Congregations gather around bad dynamics and good ones. Ones that play on anger and fear, and ones that draw us into the fullness of Jesus Christ. (I once called these the “empty politic” versus the “politic of fullness”). One set of dynamics leads us to withdraw from the culture, the other set shapes us in the surrounding culture for mission. It is really important to understand these dynamics that shape congregations, then diagnose them, and lead well in them. I believe God has given us in Christ practices that over turn the bad dynamics of gathering people via antagonisms, false causes, consumerism. Instead, we as pastors and leaders can lead people to form communities into His presence among us, His reign, indeed His mission. These practices are the Lord’s Table, proclaiming gospel, reconciliation, being “with” the least of these, being “with” children, the five fold ministry, Kingdom prayer. Properly understood, they are practices that shape congregations into their context (as opposed to against their context), engaging their context (instead of withdrawal from it), for the blessing and renewal of their context in Christ (instead of in antagonism with their context). They shape us into His Kingdom becoming visible through His people. When poorly led, they allow churches to go into either Maintenance Mode or Exhaustion Mode.
We’re exploring all of this in a course I’m teaching at Regent College this summer. It’s about congregational formation for Mission!! The way we lead and shape congregations. Whether you are a church planter, a leader of a congregation in need of renewal, or a leader of a congregation that needs a new direction, this course will explore the dynamics that God has given us for gathering a people together in Him to participate in His mission in our neighborhoods! It’s all based on my upcoming book with IVP called Faithful Presence. You can sign up here. Hope to see some of you there!!