What a great week!
If you have followed me on social media this past week you will know that I have been inundating my followers with snapshots of my travels to Chicago. I attended the Missio Alliance gathering, Awakenings 2023. Missio Alliance is an organization that is trying to create a commons for open conversation and creative dreaming about the work of the church in the world. The Awakenings gathering is a special event where people from all over can come face to face, resource, challenge, share, and encourage others as they venture forward.
I had never been. I mostly watch organizations like Missio Alliance from the outside, glean what I can, and move on. This year it felt like a great option to both refuel personally, and dig deeper into some of the current issues impacting the North American church. So I gave it a try and was not disappointed. If for no other reason, it was good to hear from leadership and thinkers coming from different perspectives, facing different challenges, and getting to ‘fanboy’ a bit with some of my favourite authors!
2 authors I would like to highlight.
Alan Hirsch has long been challenging the church on our view of leadership and ultimately the way the church operates for itself and for others. A communal approach to leadership is easily found in the Bible, but it is rarely practiced in most churches and Christian organizations. The usual approach can be seen as ‘top down’ or ‘pastor-centric’, and its flaws have been revealed regularly. As Alan pointed out to me in our conversation, and it is throughout his writings, the word ‘pastor’ is only used once in the Bible. There needs to be a renewal in the multi-gifting of the community of God.
David Fitch is a seminary professor and a prolific poster on social media. There is a collective nature to his approach to conversation about the state of the church, focusing on kingdom language and the ideologies that infiltrate our thinking. The church that is both at the Table and living the kingdom in the world is the key. He is also a CFL and NHL fan, so he made plenty of room to joke around about our respective teams!
I point these 2 out largely because they seemed to have a centring affect at the gathering, and their long histories in discussing change in the evangelical church infiltrate many other conversations. There is a cry from many for the church to be the movement that impacts people with the love of God, effecting every element of the world we encounter. The church as a closed institution does not bode well within that ‘kingdom ethos’ (Carolyn Custis James), where it focuses on ‘isms’, hurts those who need to be emboldened, and does not empower all to flood the world with Divine love.
(OK, I would be remiss if I did not mention José Humphreys. His work within his own ministries and the Parish Collective stand out. He speaks directly into the heart of the church at work within the many layers of the community. His new book on ecosystems and Jubilee with Adam Gustine looks great: Ecosystems of Jubilee: Economic Ethics for the Neighborhood)
Racial diversity, collective leadership, non-patriarchal systems, community ecosystems being shaped for renewal, acceptance of the ‘other’, and of course, the practice of peace and justice in a hurting world. So many good speakers, so much good to say, so much good to live. Challenges I take into my own practice of living as a person, but also in helping others seeking to do well.
We are all growing, changing and adapting. May we all continue to be open to do so!