Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reflections on our trip to the United Kingdom: part 1

We just flew in from London. . .our trip as a family was a gift in so many ways. We don’t’ take our times together as a family for granted, for example, the check-in person at the airline counter was confused when we said that two of us were going to Seattle, one to Chicago and one to San Francisco. Oh, and by the way, we are leaving one daughter here in London!

I expected to go and enjoy the reality of being a family together entering into the world of our past and present. What I didn’t expect to happen, however, was how clearly the Lord would show me the reality of his Church in the United Kingdom.

Our first week was spent in Scotland. Bill’s parents both immigrated from Scotland as teenagers so we were able to see the homes that they were born into and lived in until they came to the US. The towns they lived in were small and in close proximately to one another.

Almost every building in Scotland is made of stone. So, the churches that stood in the middle of each village or town were built to be majestic, strong and central to the lives of the people within each community.

And, the churches have been present in just that way until just recently. The church in the United Kingdom and in Europe in general have made big shifts in the past couple of decades from going to being the center of life for the whole community to becoming almost irrelevant and ignored.

I can’t tell you how many of the church buildings that I saw in both Scotland and England have been turned into something else. They were museums, community centers, pubs, daycares, antique stores, and even a concert booking center. They are simply ceasing to exist as churches in many places.

We had the privilege of staying with Bill’s second cousin, Bruce Buchan. He is a wonderful man who follows Jesus and is active in his church. His church is still healthy; however, they had to wait 5 years before they got a new pastor. When I asked why, the answer was that there just aren’t any pastors available. No one is going into ministry any longer.

His girlfriend, Christine, another Jesus follower, is active in her church. However, despite the building being big and majestic, the congregation has dwindled to 20 people. The only reason that they are able to continue existing is that a man died in their congregation and left them a lot of money to keep them going.

I am still processing the grief I felt in my observation of the Church on our trip. I am seeking to understand more of how this rapid transition took place. I am asking the question, along with many others, what is the next step?

When I ask the Lord this question, the answer I clearly hear is that we cannot live our lives for the Church, but for the One who builds the Church: Jesus.

It is only when we live in the day to day breathing living relationship with the One who created us that the Church will thrive.

This is what Missio Lux is seeking to do. We are far less concerned with ‘’being a church,” and far more intent on “knowing Jesus.” When we are willing to wrestle with the hard questions of life, move into the chaos of other people’ lives, and make sacrificial choices to follow the lifestyle that Jesus calls us to live, that we will find the Church thriving again.

Fortunately we are not in the same place as Europe and the UK. We still have many thriving churches and very few have been turned into use of another purpose. However, many sociologists say that the US is just 15 to 20 years behind what takes place in Europe.

It’s time for us to wake up and realize that sentimentalism, organizational loyalty, and even tradition won’t change us or the world. Jesus changes us. Jesus gives us a message of hope and good news to share with the people around us. Jesus gives us purpose and meaning in our lives. Jesus gives us hope.

Missio Lux is about to start our third ministry year. We will focus on following Jesus through intentional discipleship lived out in huddles (6 to 8 people meeting regularly to answer two questions: What is God saying and how am I responding?) Through Missio Communities: communities of people that gather to share a meal, focus on God and one another and plan and carry out a specific missio (missional) purpose, and finally, Celebration: bringing everyone in Missio Lux together to worship God for who he is and what he is doing in our midst.

Our structure is simple. Our overhead is light. Our plan is organic and responsive to the needs around us. Our stories of community and missio are enticing.

Missio Lux will never be a building standing in the center of a city. However, our dream is to be the people standing open and invitational to the community around us; reflecting Jesus and being the Church, just not the building, but rather the Body of Christ.

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