Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Culture eats strategy for breakfast*

Matthew 16:21-23
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

I recently spent 5 days on a cruise ship with 50 other women clergy exploring the paradigm shifts that have changed the culture around us leaving the church scrabbling to somehow catch up and find a new place in this changing landscape.
Now, safely back on dry land, journeying through the season of Lent, I'm rediscovering the same dilemma in the disciples as they accompanied Jesus on the way to Jerusalem:
Jesus kept on speaking of his impending suffering and death but the disciples had a whole other notion of Messiah-ship, so they failed to understand. Then. They did, however, have that unequivocal teaching of Jesus echoing in their minds when they needed it most.
It's that kind of challenge that makes transitioning so difficult in many churches today. We tweak what we are doing to try and be a bit more culturally relevant. We put on more and better programmes designed to better feed those who are there and attract those who are not. But, for many, both in the church and outside the church, their notion of church, formed over years of positive and negative experiences is so ingrained that other possibilities are inconceivable. Changing the cultural imagination takes much longer than changing programmes.
But now is the time to make a start. Now, when there are enough signs of decline to make us desperate enough to act yet enough life left to make transition possible. Now, when God is calling the church into a whole new age of discovery and adventure, a whole re-imagining of what it means to be disciples. Now is the time to engage with the out of date culture that is perpetuated in the church while at the same time engaging with the vastly different culture that exists beyond th sanctuary walls. It is time to pick up the mantle and be disciples with Jesus' mandate ringing in our ears: Go into all the world and make disciples.
(*The title of the RevGalBlogPals Continuing Ed event January 2016, BE9)