By Rev. Lowell Greathouse, Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference
Recently I attended a book party for Paul Nixon and Beth Ann Estock’s new book Weird Church: Welcome to the Twenty-First Century. It was a great evening in which Paul and Beth shared some of their insights about the challenges of being church today, and then leaders from several local “weird church” experiments shared about their life as congregations. For those of us pondering what the Christian faith will look like 25 years from now…not to mention today…it was a thought-provoking evening. Paul and Beth’s book does not disappoint for those willing to venture into the uncharted waters that lie ahead of us.
Estock and Nixon frame the changing context of ministry in this way: “Much of ministry in the old paradigm is based on the ego of the leader and the organization to do good work, to grow, to accomplish and achieve. The dominant underlying motive is to prevent failure at all costs. The effort is staff led, volunteer intense, and time consuming. Dancing with the kairos of God, on the other hand, is letting go of the need to control the outcome. It is like stepping onto a dance floor trusting in the effortless, joy-filled movement of the Spirit of God to lead. Trusting that all things are possible replaces fear when we listen deeply for the movement of God and join in the dance. When we attune ourselves in this way, life becomes pure gift and sacrament– an outward sign of God’s indwelling grace.”
They go on to say…”The movement of the Spirit is always of the heart. The kingdom of God cannot be thought into reality. It is more than an intriguing idea: it must be passionately lived. And that passion does not stop short of imagining a full spiritual communion between the servants and the people served. Churches that cultivate and encourage passion and heart have fared much better in recent years than those churches that have sought to keep things safe, highly managed, and cerebral.”
Reading this thoughtful book makes you realize that everything is at risk in this new world, which turns out to be the best news that the church has heard in years. Perhaps now we can focus our energies on being the movement that Jesus initiated when he walked the earth healing the sick, confronting the powers of his day, reaching out to the marginalized, and casting out the demons that he saw diminishing the human spirit and community life.
Weird Church is filled with encouraging examples of communities of people who have responded to this new day with insight, innovation, and inspiration. As a result, in this book you’ll meet folks near and far who are developing simple cells, holding dinner parties, serving as community-based enterprises, serving as mission base camps, etc. The book is filled with real life illustrations to learn about and consider.
But here is the challenge that we all face. In Estock and Nixon’s words: “…The biggest question for you, the reader, is not ‘What will the church look like in 2050?’ More relevant would be the questions ‘Where am I in this future?’ and ‘What shifts am I called to make in order to travel with God toward this future?'”
I commend Weird Church to you, and hope that it challenges you to think about faith today in new ways, but that it also inspires you look around and see that indeed there are “signs of life” all around us if we simply take the time to pay attention.
Blessings on your journey,
Republished with permission from Spirit Alive, is a twice a month blog that looks at different aspects of mission and ministry throughout the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference and beyond.