So with my post yesterday, that gave a summary of Caleb Maskells' call to the association of vineyard churches, to understand it's future as one moving from renewal of church into being a movement of disciple making churches, what are the immediate questions and responses to that, that I have? What do you have?
1. Learning from history: The easiest question to ask, and hardest to answer, how? Evangelical history can be seen as the move of Christians wanting to renew existing churches, who end up planting, and forming their own churches and church movement. What lessons can we learn from that history and process, of what to attend to and what not to do? Again with Caleb as a church historian, I'd love to have hear him do that for us, and maybe he'll jump into the comments here with some ideas from Church history.
2. Institutional gearing: Caleb indicated that within the Vineyard's own history, that it didn't have the internal mechanisms to respond to the challenges it faced and questions that were asked. How will it make that transition this time? Or to put it more crudely how does the movement not only ask the questions further, and explore the implications together, and put it's institutional weight behind that process?
One immediate thought I have in response:
Ecclesiology & Consumerism: We desperately need an understanding of the nature of church, if we are ever to stop being captive to the fads of consumer culture and the market. I'm increasingly convinced that Evangelicalism is on the one hand intrinsic to the development of capitalism, whilst at the same time having within it's history the resources and experiences of robust responses to market society.
The desire to be missional in the markets but not of them, led ultimately being too much of them. A flexible and pragmatic ecclesiology allowed the formation of evangelical faith in the new emerging capitalist market societies of the west, but in the end ceded it's understanding of the nature of church to the dispensing of religious goods and services.And many emerging ecclesiologies seem to be as captive to the same problems, not matter how much they protest otherwise.
And within that diagnosis renewal can be understood as a fad, the means to feel good, and have God as the provider of consumer dreams. Too often the most important elements of life of 1) relationships, 2) where we live, and 3) our work, is not sourced from missional imaginations, but from consumer dreams. More crudely you might have Oprah, but I have Jesus, who trumps you, to get me the same way of life you are after.
What does it mean to have an identity within Church, that is not about whether church works for me, how it makes me feel, what it gets me, but instead is about missional identity, can be addressed by a turn to understanding the church in history. Our own Vineyard history, our larger rich evangelical history and the even greater depths of the traditioned life of the Church in history.
And within that exploration we might discover that our theology of the Kingdom and experience of the Spirit, remain our greatest resources to this transition. The now and not yet of the Kingdom frames a way of life that is missional, all our hopes and aspirations for life. Our understanding of the Spirit, allows us to explore how He can rescue us from captivity to consumer agency and allows us to enter into identity with others, in the body of Christ, where the Church is the public of the Holy Spirit.
Tradition (which as Oliver O'Donovan reminds us is 'spontaneity in slow motion'), Kingdom and Spirit, might be the way forward for us. As Oliver O'Donovan puts it. And of course that all begs the question, what does that look like in the real world in practice? I'll put some suggestions into another post in this series for that.