There does not need to be an In(n)

Great chatting yesterday with Ben at Urban Hope. As part of his MA at Kings he was chatting with Pete about Inside Out – Outside In and Outside Out mission. Pete Ward had suggested there always had to be an In. I obviously had not been part of the conversation so am in a bit of a vacuum here but…..
There is only an in if your work is church centred rather than mission centred and much of so called incarnational mission is still hamstringed as it operates on a version of the eccelesiocentric the bridge model, ie youth work as bridge into church. For many relational youth work has become a corrupted tool (often unknowingly), used in place of the youth drop in, or programme or alpha as way to get young people into church (albeit a hipper, more relevant version). This approach is a long way from the kingdom/shalom notions of incarnational missio dei that inspired relational youth ministry. Here there is no in there is only being and becoming, equality, reciprocal, open set, unbounded, redefining and discovering what church can be. It is model of missional church inline what see of the metaphors of what church is in the bible, (see Off the Beaten Track) that collapses the idea of a bridge, to see church emerge, outside out!

The idea of having an in at all in a post christian mission context simply reinforces my last post that we are asking the wrong questions, often have the wrong start point, and how embedded the eccelesiocentric paragdigm is in our structures, thinking and imagination.

A parable for Occupy

Making money had not been difficult for Jimmy, he had a good stack of cash from his dad, invested it in property, employed builders, did up houses and soon started to diversify.

At first he bought the building supplies yard, that way not only could he control the builders but also the prices. After having some stuff nicked, he started a private security business which was soon being used by most of the local shops.

Then he diversified into rentals, buying land and building small properties for renters that couldn’t afford much. It wasn’t generosity, it was an economy of scale. Lots of small flats brought in the same rent a large house.

In an age of no welfare state or government handouts, he pretty much controlled the town, owned most the land and was mayor in all but name. He had a close selection of business associates who he thought of as friends, but they knew which side their bread was buttered.

As he and a few people grew richer, the town grew poorer so Jimmy extended his security business as a sort of local police force to keep the locals in line. This meant he could increase his charges to other businesses to keep them safe and everyone knows it takes money to make money.

Jimmy thought himself happily married, with a mistress or two on the side, and two children (that he knew of). When his daughter turned 21 it was time to celebrate with a masked ball. The theme was winter and everyone would be provided with appropriate clothes, to ensure the elegance of the event and that the theme was suitably expressed.

After many months of planning he sent out invites to the great and good of the community, the people Jimmy thought of as friends. A few simply didn’t reply, probably because Jimmys private police force had been too heavy handed recently and the taxes felt more like extortion money. A few replied and said they were too busy to attend, not really wanting to come but trying to keep Jimmy on side.

As the day drew near the marquee for the party was put up covering the football pitch. Two others were erected for changing rooms for guests. Caterers were bought in, musicians prepped and waiters found. The only hitch was that no none was coming. Jimmy arranged a second invite but grew impatient. However, sending out a second invitation made good business sense,a good party was a chance to network, make a few more contacts.

Word had spread amongst the business leaders that no one was attending and so they became bolder, as in solidarity they felt more secure about their excuses or non replies. But their ‘security’ was short lived, in a rage Jimmy ordered the police to break their windows, and when the owners went for replacements he hiked the prices of repairs and controlled the supply. He increased the rent of these ‘friends’, and ordered the mayor to evict those who didn’t replace the damaged windows as it wasn’t in keeping. Soon Jimmy had driven away, beaten up, or simply killed his supposed friends and business allies.

Not wanting the party to fail he invited the tenants from the flats, knowing that people would scrub up well enough and he had the right clothes ready for them to wear. He would need to replace the business leaders he had driven out anyway and might recruit suitable people at the party. The invitation was delivered by the private police force and it was made clear attendance was required, besides which rumors and stories of what had happened to the great and good of the town were rife.

As one of the tenants explained to her husband, they had to go, even the people who had a bit of money behind them and had refused Jimmy’s invitation had been had been attacked, who were they to refuse. Besides which there may be a future in it and at least she got to wear a fine dress and eat well at Jimmy’s expense.

The party started, and was going with a swing, contacts were being made as Jimmy identified a few people to rent the shops and agreed to replace a few windows at cost to get things moving again. The only blot had been the appearance of a small tent occupying the mouth of the goal on the football pitch. No one pointed it out to Jimmy and besides, what did it matter? But Jimmy had noticed it, and started to make plans to get them removed the following day, he would do it legally, and without fuss, whilst tonight he would focus on the party, after all life goes on.

It was later that evening that Jimmy spotted him, well he could hardly be missed in his ripped jeans and t-shirt that simply said ‘Occupy’. Everyone else had worn the clothes provided as instructed. The audacity, the sheer nerve, Jimmy thought, to come in here eat the food, drink the wine, and not wear the right clothes. But by wearing a simple t-shirt the occupier showed the fine dresses and suits for what they were, a nothing, a falsehood to open doors and enable the same mistakes to be repeated. Jimmy saw the irony, the threat, and how powerful the powerless man in a t-shirt was. He called security, had the man stripped naked, beaten, and killed.

The lack of resistance from the man was breathtakingly, his quiet humility seemed to pave a way for all the onlookers to take a different path if they too would lose the trappings of power, but for many the cost would be too high a price to pay.

Also see The wedding banquet from below

Put your wetsuit on

It is not often I write out of a sense of frustration, and accordingly I have held off this post for a while. However I have growing sense that the majority of the missional conversation is still paddling in the shallow end and asking the wrong questions.

Norman Iverson blogged about a sense of a lack of real change around Fresh Expressions and church. It is interesting to see an insider raise some the same questions those on the edge have had for a number of years about the FE Movement, perhaps it is time to review those questions. My comment on the post was “The unwillingness to embrace death (of ideas, orthodox Ecclesiology , power) will mean a lack of interest on real change, so the sense of cognitive dissonance that things that FE bring will be embraced instead. But like the institution I fear they too are not really interested in real change.”
Another place of paddling in Fresh Expressions and the emerging church conversation is around the idea of relevance. As if we listened to the community we would discover how to become a relevant expression of church. But we will never really hear the community whilst we are so rooted in our current models of church and orthodox Ecclesiology . An example was a recent post Is your church too cool. My comment again was rooted in the need to practice a completely new way of being and engaging with the question. “Church can never be relevant in our understanding of the word whilst it remains rooted in a concept of gathering outside of the wider community for a supposed experience of worship. Articles like this are asking the wrong questions”
It is easy to fall into the trap of meeting with other christians and thinking we are doing something new, doing something differently. However this, gathering in an exclusive way (i think we often kid ourselves that we are more open than we are) outside of a wider community is part of the gravitational pull that produces the sense of cogitative dissonance that means a lack of real change and keeps us in the shallow end. It is rooted in our false history that we can suggests we can get closer to G-d through a worship service. There is a brilliant article here exposing this myth and its problems.

I am part of a number of emerging (note not gathered and most of which have christians as a minority) communities, and more and more I am convinced that we need to loose any ideas of coming together for a time of prayer, a time of worship, or a church service. They all simply produce a sense of security that stops us finding out what it really means to love and serve. That is not say we give up meeting together but we meet head on the myth that god is present in the gathering more than anywhere else and work out what it means to put our wetsuits on and ask better questions and swim deeply with G-d.