In a recent post on his Missional Tribe blog ‘beyond missional’ Frank Viola asked some questions about the effect of the current financial global crisis on Churches, and indeed the Kingdom of God. You can read his post here.
It seems that many Church groups and organisations, built as they are on a financial platform that depends on a stable prosperous Western capitalist economy, are beginning to feel the pinch. Church, in this form, is embedded within the dominant economic realities of the day. In it’s organisation at least, it is no different from any other business or institution- it has mortgages, profit and loss, staffing costs and maintenance costs.
Some suggest that the Western world is undergoing a massive shift. Capitalism is reforming, in the face of a crisis as big as it has ever faced before. Some are even asking again whether a system based entirely on expanding the ways in which people can be made to want MORE is sustainable. Particularly as the system also depends on huge inequalities between the consuming countries (in the West) and sweatshops and mines of the South,
Crisis has this way of holding up a mirror through which we can see ourselves from a different perspective. Some Christians are starting to ask again whether this really is the only way to live- and how this reflects our calling as agents of the Kingdom of God.
Perhaps this challenge also falls on our institutions. Has the way that we have done church easily become based on a consumer choice?
Church, becomes a shiny supermarket, at which we buy spirituality- packaged to be portable within our context.
In my country (Scotland) this is less and less relevant, as people simply no longer visit our spiritual supermarkets. For some this is because they have lost their market appeal. I wonder if this is also time for people of faith to stop stacking product, and hoping customers will come to buy. It is time to remember that the church that Jesus loves is built of flesh, and has no steeple…
And to remember again the words of Jesus from Matthew chapter 5, where he calls us to a radically different way of living…
Lest I descend any further into polemic, I am forced to confess my own dependence on this context- my mortgage, my car, my gadgets. And buildings- they have their uses, particularly in our climate!
But I no longer feel the need to put my resources (money time and energy) to sustaining an earthly institution.
Frank Viola quotes Beuchner;
“I also believe that what goes on in them [support groups] is far closer to what Christ meant his Church to be, and what it originally was, than much of what goes on in most churches I know. These groups have no
buildings or official leadership or money. They have no rummage sales, no altar guilds, no every-member canvases. They have no preachers, no choirs, no liturgy, no real estate. They have no creeds. They have no program. They make you wonder if the best thing that could happen to many a church might not be to have its building burned down and to lose all its money. Then all the people would have left is God and each other.”
~ Frederick Buechner, Quoted on pg. 277 of Reimagining Church.
I have found myself part of such as small group as described above, called aoradh. We meet in houses, or village halls, or pubs. We have no paid staff, and things can be pretty chaotic, as we do not have any leaders either. We look for partnerships and create spaces where we can, seeking to be a community who are faced outwards.
This way of being is strangely credit-crunch proof I find!