Monday, March 17, 2008

Your New Missional Norm

If you have ever been through an experience of crisis, grief or change, you know there is a normal process that characterizes these sorts of experiences. Change of any magnitude is often followed by a sense of profound loss, feelings of anger, anxiety about the future, and sometimes an overwhelming sense of responsibility regarding the challenges you've inherited. But eventually, you make the necessary adjustments required to function, you develop new habits of coping and finally hit a productive rhythm of life - a new norm. In some cases you even find yourself grateful in retrospect for the change forced upon you. Although the transition was a difficult one, you find God intended it for your good. You may even learn to love your new norm. As I was preparing to facilitate Stan Parks' GCPN web unit entitled, World Christian Movement, for the Arlington Training Site, one historical fact I noted was the missional paralysis of the church following the Protestant Reformation. After facing the conflict, persecution, political ramifications and losses required by the reform, the reformed church found itself in a state of missional paralysis. Because it was focused on crisis, missional efforts of the church were placed on the back burner.

That state of paralysis is where many Baptist churches have lingered for the last several years. A significant segment of the Baptist family has been in a prolonged state of grief. A scorned woman in my congregation once told me, "Divorce is a greater grief than death. I could accept my husband's death - but I don't know if I will ever recover from his rejection and betrayal." I am amazed at the number of churches who are still waiting for things to be "like they used to be."

Hopefully, most of us are no longer there. We have adequately grieved the loss of the IMB as our convenient and clean means of doing missions. We have recovered from the disappointment of broken trust. We have realized the answer does not lie in a new sending board with a similar structure. We have assessed the reality of our new missional life and realized we have to move on. The commission of Christ has not changed. The lostness of the world is still a looming reality and there are yet plenty of unreached peoples waiting on the church to bring the gospel message.

Realizing that moving on is a necessity, many churches have asked the question, "How do we learn from our missional past and face our missional future?" One of the beauties of the church is we do not have to answer these questions alone. We have each other. I find myself daily seeking the wisdom of pastors, ministers of missions and other missional leaders. Dave Bollenbacher at Cottonwood has challenged me to surrender practicality to spirituality. Mike Stroope has taught me to think strategically. Matt Sprink at Woodway has pushed me outside the box. Dale Pond has encouraged me to stay focused among the complexities of a large church. Scott B. has challenged my church's faith. Jerry McAtee has modeled the importance of relationship. Bill O'Brien has encouraged me to embrace partnership. I could go on and on. But the truth is - collaboration and networking have become our new norm. What we must do, let's learn to do well. What once seemed a painful and challenging new reality has become the unstoppable means for your church to take Christ to the world.

Let us encourage one another as we learn to thrive in our new norm.

Cindy Wiles,
Executive Director


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