Today we will address three entities (association, churches, our individual Kingdom roles) with an extended analogy (DNA, the strand of life). The DNA code for all life has the same components: a sugar, a phosphate, and four nitrogen-related bases commonly known in the strand as C, T, G, & A. DNA is at the heart of all life forms on Earth from simple to advanced.
What do you consider to be the DNA strand’s components for your church, your Kingdom role, and for our association? Which components are a) essential, which are b) variations, and which are c) mutations in all three levels of Kingdom work?
As to essential components some would think, education, worship, outreach, fellowship; others would say the Word of God, both written and living; power of the Holy Spirit; still others might cite programs, people, or available resources. As to variations, some might say our locations, our socioeconomic surroundings, our theology, or our denominational affiliation. As to mutations, that would be something on the order of the Reformation, the infusion of media in our ministry, fundamental changes in our leadership structure, Jesus People movement, the conservative “resurgence.” Variations affect an individual; mutations eventually spread and affect the species.
We are at the point that scientists, politicians, & religious ethicists are saying that genetic manipulation will become commonplace in our lifetime. The technique called CRISPR already allows geneticists to “edit” genes. The prospect of eradicating disease by replacing defective genes with healthy ones is exciting, but the thought of tailor-made babies according to intelligence, beauty, physical prowess is frightening. What would this look like on a spiritual plane? What should your church, our association, our denomination do to consciously and deliberately alter its DNA if you could? (which you can)
The indicators of healthy DNA in the past for some of our churches have been things like attendance, size, # of programs. Those days need to pass away. We have allowed passive attendance at church functions to falsely substitute as the main criterion for healthy church members. The indicators of healthy DNA in our future should include the making of disciples who are disciplemakers (Mt. 28.18-20; 2 Tim. 2.2), biblical models of leadership (Eph. 4.11-13; 1 Pet. 5.6), emphasis on transformation more than preservation (see last month’s column). Instead of stunted growth passed off as normal, we need church members who will man up/woman up and become the standards of conduct for our younger brothers/sisters to emulate (1 Cor. 11.1; Heb. 13.7; 1 Thess. 1.6).
If your criteria for a successful DOM is a ceremonial figurehead who attends your services, cuts ribbons, eats fried chicken, samples cake, and jokes it up with the “clientele,” that’s not in my DNA. I’m happy to do those things, don’t get me wrong: but as your associational missionary, I am to be a prophetic voice of change, one who sees the future and helps you interpret it for your church to meet the challenges of ministry with the timeless gospel in a timely fashion (which was the original mandate given me by the MSBA search committee).
Yes, I want to be a companion/colleague for our church leaders; I can sit and drink coffee with the best of them. But my prime time will be spent connecting people, resources, and ideas as a catalyst and consultant, not just as someone to keep the status quo and practice the ministry of presence only.
I’ve spent 5 yrs. listening, praying, & reflecting on our future as an association, as churches, and as individual followers of Christ. I’m ready to enjoin the conversation.