Fri, 28 July 2017
Last Updated: Fri, 28 Jul 2017 5pm
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The changing face of the Christian Church

HOW people respond to change affects their performance and destiny in life. Similarly, the way organizations respond to change is a mark of their performance and success, and is often reflected in their bottom line.

When we resist change, we knowingly or unknowingly behave in ways that attempt to keep things as they are, and so put ourselves out of alignment with our environment.

This is often either an unconscious desire to remain safe and secure, or a conscious desire to avoid the unknown.

Either way the result is discomfort and tension. If our attitudes and actions are not aligned with the new direction then we are out of flow and less productive.

This phenomenon applies equally to organizations as to individuals; it is just that the dynamic is sometimes different.

An organization may have plenty of people who are innovative and respond positively to change, but if the senior management is fearful and change resistant then the organization can suffer.

Conversely, if the leadership is flexible and positive about change and innovation, and not effectively communicated to the people, then resistance may manifest as unrest and unproductive behaviour, or even open rebellion.

Regardless of the nature of the challenge, the way we respond to change affects our performance and the ultimate result.

It is much easier to cope with change if we have a positive attitude to changes in general. This should reflect in the language we use both to ourselves, as self talk, and when talking to others, individually or in groups.

This doesn’t mean that we always have to agree with the circumstances or the details of the change, but we can still adapt to it in a constructive manner.

The mark of an entrepreneur is the way that they respond to change and the innovation they bring to challenges.

For this discussion innovation is defined broadly as bringing any new, problem solving idea into use. Having a positive orientation towards change involves:

* knowing what we can and cannot control in a given situation

* recognizing that disruptions are a natural response to change

* being innovative and creative while looking for the opportunities that change creates

* recognizing that there are a number of right ways to do things

* utilizing all our personal resources and strengths to actively do the best we can

Taking these attitudes on board as individuals and organizations can improve performance and outcomes. If we respond positively to change we can grow as individuals. Organizations that respond positively to change and innovation from whatever source will also flourish and grow.

OK, so we all know that the rate of change is now exponential, and none of us can keep up. We feel we’re in a hurricane-paced race – just to stay with it and survive.

We know about generation builder, boomer, X, Y, Z, and Alpha – it sounds like an alphabet soup.

And of course almost everyone is saying that we live in a post-Christendom era; the church is in a bad way – almost on the ropes in the opinion of some – and we’d better find some new models of church, some fresh expressions, some emerging signs of life in this era of high

Spirituality and low church engagement.

We can trace the changes. Technologically it was the 1940’s; World War II drove massive technological change that has increased meteorically ever since.

Socially it was the 60’s; the music, the hair, the sexual revolution, the anti-establishment ethos, Vietnam, Watergate, all that.

And churches find themselves responding and reacting to social and cultural change. It was church Growth in the 80’s; it was church Health in the 90’s, it was church planting in the noughties, and it was resistance all the way.

Fads. New-fangled ideas. The latest is not church-planting. In fact the word “church” has dropped out of sight a bit. The latest is disciple-making, which groups like Praxeis and Move[i] and others promote.

The aim of such groups is to reach people who won’t ever darken the door of a church, share the story of Jesus with them, and build a disciple-making community amongst them. (Shh – I know, it sounds like church, right?) Well, it does, and then again, maybe not.

The Christendom model which arguably began with the emperor Constantine in the year 313 AD eventually brought about uniformity of belief (Nicene Creed), standardisation of practice (church building in the centre of town, priest for each church, standard liturgy), and the professionalization of clergy.

Discipleship? Perhaps not so much!

Today we have a messy mixture of old and new. Church decline, church aging, church planting, church leadership – and at the same time new expressions, disciple-making, unchurched people of faith, de-churched people, and people burnt by church.

Two things were largely missing in the church: mission – seeing the church as God’s mission agency on earth; and discipleship – equipping every believing Christians for the mission.

Of course we did mission. I personally trained people in Evangelism, in Gossiping the Gospel program, in Christianity Explained.

I led cross cultural mission trips in Australia and overseas. And of course we trained disciples.

To follow Christ meant worship, small groups, personal devotions, prayer, witness, and tithing. It meant making solid church-goers.

Church was the word, the vehicle, the framework of understanding – for following Christ. Church was the measure. We read Jesus through Paul.

Strangely, with a renewed focus on discipleship, the future looks suspiciously more like the New Testament gospels.

We will re-read Paul through Jesus. We focus on kingdom discipleship, where Christ and authentic humanity in him is the focus.

It will be a letting go of the structures of Christendom. It will be totally missional. Once again it will cost everything (“We have left everything to follow you” Matt 19.27).

The messiness of now should not obscure the clarity of the future. In an era that is allegedly time-poor, leadership has the opportunity again to sound Bonhoeffer’s warning of cheap grace.

And the challenge will be to step out beyond Bonhoeffer, out of Christendom thinking, models, mindsets and praxis.

It will call for an enormous courage to reprioritise Jesus and his call to discipleship. This raises the question of doing church in the 21st Century Solomon Islands.


By REV. ERIC D. MAEFONEA
SWIM

 

 


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