A “church” is a funny thing. From a biblical perspective “church” (ekklesia) is simply a people gathered together on mission with God. And whenever you get people organized together in community, institutionalization is inevitable and necessary. This allows us to shape common practices and traditions that guide and nourish our life as we seek to follow God together, but it also can lead to being resistant to change. And this is nothing new.
Historically, change has never come easy for the church. As we saw from the book of Romans, the early church struggled with the full inclusion of the Gentiles into the mostly Jewish church (see also Acts 15). Jumping ahead to the 16th century, the Reformation again illustrated how the church was resistant to change (I thought this example was appropriate since 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation). One of the theological big ideas from the time of the Reformation is that the church is to be ever reformed by the Word of God (Ecclesia semper reformanda est), in the sense that the lives and practices of followers of Christ always need further reformation. As Christ followers we need to be open to change; we need to be open to God's continual transforming work in our lives. If we are actively following Christ, then we need to be “keeping in step with the Spirit” and allowing God to shape and form our everyday lives.
We've been on this missional journey at Greenfield for a number of years now. I personally have been challenged to live on mission with God in my neighbourhood and among my network of friends and acquaintances, and many people have shared similar stories of loving their neighbours. While some may be tired of hearing about being “missional”, we need to recognize that this isn’t just the latest fad or the newest church program, but this reflects the very heart of God for his broken and estranged world. We are all invited to participate with God in what He is doing in this world. He desires to use us — individually and collectively — as his ambassadors (2Corinthians 5:20) to bring his message of reconciliation to our neighbourhoods and network of friends in both word and deed. What is required of us is a “long obedience in the same direction” (to borrow a quote from Eugene Peterson which he borrowed from Nietzsche). If you are still struggling with the notion of what it means to be "missional", a resource I have been impressed with and would recommend working through is Missional Essentials: A Guide for Experiencing God's Mission in Your Life by Brad Brisco and Lance Ford (The House Studio, 2012). We worked through this study as a pastoral staff and the Ministry Council is currently working through it now. I would strongly encourage everyone to go through this resource individually or (ideally) with a group as it does a nice job laying out the biblical foundations and everyday practices associated with living life on mission with God. If you want to look at a copy, please ask!
Change may be difficult and may come slow, but together as God’s people who gather together regularly to worship our living and loving God in the Greenfield neighbourhood, let’s continue to “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of [us]” (Philippians 3:12).