Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Thinking About Mission Statements

I read this over at The Reluctant Church Planter. It was an email sent to him by a friend.

At first it seems out of context for Mission Statements, but it isn't. It brings into play the mission and the culture that the mission is being played out in. Interesting... at least to me.

One of the questions that Will asked me on Thursday that I couldn't get my arms around completely was..."What are the cultural similarities about the people of downtown augusta?". I started thinking about that question and ended up with a dozen more questions that I'd like you to think about. As I began to think about that I also began to think about what are the similarities of the people that were in that room. We are a diverse group, but I had a gut feeling that there was a cultural bond that we shared and was also shared by many of the people we were encountering every day in our geographical surroundings downtown, but the outward appearance of the group seemed to represent more diversity than commonality. As I soaked in the ambience of my surroundings during the middle of the night on my quiet deck smoking a cigar and sipping my second glass of scotch, it hit me. It was not so hard to comprehend, but also not so obvious. Our common bond was our passionate quest for rebellion. Some of us were rebelling from the cultural anomalies of our bible-belt upbringing and the overbearing discipline of their parents. Others were rebelling against the pragmatic structure of religious leaders. And some were rebelling against the fashion conscience, vanity oriented, possesion focused culture of our world. Some are angrily rebelling against the political climate of our nation. On the surface it is hard to see the similarities, but the need for rebellion is obvious and strong.

I began to think about what that could mean and why that would bring us together. As I thought more about the nature of rebellion I realized that finding your identity in rebellion is nothing new. In fact I would wager that more people have given their lives in the cause of rebellion than anything else. Our Thursday night bible study for the last few months has focused on the nature of Christ. I think it is safe to say that he was one of the most rebellious personalities I've ever read about. As a matter of fact, I think that aspect of his nature may be what first drew me to his ideas. Why hasn't the church focused on that aspect of his nature? Why WOULDN'T the church focus on that aspect of his nature? I think that aspect of his nature is the most under utilized "selling points" that the church has at it's disposal.

I immediately thought about a commercial that I saw on TV earlier in the day. I think it was for a phone company, but don't you find it bizzare how you can never remember what they are advertising after the commercial ends? In this commercial, a guy who just purchased his first home was standing on the porch calling his mom. It was at night and the house was completely luminated. He rebelliously told her that every light in the house was on even though he was completely alone. Then he asked her to let his dad know that he also had left the front door open and he was cooling the whole neighborhood. What is so attractive about rebellion? Why does it feel so good? Why does sitting on my porch smoking a cigar and drinking scotch make me feel so free? Rebellion is so inviting. Isn't it rebellion that draws
so many 20-somethings to bars at all hours of the night? How many rebellions do you think were initiated and planned in coffee shops or bars? Why have the most powerful movements of art, music and literature in our history revolved around times of rebellion?

Why is the rebellious nature of Christ so under promoted if that aspect of his nature is so powerfully appealing? What would happen if we built a church that "smelled" of rebellion? Isn't it true that the aspect of most churches that we all find hard to swallow is the "smell" of conformity? Is it possible that our mission statement as a church could be to utilize the rebellious aspects of Christ's nature to reveal the entire message of Christ to others and excite them to point of changing their lives and the lives of those around them? What if the wonderfully creative and intelligent people in that room on Thursday focused on creating that environment that did just that? I've said this before, but for some reason I never thought of that as the center piece of the church. Isn't this why the idea of a downtown coffee shop or a subersive "zine" appeals to you?

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