Church expressions must change to reflect God and his kingdom well both in the west and around the world. Indeed, we are seeing innovations but change is still slow and not, necessarily, keeping pace with where they could be.
Every day I see new formulas for how to live as missional communities, or missional families, or organic followers, or disciplemaking communities. This is all GOOD. It means we are finding relevant ways to walk the lifestyle of following Jesus and then developing new structures (church expressions) to support those lifestyles.
In the world of cross-cultural missions, there is much talk of disciplemaking movements and church planting movements. In my experience, some of this is more talk than reality, but it is still GOOD in that the dynamic nature of the church is giving new impetus toward fresh expressions.
But… surely we have only just begun. Let’s not be too quick to brand our current formula as the ‘one-size-fits-all.’ Let’s continue to innovate what it means to live as salt and light in our world and context, and then develop the structure/expressions that best support that lifestyle and give it the impetus to reproduce.
Allow me to break this down a bit in order to encourage even more innovation of church expressions.
Lifestyle Rhythms of Church
Church is first and foremost God’s people living a lifestyle with and for him. It is his people following him and doing life in ways that glorify him and display his kingdom. It is not a series of programs, events, or services.
The structure of ‘church’ (whatever that looks like) is always meant to support the lifestyle of those who are bringing Kingdom life to earth through an intimate walk with God and a missional lifestyle (broadly termed) alongside of others (spiritual community). But we have a tendency to rely on structures of church to define our lifestyle rather than the other way around. We easily become structure-dependent.
We must continue working at divesting ourselves of our reliance on structures, re-discover the rhythms of impactful Kingdom lifestyle in our context, and then develop the structures/expressions that fully support the impactful lifestyle allowing it to then reproduce in others. This is where innovations are coming from and this is where they must continue to come from.
We are called to follow Jesus. This is the natural God-ward rhythm. We need others to support us in this. This is the community rhythm (team, family, group, spiritual friends). We are also designed to be world changers by being involved as disciples who call others into followership (in many, many different ways). This is the missional, reproductive rhythm. With this as our starting point, we WILL continue to discover innovative structures (wineskins/expressions) that support the fresh and living wine of today.
Let us continue to look forward in this dynamic, transformative time!