23 April 2007

So you want to be "Missional" but how do I get fed?

During our recent parting of ways with our 'parent' church someone who had loyalties to both said, "I want to go where I get fed the most."
It was a simple, honest statement, from someone wanting to do what's best, but this has stuck in my mind for the past several weeks...

What does it mean to be 'fed'?
In the Modern, Institutional, Structured Church (MISC), it means, "Where can I get good preaching, dividing of the word, and life application?"
Now in its defense, MISC has helped transform lives for the past several hundred years. But is it the best way? And more importantly; is it the best way in a post-modern culture?

It seems, that the MISC model can supply some great spiritual head knowledge, and for a season be the incubator for some good old fashioned behavior modification.

i.e: "If I really know the Greek word for 'lust' and have a 40 minute, 3 point message on how it's bad for me, I won't lust.... At least for a season.
- Lust is Epithumeo by the way. :-)

Now, this is not a bad way to learn. But we must beg the question; is there a better way? Which begs the Christian pop-culture question, "What would Jesus do?"

What did Jesus do?

In short he threw them in fire. He said, "Come follow me." They did. They didn't follow his teachings alone; they followed his life. They lived, took hold of, and breathed his life: The healings, the teachings, the miracles, the feeding, the associating with sinners, and the clashes with the pharisees. They didn't hear it, they did it.

And then, Jesus sent them out - without Him. They learned on the fly and were thrown to the wolves in sheep's clothing. They had to be wise as serpents and as innocent as doves as they went about announcing that the Kingdom of God had arrived. No 40 minute, 3 point messages once a week.

Jesus did teach them. But His words were backed by calling them to act with him. In fact I would argue that Jesus teachings came after the experiences, not before.

Living it was essential. It was essential to Jewish culture. It was essential to Jesus. It was essential to the early church. It must be essential to us.

If we are to truly feed and be fed, we must put the MISC in the miscellaneous pile and become Missional. That's how we advance the Kingdom, and learn at the same time.

Several years ago, I was a member of Civil Air Patrol and before I dropped out (dumb decision) I had learned how to fly a small single engine plane. I learned everything... except how to land. Landing is the most difficult part. The only way I ever hope to succeed in getting my pilots license someday is to actually practice landing. Reading about it or playing video games won't help me at all.

MISC at it's very best... VERY best... will give you a video game to try and teach you how to land a plane.

So go, feed, get fed, and learn to fly (and land).


JJ Smulo said...

Good post. Touches on a nerve for me--the Ol' "I want to be fed" crap. Eat an artichoke if you want to be fed.

On the other hand, if you want to be a disciple pick up your cross and yada yada yada.

I sympathize with people's desire to grow. I just think we'll never get past the spiritual maturity of an adolescent if we always rely on others to "feed" us.

Danimal said...

"Where will I be fed the most." This is a trick question. The real question is where will i feel comfortable. You are fed with your openness and desire to know the truth. I was on the periphery of this conversation. I seemed to have gone on a rabbit trail that being honnest and open to other's view points will bring in the strong and mature Christians. However, I believe this wasn't a rabbit trail. If one is open to the honnest expression of God, one will be fed.
If one wants a comfortable, easy, spoon fed belief, then they will find it. However, it may not nourish as fast and as well as an organic breast-feeding.
what do i mean? You really can't ask someone to answer "where will i be fed." The answer is between you and God, and if your looking for the best option to hook up with "christian women" or "christian feeling" then you won't find it in the organic missional culture. To be fed you have to be open to God pulling you and confronting you in ways that scare the crap out of you.
At least that is my thoughts.

paul said...

Well i feel well fed now :)

I think what you touch on David is a reflection of our psyche - in modernity the engine was belief that pulled the train called action and by and large that is the MISC express.

But in our commodified day belief and action are decoupled so that action can end up pulling belief or vice versa. We can end up idealising one over t'other and for me i see missional as welcome correction to belief to action and allowing for action to inform belief.

The BIG question for me is ok, no matter how we configure the train -is do we ever leave the station?

What practices both sustain us, trainsform us and allow us to interact with the world around us? How do we live this out rather than just letting it become another form of idealised way of being that we consume and set up as the new best way of doing church???

Makeesha said...

I want to be fed also translates as "I want to go to a church that has a preacher I like to listen to and tells me things every week I didn't know before and I want there to be small groups and prayer meetings for every deficiency I perceive in my spiritual life"

Which is really taking the wrong tack because the way you truly GROW is not simply by listening to an articulate preacher and going to bible studies that fill you full of more information about the Bible. "spiritual formation" is not just about knowledge expansion.

Rupert Ward said...

Good post. I really agree with makeesha ... it seems as though people often want good teaching, but I am not convinced that really equips them to better represent Jesus in the world we live.

I'm pretty sure Jesus said something about this: something about giving and recieving???!?!?

Steve Hayes said...

I take it that your response to the thing about "being fed" was the next posting about consumerism, because wanting to "be fed" is the ultimate expression of ecclesiastical consumerism.

The desire to "be fed" bring to mind the picture of baby birds with their beaks open, not wanting to grow up, because they want their mummy to feed them. That's taking the image of the church as our mother too far.

Makeesha said...

Steve, what you said was really good and got me thinking about what bugs me so much about this language - - I want to "be fed" is passive. As with your baby bird illustration, the only action required is an opening of the proverbial mouth.

sonja said...

Wow great conversation around this ... I had to walk away from it. The original question posed ... "How do I get fed?" got under my skin a little too much. It puts so much pressure on the pastor and leaders in the church and takes most of the responsibility off the individual for their own growth. All they have to do is find the "right" place to plug in and, sprinkle a little miracle gro on them, and poof ... a mature Christian will pop out the other end. Steve's picture of the baby birds is very apt.

David said...

Great insight ya'all.

So the question is (and maybe it's time for another post rather than comment), what do we do?

Makeesha said...

I think the best way to deal with it is, whenever possible, to encourage people to engage that idea fully. It's like we were discussing today in our little group - - most people don't really fully process what they're saying (I don't either all the time) so to actually engage them in discussion about what they mean is probably a good thing.

now, that's not always possible but with people invested in the community I think it's essential