I believe in Church. Not just that it exists, but that it is a tool for God to use to change our world. I believe that Church will survive the present decline in our numbers, that Church will survive in new and exciting ways. The Church that survives, I believe, will be collaborative, counter-cultural, and creative.
And gathering at the International Symposium for Ministry Development I get to hear stories of how teams, churches, dioceses, and all sorts of gatherings of people have created Church in amazing new ways. Because we have gathered folk from New Zealand, Canada, The United States, England, Scotland, and Australia, the language barrier is tough–words fly by and I have to say wait! Did you say “missing” Church?
No, Messy Church! (http://www.messychurch.org.uk/) Aimed at reaching families with young children Messy Church is a gathering of lots of “extreme” craft activities, followed by worship and then dinner. Prefer something with less clean-up? Germinate.net offers resources, training, and stories about rural Church. You’ll find a variety of alternative Church models under its “Good Practice Stories”, including United Media Church which uses film clips and computer games to reach children on Monday nights, and Breakfast@9 that reaches out to busy families in the mornings.
After Breakfast talk to the Diocese of Toronto (I’m pretty sure they say “Trono”) about how to “Redeem the Commute”, a Church that takes place on an app on your phone as you drive to work. http://www.redeemthecommute.com/about/. Tired of the commute and wishing you could slow down? The slow church movement https://www.facebook.com/SlowChurch is eager to help you with a better pace. Pub Church can help you wind down at the end of the day, but isn’t that new an idea–it even has a wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pub_church.
Not all the leaders gathered at this conference are emphasizing dramatically new forms of church, but even the ordinary forms have extraordinary components: bible study at a fast food restaurant, street ministry outside the church’s front doors, soup kitchens where the people who are hungry are also the cooks, outreach to people with mental health challenges, and more.