A Herd of Elephants-‘Conversations’ We Need to Have

The inspiration for this Unbounded Church site is an idea-the idea that the Australian church, if it is to resurrect its mission, needs to be unbound. That is it needs to be set free from its current rigid, cumbersome and change-averse ‘Christendom’ influenced forms, structures and mission strategies in order to be –
‘A church as we haven’t known it for a society as we haven’t known it’

However, I do not believe this can take place until there is a serious ‘Conversation’ about the multiplicity of usually un-named and little discussed ‘Elephants’ in the Mission operations room.

The reason such a conversation is urgently needed is that while for many years those engaged local church gospel ministry have worked hard in ‘Mission’ campaigns and events, and in the development of new evangelistic strategies in order to reach the lost, the fruit of our efforts has generally been persistently less than we hoped. What in fact we have seen over many decades is the general decline in attendances at normal church services, reflecting the national decline in those who claim any religious, certainly, Christian affiliation. All this is coupled with reducing numbers of converts, less youth in congregations and a rising age profile, all ‘Concerning trends’ that are harbingers of a bleak future unless reversed.

The reasons for this ongoing missional failure are clearly complex, however I believe a significant factor, about which there is largely a deafening silence, is that there are a number of ‘Elephants’ in ‘Mission Operations’. (Most of these are discussed in more detail elsewhere on this site). These are listed below and require a lot more discussion, analysis and creative response than is currently the case.
• The general response to the lack of gospel fruit is to continue to persist in trying to do ‘More’ of what we have been doing with the Christendom model of church but trying to do it ‘Better’. This even though the evidence is that our fundamental model is failing and is past its ‘use by date’.
• The homogenous and Christianized ‘Village’ in which our church model developed is no more, indeed is shattered into a kaleidoscope of ‘Work and Play’ communities, cultural ‘Multiverses’ that are alien to and parallel with the ‘church’ universe .
• There is a serious failure to grasp the reality that the church needs to learn how to do ‘pagan mission’ in its own society.
• The vast majority of resources continue to be focussed on maintaining congregations not mission, whereas the focus should be “to redirect ministry from congregational gatherings to parish outreach”. This point was made in Sydney Anglican Diocese’s ‘Midpoint’ analysis of its 10 year mission in 2008. Seven years ago! Yet not much has changed.
• Leaders continue to be trained for a role that is not the missional leadership role that is now urgently needed.
• Leaders are so consumed with maintaining standard church congregations that they have little time and energy for pursuing the creative missional endeavours without which church decline will continue.
• There is a requirement for ‘radical change’. Again a point made in the ’Midpoint’ analysis in 2008, yet seven years later it is hard to see any changes to which the adjective radical be attached!
• There is a dearth of critical analysis of our missional crisis coupled with a lack of ‘Out of the box’ thinking.
• Even if start is made on addressing the above eight ‘Elephants’, with few exceptions the vast majority of ‘Christianity-Lite’, consumerist, discomfort-averse congregational members will fight like ‘hell’ (literally) against significant change.

All of this I would suggest amounts to a crisis in the true sense of the word. This herd of ‘Elephants’ is trampling on our gospel mission, largely un-named, and about which there is a ‘deafening’ silence, particularly at the ‘coal face’ of the local church. However, they must be addressed, and urgently, if we are to see the degree of mission fruitfulness required to arrest let alone reverse the documented church decline in our culture.

There is indeed a need to have a ‘Conversation’ about elephants, and urgently!

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