Showing posts with label Church problems. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Church problems. Show all posts

27 April 2013

We need a new approach

SpaceX is solving a fundamental blocking problem in spaceflight. This is a great example for the church where a similar blocking problem needs to be addressed. As with all such problems we need a new approach, a new way to see the problem and find a solution.

Grasshopper landing, 5th test flight
Sometimes good examples help us to see our situation in a new light, and great examples can even encourage us to do something about it.

Here is a truly great example from SpaceX, the Californian commercial spaceflight company owned and run by Elon Musk.

First the example, then we'll take a look at how we might apply it to the church.

Spaceflight? Church? There seems to be a disconnect, perhaps. Well no, actually. But more on that later.

Spaceflight is expensive - Here's the situation as Elon found it. Spaceflight is extremely expensive; launch costs for placing a large communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) are typically £150 million or so.

This is what I call a blocking problem. It blocks further progress. Spaceflight cannot become routine on a large scale with launch costs of this order. For decades these high costs have been regarded as unavoidable. What might be done to reduce them?

By carefully designing the company's Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets to be as efficient as possible, both in terms of manufacture and deployment, Elon Musk has been able to trim the launch cost considerably. But it's still too high, much too high.

Not being one to give up easily, he realised that the fuel costs are less than 1% of the cost of the rocket, so if a rocket could be reused over and over again (like an aircraft) the cost per launch could fall very dramatically.

Grasshopper - So this is what SpaceX has been attempting with its 'Grasshopper' project. Grasshopper is a test version of the company's standard Falcon 9. It has flown five times so far, higher each time. The recent flight to 250 m is amazing to watch. It goes up, it hovers for a while, and then it returns to the launch pad and lands!

Watch Grasshopper do it's stuff in this SpaceX video. Don't miss it. It's truly astonishing!

On the next cargo flight of Dragon to the International Space Station (ISS), SpaceX intends to 'land' the first stage on the sea as a trial run. They don't expect to succeed on the first attempt (though I suspect they may do better than most people think). But they will persevere and when they are comfortable with the process they will eventually return an intact first stage to the launch pad.

And then they'll work on minimising the refurbishment and refuelling so that the same rocket can be flown several times a week, perhaps even several times a day. And they plan to work on returning the second stage as well.

I'm sure you can see how this will change everything. Space launches will become far cheaper and new markets for launch services will develop as a direct result.

And the church? - Ah, the church! You see the church has a similar problem, something that has been taken for granted like high launch costs in the rocket business. Church in the West has seen falling numbers, falling influence, falling relevance to ordinary people.

All sorts of programmes have been organised involving better music, excellent teaching, novel forms of meeting, cafe church, simple church, exciting children's programmes, house church and more. None of these things in themselves has made a fundamental difference.

Like Elon Musk and SpaceX we need a new way of thinking.

And we already have one! Alan Hirsch has put his able mind to work and has identified six key elements that are essential but sufficient for explosive and continuing growth. Taken together (and he makes it clear that they must be taken together to be effective) these six elements can make a dramatic difference.

The first key element is 'Jesus is Lord' and that should surprise none of us. But what are the other five?

You'll have to wait for a later post to find out. But if you can't wait, get a copy of Alan's book, 'The Forgotten Ways' and start reading. It's excellent stuff, illuminating, exciting, and carrying a real hope for the future of the church in the West.

Questions:

  • Does it seem to you that church in the western world is advancing or retreating?
  • Why is the western church not growing explosively like the church in China or India?
  • Have you heard Alan Hirsch speak, or read any of his books?
  • Is Jesus truly at the very centre of all you do and say and think?

See also:

21 April 2013

A walk along the river

A walk along the riverbank and a sight of the old castle mound spoke to me about church. We consider the story of the castle and what it tells us, how church can go bad, and some pointers as to how it might be redeemed. There's a useful list of links at the end.

Castle Hills in Eaton Socon
Yesterday morning Mo and I went for a walk. I headed across to his place, we had a coffee and chatted.

