“Is it not time to stop trying to fix the broken bike
and look for another form of transport?”
This is a quote from letter to the editor of a Church Newspaper a few years ago that I have used in a number of documents because I think it is a useful analogy for one of the major issues facing the western church as it confronts its chronic missional failure.The point of the writer (whose name I have unfortunately forgotten) was that it is time to stop trying to fix up the missionally broken ‘bike’ of the traditional church and create new a model for church and mission i.e. ‘a new form of transport’ for the missional journey.
Tragically, in Australia there has been very little effort, into developing that ‘new form of transport’. On the contrary, there is significant opposition, if often passive, to anything innovative that might be likely to improve missional effectiveness. My sense of tragedy (and despair) was reinforced on reading the latest edition of the same church newspaper which was replete with enthusiastic reports of (allegedly new) Sunday-centric, In-Drag, Christendom Form (SIC) church model events and programs which have been missionally failing for decades (see https://unboundedchurch.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/unbinding-the-church-18.pdf.)
Then I recently came across an unreferenced quote in Professor Brian Cox’s book ‘Human Universe’ based on a BBC television program of the same name, which I think usefully relates to the ‘transport’ theme.
“We’ve woken up at the wheel of the bus and realised we don’t know how to drive it”
If we assume the metaphor of a ‘Bus’ for the ‘new form of transport’ needed for effective contemporary mission, then Cox’s quote is I think useful in highlighting another missional hurdle to be faced.
This hurdle is that even when there is a broad acceptance of the need for an ‘new form of transport’, that is a ‘Bus’ in place of the broken missional ‘bike’, and there is precious little sign of that happening anytime soon, even then there are very few who have the skills to drive it! To put it another way, while there are many schools and colleges that train people to drive the existing broken missional bikes there are very few driving schools for ‘missional bus drivers’. In terms of the local missional task, the large number of existing ‘driving schools’ continue to train ‘drivers’ to drive ‘broken bikes’
The mainline churches have for a couple of centuries trained people to be missionaries overseas in pagan cultures, but have always, if sub-consciously, assumed that ‘ours’ is a basically ‘Christian’ country where there is no need for a ‘pagan mission’ approach. However, that has not been true for decades and is why our missional methods are like ‘broken bikes’- no longer fit for purpose.
So, among many others, there are two major blockages to improving our effectiveness in bringing unchurched people to Christ. Firstly, we continue to use, and train leaders for, an anachronistic ‘broken bike’ model of ‘church’ and associated chronically failing missional methods. Secondly there is little training available for ‘bus’ drivers! This despite the fact that for decades every set of church attendance/membership data that is produced has screamed out the fact that the ‘bike’ is broken.
Our prayer must be that our ever-patient God will be gracious to us and bring about the radical mindset change, both in church leaderships and memberships, that will turn the rapidly ebbing missional tide.
May it be so.