The Tangible Kingdom – Chapters and 11 and 12 – “Lift up the Hood” and “Tip it over”

These two chapters really need to be read in tandem…if you do not, you are left with a sense that the authors simply want to bash traditional church structure.  The "figure" that Hugh and Matt use to illustrate traditional church structure is essentially the way it is – it is a pyramid – hierarchical – starting with the pastor/ordained at the top of the "food chain" – staff and/or lay leaders at the next lower tier and the general "laity" or congregational members at the bottom of the heap.  His point?  As stated on page 102:

"the congregational members, by and large, are fairly inactive and are not ultimately responsible for making a tangible difference in culture…how many people can model the Kingdom way in this structure?  at best, the pastor can share a story about his life during the week that gives a glimpse into active faith.  But you still have only one person modeling instead of an entire movement of people living out their own Tangible Kingdom for people to experience."

Later in the chapter, the authors go on to state that in traditional church structure, primarily based around an attractional methodology of ministry needs to be given serious critique IF a faith community's goal is mission:

"The attractional church structure gauges success by how many people show up on Sunday and the all-too-few stories of people committing their lives to God.  But we don't know whether disciples or apprentices of Christ are being made or whether we're making a tangible difference in the culture that we are called to reach.  The point of discussion is NOT to judge this traditional church structure, to call it bad or out of date.  We simply want to show that this structure of attractional church makes it very hard to communicate, show, or create a place of belonging where the whole gospel can be discovered.  It's not a matter of the heart; it's simply that the structure limits missionality and the ability to be incarnational as a community."

That is it in a nutshell, isn't it?  Our structure needs to enhance our mission…NOT our mission needs to be adapted to our structure.  For many faith communities, the structure of church actually PREDEEDED mission – in other words, there was an institutional structure embedded in the very dna of the community as it was launched.  Serious problem leading to more serious realities…soon after the imposed structure, the "organism" of the community had to feed the institutional mindset/monster…actually gutting much of the life out of mission. 

The question is – how do you structure a community to be focused on what should be the most important aspect of the community's life – mission?  Missional/mission-driven followers of Jesus are those committed to forming their character and lifestyle after those of Christ and who are compelled to live out their faith in the context of a community.  In chapter 12, Hugh and Matt "tip the pryamid over" to be able to begin to articulate and envision a 'structure' or framework that is responsive to the gospel, respectful of the call of God to move deep into Kingdom living, and that propels people into the culture without a diminishing of the passion for faithful discipleship.  Frankly, you should be reading this chapter (in fact, both chapters) for yourself…

More to come tomorrow..

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