Re-imagining Life, Community & Mission for a Changing Church in a Changing World

by Tom Sine

Economic waves continue to hammer many of our lives, communities and the larger global community. Numbers of people are still losing homes, public workers facing job loss, cut back in social programs will leave many of our neighbors without basic services. Add to that the growing upheaval in the Middle East, an increasing number of natural disasters and escalating food prices threaten the lives of many of our poorest neighbors. Add to that many of our churches are facing declining numbers, declining participation and declining giving.

Many people in our congregations aren’t sure how to balance all the pressures in their lives and families or imagine new ways to reach out to neighbors being devastated by mounting challenges. Local churches are struggling to meet growing challenges with diminished income. For the past 20 years Christine, our team in Mustard Seed Associates, and I have been enabling churches to do a much better job of both anticipating the waves of change and helping their people create new ways of living and serving. We have also worked with a number of Christian organizations from Habitat for Humanity and World Concern to young missional church planters and the American Baptist Church to help them create new ways to serve God in troubled times.

For example, January 2007 we challenged the board and administration of a Christian college to develop contingency plans for a possible global recession. We ran brainstorming session for 50 Christian leaders in Seattle to create innovative ways to respond to a possible recession. They came up with ideas like starting a church Craig’s List posting where people can post cars or rooms in their homes to share with those in need. They also came up the idea of churches creating community gardens on their property to serve the unemployed in their communities. Several churches have actually created community gardens on their property. In my article In Leadership Journal, Are You Recession Ready, I challenged leaders all over the country to imagine and create new ways to be God’s compassion during the recession. Now we are challenging churches to create new ways to reach out to those who are being hit by the latest wave of Government cut-backs in social programs and to come along the teachers, social workers and firemen that are being laid off.

For the last 10 years we have worked with, and learned from, young missional leaders who are creating new expressions of church and community in North America, the UK and Down Under. These young risk-takers are challenging all of us to a more authentic whole-life faith that reaches out to our neighbors. We have worked for 20 years with leaders of established churches who are re-inventing their churches to be more missional in these changing times. You can read about what we are learning in The New Conspirators: Creating the Future One Mustard Seed One Mustard Seed at a Time. You can also read about how we might need to re-invent our lives and communities to live and serve God in a post-oil future in Conspire Magazine.

We are living in a time of unbelievable turmoil and change. How is God calling the church to be a witness to a vital and compassionate faith in these turbulent times?. Fuller Theological Seminary asked Christine and I to create a one week intensive course to enable those in positions of leadership to more fully anticipate, and more creatively respond to, the new challenges of tomorrow’s world. Re-imagining Life, Community & Mission for a Changing Church in a Changing Worldwill be offered June 6 to 10 here in Seattle.

This intensive D Min. Fuller course will introduce you to some substantial books on a range of topics from the global economy, a theology of hope, to new expressions of the church. But the emphasis will be on enabling you to imagine create and new ways to be a difference and make a difference that both more fully reflects God’s purposes and engages tomorrow’s challenges. If you are satisfied with a status quo faith and the church as usual this intensive is not for you. But if you would like to have the opportunity to join a small group of other leaders in imaging and creating new ways to live and serve God in these turbulent times then you might want to explore joining us. We will work with you to create new possibilities that engage the unique challenges of your community. Our readings and reflections will be supplemented, vigorous conversation and much good food conversation. Space for this intensive is limited. If this stirs some interest then get in touch with our friends at Fuller Theological Seminary.