Mike Cope's blog

Friday, September 10, 2004

Are we an institution that needs to be preserved or a vibrant outpost of the kingdom of God? That's what church leaders have to keep asking. When institutional concerns are paramount, then preserving the status quo and making the clientele happy drives all decisions. Experts are brought in to preach the institutional mantra: "slow change, slow change, slow change." Cantankerous people run the show with their objections. Meeting consumer demands (with the members as the consumers!) rather than forming people as disciples becomes the preoccupation. But when the spiritual leaders figure out that they are not an institution to be preserved but a body of believers who are following the way of Jesus, then missional--rather than consumer--concerns drive decisions. There's less talk about prayer and more prayer. Less talk about the poor and more ministry with and among the poor. Less of a desire to let immature naysayers get their way and more of a desire to form them into disciples. Less of a devotion to "slow change" or "fast change" and more of a devotion to the leading of God's Spirit (as discerned by the group--not as "discerned" by one minister who just got back from a cool conference). I don't believe in being insensitive. We need to take time to teach people and care for people on our journey. Everyone is important! But for too often, out of our love for institutionalism and professionalism, we've let the most immature guide the decisions of the church. When will the church hear the missional voice of God? When will the poor, the unemployed, and the lost help determine what the church does? When we will realize that Christianity isn't just a tradition we believe but a way we live? When will we quit worrying about preserving the institution and start opening ourselves to the leading of the living Christ?


  • Amen, Brother.

    By Blogger Ed Harrell, at 9/10/2004 05:44:00 AM  

  • Sorry, Mike...that book has already been written! Or, perhaps you could pen something along the lines of Guder's book, but call it...

    "The Missional Church (of Christ)"


    "The Continuing Conversion of the Church (of Christ)"


    By Blogger Greg Kendall-Ball, at 9/10/2004 05:50:00 AM  

  • Mike!! :)


    By Blogger Kathy, at 9/10/2004 06:45:00 AM  

  • I tend to observe congregations as being "Fishers Of Men" or "Keepers Of The Aquarium". It is pretty easy to figure which prevailing attitude fosters spiritual (and numerical) growth and outreach.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/10/2004 06:59:00 AM  

  • Are you saying that "the inmates should be running the asylum." Radical idea! I am reminded this morning of Matthew 11:25-30.

    By Blogger David Michael, at 9/10/2004 07:06:00 AM  

  • Dead-on right, you hit the nail on the head, you got that right, you hit the bull's eye, nothing but net, walk-off Grand Slam, and any other words that mean you couldn't have been MORE accurate.

    Thanks for washing our feet so early in the morning!


    By Blogger David U, at 9/10/2004 07:09:00 AM  

  • Mike,
    You and I must be reading the same books (one of which is the Bible). Thanks for this post. I've e-mailed it to several of my friends. There is a function that you can turn on in your blog that enables viewers to e-mail posts directly from your site. I know alot of who people would like to circulate your stuff.


    By Blogger Adam, at 9/10/2004 07:22:00 AM  

  • Thanks, Adam. I turned that option on. Didn't even know it WAS an option.

    By Blogger Mike, at 9/10/2004 07:43:00 AM  

  • Mike,
    It's this sort of mentality that got me in trouble (I was branded a false teacher a few weeks ago, by an immature naysayer -- and it wasn't even on my own blog). You are right though. The church is not an organization, but an organism. I know of too many congregations that are governed with this mentality, and the people are spiritual zombies, dead to the notion that there is something more meaningul, more rich, more Jesus oriented on the other side. Keep up your thoughts, and may the honest asking of tough questions never be discouraged.

    By Blogger Jason Retherford, at 9/10/2004 08:12:00 AM  

  • I'm all for this stuff if it means we don't change the 8:15 service on Sunday. I like to be home early enought to mow the lawn before it gets too hot.

    By Blogger don, at 9/10/2004 08:22:00 AM  

  • While in Lee Camp's class last night, we were discussing the Rule of St. Benedict and how the abbot was called "Master" and given much authority over the other monks. He was called "Lord" and seemed to be the leader of the group. Whatever he says, if its not for evil intent, then we should listen, be submissive. We talked about how the abbot was not a dictator, but one who wants others to live the life of Christ closely and with allegiance. In doing that, the abbot sure has to model what he says. Our discussion turned to the authority of elders. I see how this could effect the institutional model as well as the Kingdom model.

    Second, your comments seem to scream COMMUNITY. And by that I mean living life as a community and performing practices (disciplines) that place us under God's grace that empowers us to be the people he intended us to become. With this, should we see the Bible as an authoritative community member? As a community, should we see if we are being relevant to God's story instead of making the Bible relevant for our lives? (thoughts out of Pagitt's book) Sorry to digress.

    By Blogger c, at 9/10/2004 08:33:00 AM  

  • Mike-
    For the love...PLEASE write the book. Here's one more day when I feel compelled to just link everyone I know (and don't know, for that matter) to your bog site. Great thoughts, man. Bold, yet Godly. That's you.

    By Blogger Brandon Scott, at 9/10/2004 08:45:00 AM  

  • What he said! AMEN!

    By Blogger SG, at 9/10/2004 09:17:00 AM  

  • Mike, you're on a roll, keep it coming, brother.

    "Keepers of the Aquarium"--that's good. I call 'em Spiritual Janitors.

