Thursday, September 25, 2008

George Fox Q&A: Finding your church's calling

Another George Fox question from Vaughn: "In Chapter 8, you repeatedly mention the vocation/calling of suburban churches. Could you say more about how you believe local churches go about determining their calling, and is there anything specific that suburban churches should keep in mind when seeking their calling?"

One way that churches can determine their uniqueness and sense of calling is to explore their own history, identity, context, experience, and gift mix of current members. Every church has a particular story and a distinct way of being and doing church that is different from other churches in the area. One diagnostic that always gets a lot of good discussion is for church leaders and members to ask each other, "Why did you come to this church? Out of all the other churches in the area, why did you visit this one? Why did you stay? What did you find compelling about this particular church?" (I blogged earlier about some other questions that churches can ask themselves.)

How a church discerns its sense of call and vocation is a mysterious process much like it is for us as individuals. Over the years, we as individuals get a sense that God has created us in certain ways, with particular gifts and interests and aptitudes for certain kinds of work or ministry, and we prayerfully ask for God's guidance as he leads us into things that seem to be what he has called us to do. When we find those things, it's like Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire - "God made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure." Likewise, God made our churches in particular ways, and each church is uniquely positioned to do some things well, and when we do those things, we feel God's pleasure.

Books like David Benner's The Gift of Being Yourself can be read and discussed congregationally and applied to a church context. Also, resources like Good to Great (and the companion Good to Great and the Social Sectors) are helpful in determining what it is that your church can be best at.

As far what suburban churches in particular should keep in mind, let me tag back to the previous post and say that suburban churches should understand their calling in relation to their particular suburban context. Your church exists for such a time and place as this. What is it about your particular church that is called to minister to this particular suburban context? Know thyself, and know thy context, and somewhere in the intersection of the two may be clues to your church's missional calling.


Unknown said...

Haha, so my second yr on UNC-IV's C-Team we returned from Christmas knowing we essentially had one evening to meet and figure out our vision for the entire semester--because the vision we'd had for the fall (created at May's chapter camp) was totally not working out so well. (Both hard to implement, and we decided it wasn't where the Lord was leading.)

And Alex Kirk introduced the Hedgehog. I gotta say, I partially loved, partially hated that discussion. I normally like stuff like that, so I enjoyed learning about it, but given that we just had one evening to figure out so much, it was not the most relaxed of times, leaving me super-critical of the hedgehog--since it didn't always seem to be getting us anywhere.

Thankfully, we ended up with someone I LOVED and that we all really bought into. It was actually only minimally based around our hedgehog.

So now whenever I see Good to Great in a bookstore, I can't help but roll my eyes and laugh. A great book... just not introduced at a good time. I remember it as "that stupid book Alex was obsessed with that had good thoughts but wasted all that time so we were all miserable." I should probably give it a second chance, given the circmstance... ;o)

Unknown said...

Er, I'm crazy, it was my first yr on C-Team. (That changes the story completely, right?)

Unknown said...

and "someone I LOVED" should be "something I LOVED"--it's too early in the morning here for me to think!