The Church Doesn’t Need More Shiny Things

The Church Doesn’t Need More Shiny Things

“God is our shelter and our strength. When troubles seem near, God is nearer. So why do we run and hide? When our worlds spin out of control, we fear. Though we ought to be fearless. Come, gaze, fix your eyes on what God has done, is doing and continues to do. Be still, be calm, see, and understand that God has come near.”

Psalm 46 (Paraphrased)

I’ve been reflecting on the value of cultivating an open mind, open heart, open hands in the midst of seeking to steward and innovate within the church. And I find myself both excited and disturbed. On the one hand, these practices appear to be so simple — Keep an open mind and open heart. Sure… Keep your hands open to welcome and to receive. Sounds great! But, when I start dwelling on what I might need to give up in order to do these things, I start to get anxious. I want security. I crave structure and predictability. But, those things don’t set me up for openness. They are barriers to openness. And to even think of stepping beyond these barriers that use to protect myself from being vulnerable, scares me.

One of things that I struggle with when it comes to the missional church movement is that in many cases, the new missional ideas and projects look exactly the same as the structures they are seeking to supersede.

There are shiny books, shiny conferences, and shiny pastors; all sharing a shiny gospel of revival. But, the call of the missional leader and indeed the call of the missional Church is anything but shiny.

Being a practitioner of mission is placing your last tarnished coin in the coffers. It’s a sacrificial giving of yourself to the leading of the Holy Spirit to defy convention, the status quo, and the shiny things.

It’s a call to become unknown by the masses so that you may become known by your neighbours.

The missional leader isn’t standing on a stage. They are in the trenches of the everyday; the Holy mundaneness of life.

And yet, I still find myself drawn to the shiny things and so quick to affirm God’s presence in them; even though so many of the most Holy moments I have experienced have been the exact opposite. I’m sure you can relate. Messy, disorganized, “how did that happen?” kind of moments. That’s where I tend to find God.

There isn’t a single missional leader in our scriptures who’s story was a simple and perfect tale of success and celebration? Instead, our scriptures are full of stories of God calling the weak, the under-qualified and vulnerable to be at the forefront of kingdom building opportunities. The losers, the outcasts, the marginalized, the tarnished and broken. These are the missional leaders; present and enmeshed in everyday mundane things, exposing them as Holy.

If we want to be truly missional, we need to listen less to the people on stages and instead  open our hearts, minds, and hands to the people on the street corner, the soup kitchen and the picket lines. We need to cultivate relationship with and meet the needs of everyday people. Until then, as the Psalmist says, “We fear, though we ought to be fearless.”

“Always in the big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.”

Wendell Berry

Originally shared at The Vital Church Maritimes Conference in November 2019. Adapted for online reading.

Zack Ingles is part of the Fresh Expressions Canada team. He and his family live on the North shore of Lake Superior in Marathon, ON.