Monday, May 31, 2004

Living in Mission 5

The Missionary Congregation, Leadership, and Liminality by Alan J. Roxburgh on Amazon

Chapter 2c, Liminality: A Model for Engagement (pp. 43-56)

missionary congregation coverIn this section Pastor Roxburgh claims The authenticity of the gospel and the church is recovered by those who, rather than being at the center, are functioning on the periphery. And, The continued assumption of cultural symbols of power and success will only produce an inauthentic church with little gospel, much religion, and no mission.
The new pastoral symbols of "credibility and identity in a society that has declassified the pastoral identity." On page 47 Pastor R reminds us, "The biblical tradition emphasizes God's dealings with us from the underside." Amen!!!!! Liminal assumes the re-assumption of the situation of prior "normalcy"; liminoid means there will be no returning to the normal we used to have, the normal that once was our "possession" to engage and exploit. There's massive loss of meaning with the liminoid, as well :( :( :( Liminal is collective; liminoid is individual. Hearing God from a place of strangeness. But that no one that no one can live as a stranger, no one can live without a home for very long without disintegration of their total place - social, cultural, familial, economic, whatever - is such a certainty. This is fascinating, and again resonates so completely with my own "individual" experience of loss and what felt like disintegration some years ago a I wrote about on this in section 4 regarding chapter 2b. BTW, again I finally experienced the faithfulness of our God Whose answer to dyings and death always is resurrection! :) Emerging from those years I finally realized how very changed I was and how I'd never be able to return to anything resembling my former place and "status," since in the process God had changed me in a multitude of ways.

"Communitas suggests the formation of a new peoplehood, the constitution of a new vision for being a group." And, Pastor Alan describes early Christianity as, "...a distinct and peculiar people with a strong sense of belonging to one another." Wow, would that we could be described that way! But then again, both communitas and liminality can lead to over-spiritualizing the church's life and mission, which definitely is one of the things I most constantly decry :( Pastor R says, "The captivity of the church is so deep and pervasive, the church's own symbols so fundamentally co-opted, that at present it is difficult to imagine how these symbols can engage our culture in a way similar to the early church." Earlier we discussed the migration of our central symbol, the cross, and in this section we've read how the symbol of "pastor" has become disengaged from its former "place." We know how fundamentalist Christianity has co-opted the Spirit-breathed dynamism of the biblical witness and turned its words that point to Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, into lists of dry propositions...and the examples are endless.

"...in both liminal and liminoid places the group is removed from prior sets of symbols and relationships." And, "...prior sets of symbols and...classification...no longer hold." Significantly, Victor Turner says play no longer is possible with the corporate organizational forms our denominational judicatories have been employing - it's all been completely rationalized and bureaucratized, even when we run with local polity? Yes, even then. :(

It seems to me a lot of that society out there and too much of the churches in here have become designerized, as well, and I believe we can connect the local, regional and national church's preoccupation with business models as part of this designerization. Here I'm mainly referring to those church bodies that identify themselves as being of somewhat mainline persuasion. I don't remember where, but recently I read that combining the terms "Church" and "mainline" is a total contradiction. :(

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