Mike Frost, posed a question on his blog: mikefrost.net/can-seminary-produce-visionary-leaders/. He also questions the necessity of potential relics like preaching (I asked the same question in this blog post). After he posted a thought about the post on Facebook, “Can we expect seminary students, who have grown up in church and have enjoyed their experience (hence they’re still in the church), to seriously renegotiate how church could be done in a new era?” I replied,
To exaggerate, the visionaries (prophets?) you’re looking for can’t exist within the institution. They threaten traditions from within, then are ostracized to the margins, further reducing their potential voice.
At the top of my head possible solutions….. Denominations re-tooling measurements so innovators aren’t celebrated based on old metrics (ex. the best church planters are the ones with most people). Embracing a theology of risk and failure (ex. rather than 1 church plant at 1/4 million, launch 10 at the same price and expect 8 to fail). Stop booting potential innovators ‘to the field’…. I could go on.
The pragmatist in me doesn’t believe the institution can change fast enough to accommodate a new generation of leaders. I think it’ll have to be something new at arms length.
Full disclosure. Seminary was instrumental in changing my paradigm, but the institutional church has been inept to collaborate in ways to connect with the ‘outsiders’.
So where ARE all of the innovators? Do they even exist? And I’m not referring to “church planters”.
Church planters may be risk takers (some more than others), but conventional church planting usually (unfortunately) comes in a one-size-fits all model. You know the one, white male goes through training and mentorship (after Bible degree), launches with piles of money, denominational backing, and people, and away you go. That’s not innovation. That’s risk mitigation. That’s church transplanting.
Where are the people jumping knee deep in their neighbourhoods, or in their networks the church would call, “the outsiders”? Where are Christians leading in LGBTQ communities? Where are the innovators starting churches among the poorest neighbourhoods?
I know they exist. They’re just pushed to the margins left to fend for themselves and scrape by with what little resources they can conjure. They’re few and far between, and they need support, they need prayer, they need to collaborate with like minds, they need to know they’re not alone.
You’re not alone.
The institutional church in North America is facing the tumult of culture, demonstrating little interest to stretch beyond the guise of power and privilege they once assumed. The result is disintegration. Talk to any mega church pastor, they’ll disagree with you. That man can’t see the ship is sinking. Resiliency and church transfers pad the stats. But is that vision? It’s certainly a form, but here’s the problem, there seems to be one dominant way of thinking in contemporary Christianity in North America, and for the most part, it’s failing.
It may be time to give the keys to the renegades for a while and see if they’ll take the Gospel beyond the church walls.