A leaner group (17) of us gathered on January 31 to revisit our conversation about a sixth, aspirational, Core Value. We brainstormed several ideas for a third step in the experience of a life of faith among the saints at Whatcoat, the first two of which are acceptance/welcome and growth (in spirituality and in relationships). At the end of the meeting, we voted on the word that best represented what comes next in our walk of faith together, and came up with: serving. Who are we serving? Christ, in our neighbors.
We also revisited the conversation about our ministry context, focusing on a larger scale of American culture, rather than the Camden/Dover area. We talked about the meaning of the phrase “Spiritual but not Religious” among people of of faith and no faith in our post-modern, information-saturated, technology-driven world. We found that some of these distinctions between spirituality and religion reflected our own understanding of faith practice and experience as Christians, and some of them made us feel uncomfortable.
Finally, we generated lists comparing (unchanging) missions of the church with (adaptive) methods of carrying out these missions. Malphurs calls this distinction a Function (unchanging, core purposes) and Form (ways of accomplishing our purposes that reflect a changing context and culture), on pages 66-67 in Chapter 2. We thought of a couple of examples of mission/method distinctions in our culture (information/printing press; entertainment/dinner theater) before generating a list of these distinctions for our church.
Making this distinction helps us find ways of carrying out the mission Christ has given us in a world of rapid change, so that we can be faithful stewards of the riches of his grace in our lives.
I recently received an Alban Institute article by Haydn Shaw from Stan Menking, who is leading a two-year pastoral leadership seminar in which I have been involved since 2014. It describes a kind of generational awareness that will help us navigate these social and cultural changes, with the help of our children and grandchildren!