As I write I am sitting aboard the Spirit of Tasmania II after a whirlwind visit to Victoria to celebrate my daughter’s 22nd birthday.
We came across on Tuesday evening and spent much of Wednesday driving as we visited the Mornington Fusion centre where we had lived for five years before travelling up to Bendigo to be with Maddi.
Seeing my little girl now all grown up and returning to Victoria, where I led the Fusion team for five years put me in a reflective mode, particularly in light of what I have been thinking about as I prepare for Sunday.
There has been a lot written about the church and what it is, or what it isn’t and mostly people are responding to the institutions they have encountered.
One of the features of institutions is that they are built for permanence. They were initially established in response to an idea or vision someone had, and then they take on a life of their own, and sometimes the idea or vision can go missing but the institution trundles on.
In order to lead we need to take a look at the original visions or ideas that built our institutions. This is definitely true of the institutions of church.
It was fascinating and a little disturbing for me to uncover the original idea behind what many of us call church while I was in Canada. In the 1950’s Donald McGavran blended sociology and marketing principles with simple theology in a way that made sense to a lot of people. While very few people know his name, almost every modern church has been influenced by his “Church Growth” paradigm.
Bono sang, in the song “Cedars of Lebanon”:
Choose your enemies carefully ’cause they will define you
Make them interesting ’cause in some ways they will mind you
They’re not there in the beginning but when your story ends
Gonna last with you longer than your friend
While Donald McGavran is not exactly my enemy, the paradigm he proposed definitely is because it produced institutions shaped by quite a different vision than I understand what the church is meant to be focussing on.