    By Blogger James, at 9/10/2004 11:22:00 AM  

  • All I can say is. Thanks. I love to read thoughts like these from you because they encourage me in knowing that the way I see the big picture isn't diluted by my own personal desires and that there are others who see things this way. God bless you brother, roll on!!

    By Blogger CL, at 9/10/2004 12:50:00 PM  

  • Enough with the spiritual community mumbo-jumbo. I've just experienced a miracle on par with the Virgin Mary appearing in the rust stains of a car in Elsa, Texas: when I clicked on Mike's blog, a pop-up window took me to...the Barnes & Noble website! No, I'm not joking.

    The masses are lining up in downtown Abilene, as we speak, to look at my computer screen.

    By Blogger Grant, at 9/10/2004 01:18:00 PM  

  • (I am joking about the people lining up at my computer..)

    By Blogger Grant, at 9/10/2004 01:20:00 PM  

  • Thank you Mike.
    Please keep blogging. You can't imagine what a blessing your writing is for those of us in the
    situation you just described with no other viable
    local options.
    Thanks again. Looking forward to hearing you at Zoe.

    By Blogger Lee, at 9/11/2004 09:41:00 AM  

  • In most congergations the elders are a few years ahead of the congergation in their thinking and plannng...but there are the churchs where the majority of the congergation is ahead of the eldership. What do you do when you are not a leader of in the "institutional" church family you are a deep part of, but you long for the outpost type thinking and atmosphere? Please don't say move because that is not really an option. Specifically, what would you do?(Glad the anonymous comments are on today!)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/11/2004 11:32:00 AM  

  • I appreciate what "anonymous" just wrote. I'm in that same situation at my church. I'm also one who votes for getting to post anonymously. Thanks!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/11/2004 11:44:00 AM  

  • Anon - Thanks for that heartfelt response (and to the rest of you, as well, of course). My heart hurts for you and others who are in this situation. Trust me: I wouldn't say MOVE ON. While that may be where God leads some people, I admire those who stay because of deep community. My guess is that elderships like you've described have institutionalism engrained in them. But they don't mean to just fly the institutional flag. They (at times) think they're protected people from dangers. But, alas, we're called to live in dangerous waters. But most of these elderships genuinely want to impact their communities with the good news. They're ripe for missional language (rather than the consumerism that is probably driving them crazy, too). A longer answer is needed than I can give right now. Others jump in . . . and I'll try to add more later. Shalom!

    By Blogger Mike, at 9/11/2004 11:46:00 AM  

  • Amen and amen.

    Do you know of any churches that exemplify church as an outpost of the kingdom?

    Mark Van S

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/12/2004 07:58:00 PM  

  • Mike - in response to yesterday's sermon, when it was mentioned in our Group last night, one of our quieter particpants all of a sudden began to punch the air with alternating fists and yelped "Yes, Yes!" - then she suddenly jumped up with hands in the air shouting, "I just wanted to jump up and shout, "Yes, Yes, preach it, Preacher! That's what we need! Bring it on!" :)

    After service, the aisles were full of people talking about the sermon. The auditorium was filled with a joyful buzz about the future changes. It's as though the Highland family has been sitting on the edge of their seats, just waiting for this to happen. PTL!!

    It might well be that the "butt on the pew" churchians will have a cow about this. But,imho, God did not establish His church to be static with ingrown consumerism. As a now famous adage says, "Let's roll!!"

    You, the Elders, staff members, all involved, will be in my prayers.

    One question. How can I help? Estoy a tus ordenes!

    By Blogger Kathy, at 9/13/2004 07:41:00 AM  

  • I'm part of a church that has spent the past 5 years or so on the "ragged edge" of Christianity. We are not in the bible belt. We do not take very good care of the fish tank. We have instead tried to care for the poor and the sick (physically, emotionally, spiritually). It is not comfortable. A friend of mine compares it to a fishing boat versus a cruise ship. I would like to add, however, that this journey has been hard. I have seen our church go from 5 elders to 2. So many people have left this "uncomfortable" place I've lost count (there are always more comfortable churches around the corner, a "spiritual economy" of sorts). As each of you wish and pray for revival in your churches and a missional focus, I also encourage you to be preparing for a new kind of race. God bless each of you.

    By Blogger R Debenport, at 9/13/2004 01:18:00 PM  

  • I think a church's Kingdom availability and missional approach is proportional to the size of the body. Highland does a better job at this than most mega-churches, but has every member bought into the local mission of the congregation? Have the elders and members thought about the possibilities and strategies for expansion of the Kingdom in Abilene? Does everyone feel like they are a vital part of God's mission in this town? Are there even hints of the consumerism that is tearing the Western church apart?

    Here's a thought, just to chew on for a while (and spit out if desired): Why do Christian churches expect the lost to somehow wander into their buildings for a church home? Then, why do we expect them to leave everything they are used to to join a foreign group of people who are likely polar opposites of themselves? How much more effective would a church like Highland be if several members began having church meetings in the homes of new believers, inviting the friends and families of those new converts, then doing the same in another part of town? Through simple multiplication, Abilene could literally have a church on every corner, in every neighborhood, under every bridge, etc.

    What would it take for there to be a vibrant community of faith within reach of every North American? Scratch that...in reach of every Abilenian?

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 9/13/2004 06:06:00 PM  

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