Quite a few of us on the Missional Leadership course have been enoying Martin Robinson’s book, Invading Secular Space (strategies for tomorrow’s church).
In the chapter, Changing the Paradigm, he writes:
…if the church is to be renewed, it is essential for it to recover both a vision for its original purpose and a degree of spontaneous and organic growth. The problem with spontaneous movements is that by definition you cannot organise them into being.
He then goes on to illustrate the point from a remarkable story of revival in Ghana that emerged from the spontaneous activity of one indigenous preacher and observes that it would be difficult to form a mission model from this, or other stories of spontaneous growth.
The pattern seems to be:
1. Someone (or a group of people) experience the grace of God in such a life-changing way that they want to share it with others.
2. They are able to imagine and express this experience in clothing that fits their audience.
3. Someone (not always the initiator of the movement) recognises the significance of events and provides some organisational structure.
The difficulty for the church in the West is that we have considerable organisational ability but little that is organic and spontaneous to organise. Discipling, equipping and releasing those who have had significant grace experiences and who have the desire and ability to communicate needs to be the priority for the moment. Insisting that such disciples bring the fruit of their work into existing structures will almost certainly stop spontaneous growth from taking place.
As an organisation I recognise that we could easily fall into the trap of trying to organise something into being that actually has little life in it. And it’s a helpful reminder to us that we need to examine our works for signs of life, for signs of the spontaneous, lest we keep alive some amazing feat of organisation that in all honesty is dead on its feet. I confess we’ve had to cull a few such projects in the past.
I think our responsibility is to try things and look for the signs of God’s activity – to throw mud at the wall and see what sticks. And I suspect that the signs will not be in successful programmes or projects, but in individual lives that spring into spontaneous life under the activity of God.
How does this resonate with your thoughts or experiences?