death.
“New wine needs new wineskins… but others say the old wine was better.”
Some recognize God and his kingdom in new initiatives. Others see the tried and true more clearly in the past (where it’s been tried and proven true!).
Good news: This blog is for us all! Then again, perhaps the innovators will say, It’s still too tainted with traditionalism and the traditionalists will say ‘taint enough. Oh, well, here goes…
As a “new guy” with the CABC my take is that the new structures, staff and slogans are not just capturing what’s happening on the ground and what needs to happen much more but they are also recapturing what has happened in our history.
- God is taking us from maintenance to mission.
- We’re not settling for our dwindling market share.
- We’re creatively crossing-cultures for Christ, not waiting for people to join and become like us.
- We’re leaving our confines and communicating with our communities, realizing that we must change (as we expect overseas missionaries to do) before we can invite others to Christ and change.
- We’re counting on a Jesus movement to redefine our community and churches.
And none of this is new. What we now see as “maintenance” used to be “mission”. Mission is our history, our DNA and dominant gene. Many of our churches, churches now considered stayed at best and stagnant at worst, owe their existence to the likes of Henry Alline (1748-84) and, for the African United Baptist Association, to David George (1743-1810) and Richard Preston (1790-1861). They were anything but stayed and stagnant.
They were imaginative, charismatic and unconventional. Essentially they were missionaries not a churchmen, though churches followed in their wakes. They connected people to Christ. As Alline said on his deathbed at age 35, “I long that poor sinners should have such views of the Lord Jesus as I have.”
Though the descendants of that movement are now seen as an out of touch sub-culture, Alline, George and Preston’s congregations were the cutting-edge cusp of confused cultures finding renewed identity in Christ and coming to see themselves as the “favoured people of God” Isn’t that what we want for our neighbours?
I’m uncomfortable with talk and effort on church growth and even church planting – it’s neither old or new enough for me. Churches started and grew back then because we weren’t trying to start or grow them. We wanted Jesus Christ – for ourselves and for others. He’s the new old – the Alpha and Omega. In Alline’s words he’s the One Eternal Now.
No matter how we rebrand and revamp, may Christ’s love and intimacy be our deepest identifying mark, always driving our mission.
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion… Each of you should not only look to your own interests but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:1,4
**The info about Henry Alline comes from George A. Rawlyk’s Henry Alline (1987)