I’ve now been at Richview for over nine (!) years. The people there are amazing, and I’ve learned tons in this time.
One of the tensions is that it is an established, traditional church. Even with great people, there are forces at work that draw us inward to focus on maintenance, routine, budgets, meetings, etc. I haven’t always succeeded in wrestling with these forces but here are some of the phases I’ve been through at various times:
- trying to do better at the institutional game (an attractional approach)
- occasionally despairing of the institution altogether
- realizing that I am as much of a problem as the demands of institutional life
- doing the bare minimum to maintain the institutional demands while focusing energy on moving toward mission
- drawing hope from other churches where God is at work within traditional settings
I move between various of these phases, but generally I have been living more near the bottom of this list. There I am facing other challenges, such as learning how to serve a community that’s diverse and more suburban with some urban pockets.
Some argue that established churches are a waste of time. I disagree. I think some are called to new forms of church and church plants, but we also need missional leaders who are called to traditional settings. Both callings have their challenges.
I’ll be reflecting a little more on this as I review a new book coming out called Pagan Christianity . For now I’ll say this: from what I can see, non-traditional settings have their challenges as well. I’ve learned that smaller, organic groups can be just as inwardly focused as established churches. This isn’t to say that established churches don’t have significant challenges. It’s just easy to overstate them and understate the challenges of new forms of church. But more on this when it comes to review Pagan Christianity (which is better than I expected, by the way).
One of the best things we can do for each other is to get to know and support those in settings different than yours. If you are part of a newer form of church, I hope you adopt and pray for a church in a more traditional setting, and vice versa. There are lots of ways that we can understand and help each other.
David Fitch has an excellent post on the tension between mission and organization. As always, he’s worth reading. More to come.