Then, as it was a beautiful morning, we walked down to the river, crossed over, headed upstream to the Rivermill pub, then back to Mo's for a second coffee and a bit more conversation.

On the way we had a great view of Castle Hills and it struck me that this place has much to say about the church. I've seen this view of the old castle site in Eaton Socon many, many times, but never before have I sensed that it was a powerful illustration of some spiritual principles.

The history of the castle - First I need to give you a bit of background information. The land around the river is very flat. It's flood meadow, there's a deep layer of river gravel covered by rich soil, and the river itself would have moved slowly back and forth across this flat area over the ten thousand years since the last ice-age ended. The higher ground you see in the photo is man made.

There is a story, perhaps true, that the castle mound was constructed and a wooden castle built on it
during the Norman period. But the nobleman who built it didn't ask for the king's permission, and he was later commanded to pull it down again.

Certainly there is no castle there now.

How does this apply to the church? - Just consider that the church is a holy temple built of living stones. We, the people of Christ the King, are those living stones.

In 1 Corinthians 3:8-17 Paul writes that the foundation of the church is Jesus Christ, but whether the building survives or falls also depends on whether it's built of the right materials and how skillful the builders are.

The castle was built on its mound by a Norman nobleman. But it was built of wood, not stone, and it was built unwisely because it was built without the king's permission.

How about the local church where you live? Has it been built with or without the permission of King Jesus? Was it built at his command? And is it made of materials that will last? We need to ask ourselves what other foundations and materials might sometimes be erroneously used.

It might seem strange to suggest that we need permission from Jesus to begin church. But remember, he said, 'I will build my church'. In everything we need to listen to the Holy Spirit and do what he calls us to do. If I branch out on my own I may come unstuck.

As a general rule it's OK to just meet together because we are his people, that is always a good thing. But what is not necessarily right is to create structures to manage and control the direction, the finances, the policies, and the work of the local body. For those we most certainly do need to hear and obey the King. That's what I mean by 'build' in the context of church life.

Clearly, if a local expression of church is built without the King's permission it is not built on the foundation of Christ. It might instead be built on greed, for example, created to turn in a tidy sum in offerings with the intention of creaming some off into someone's pockets. We have seen this with some TV ministries over the years. Or it might be built on business management principles leaving no room for the Holy Spirit to guide the work. Or perhaps it might be built on faulty doctrine or wrong practice.

And what about the materials used, the living stones? Even if constructed on the true foundation of Christ, a church might still be at risk if the people lack wisdom, or the ability to hear the Spirit well, if there is wrong teaching or unforgiveness or a clinging to materialism.

But perhaps the most dangerous situation of all is one where the church is led in a way that doesn't encourage active participation, where people expect to be 'fed' instead of coming to feed one another.

The way forward - There are many potential pitfalls, but beginning in simple ways and  making it difficult for people to be mere pew sitters will always help. Transforming a situation steeped in traditional ways is much more difficult, but by no means impossible.

Material designed to help church grow in healthy, Christ-centred, missional and loving ways is produced abundantly by people and organisations like Neil Cole (Church Multiplication Associates), Alan Hirsch (Forge Mission Training Network), Tony and Felicity Dale (House2House), Steve Addison (Movements that Change the World) and, here in the UK, Peter Farmer (NewForms Resources).

There are also many, many other sources of inspiration, information, ideas, and good teaching - far too many to list here. Consider Paul Young, Lyfe, Austin-Sparks.net, Nomad Podcast, Olive Tree, Be the Light.

Questions:

  • What is good about your local church environment?
  • What is less good?
  • Are there ways you could help to improve things?
  • Are you reaching others, encouraging the church family, loving those around you?

See also:

Copyright

Creative Commons Licence

© 2002-2017, Chris J Jefferies

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. A link to the relevant article on this site is sufficient attribution. If you print the material please include the URL. Thanks! Click through photos for larger versions. Images from Wikimedia Commons will then display the original copyright information.
Real Time Web Analytics