Monthly Archives: August 2013

Thoughts for NYNO on ‘Reformed, Reforming, Emerging, and Experimenting’ (4)

See 1.2.4 of the report.

Personality Types and Planting a Catholic Church

I don’t warm to the use of personality tests and types. I’m not sure why. It’s probably my personality … I think that while I know I have a certain character and limitations, I don’t like to be limited. It feels to me that the whole of life is about growth and overcoming of obstacles that at one time seemed insurmountable. I don’t want an excuse not to try to learn and adapt.

At the same time, this section of the report points out something that I can’t ignore.

Working with an understanding of personality types in terms of four polarities (introverts and extraverts; sensers and intuitives; thinkers and feelers; judgers and perceivers), it can be demonstrated that conventional churches attract high proportions of introverts, feelers and judgers. Anecdotal evidence suggests that fresh expressions of church are probably redressing the balance by reaching more extraverts, thinkers and perceivers, though at present no empirical evidence is available to either confirm or deny that.

Broadly speaking this analysis seems intuitive: it fits with some of my personal experience. This has implications for NYNO in a couple of ways.

At the heart of the NYNO ideal is a view of the local church that is ‘catholic’. As far as I understand, the term has a number of different but related meanings. I want to use it here in the sense in which it’s used in our title, Neither Young Nor Old: we want our churches to be open and accessible to all types of people. We don’t want our churches to appeal only to intuitive radical thinkers, or to traditionalists. We all need each other, we miss out without each; this is the body of Christ metaphor expanded beyond the local church to the whole of humanity. We might be tempted to think that life would be easier if our church simply contained the like-minded, but we have to believe this is not in fact the case, even if it doesn’t actually feel that way some or most of the time!

Quite practically for us, this is going to affect how we try to shape worship in NYNO congregations, the resources that we provide, the music that we use. It’s also going to be a question that we keep returning to: are we shaping churches in our own image, or Christ’s.

I think as well, that this could prove a challenge. A socially or culturally homogeneous congregation will be (I predict!) more attractive to folk, than one that genuinely values people with diverse character types and the preferences for styles of worship and forms of church that they will likely bring.

To conclude my train of thought, here’s a few more general thoughts on the churches, culture and the emergent missionary theology which does seem to being widely advocated.

All churches have a culture. That can’t be avoided and is necessary for group formation and identity. At the same time, there is only one church and it is universal (catholic in another sense) and this is the case because Christ became incarnate, one of us, a human.An unnecessarily divided church is a denial of our mutual humanity as it exists in Christ and, perhaps, a denial of the incarnation.So, the Church Catholic has to be able to reach beyond social and cultural divisions. A big task for a small church? Well, yes, but all it really comes down to is trying to recognise the unhelpful things that divide us unnecessarily from other people, perhaps naming them, and seeking to go beyond them. This is significant for life within the church, but also as the church reaches out and is open to others in mission.

The current use of contextual missionary theology could, no doubt unfairly, be caricatured as colluding in the sinful division of humanity in the way it encourages emerging ministries to locate and adapt themselves to a local cultural and social context. What needs to be added, I’d suggest is a recognition that culture and society is fallen and that therefore there is a real danger in a church culturally adapting itself. It may be a necessary activity, but it’s also a dangerous one. A ‘catholic’ ecclesiology that offers an alternative societal picture, one that recognises the diversity and unity we have in Christ, might be a helpful companion as we plant churches in our divided society.


Thoughts for NYNO on ‘Reformed, Reforming, Emerging, and Experimenting’ (3)

The previous post hinted at one of the limitations (or liberations!) of emerging church work in the Church of Scotland: there are currently some finances available for salaried pioneering work, but this is not available for the long term. From what I understand, no one could really hope for more than three years.

In the previous posts we were still dwelling on the task of being a creative, participatory church (whatever that means) and the probable need for a curating leadership in that. At the same time, NYNO can’t be dependent on paid ministry in the long term.

There’s lots to be said about the status of emerging ministries with respect to the wider church (it’s an ongoing conversation, which needs to keep going), but as things stand, financially, any model of emerging church can’t sensibly be dependent on paid employment. NYNO is therefore working on the basis that the current paid project workers can’t make themselves indispensable as paid employees to any church they found. Our reasoning is that we want a NYNO congregation to be something that any church could set up. Therefore we can’t establish a model based on having paid employees.

All congregations will need leaders, it can hardly be avoided, but we need to be facilitators, resource givers rather than a primary source of spiritual care. We can lead NYNO congregations but in not in a way that they depend on our personal genius(!) or charisma. If someone else tries to create a NYNO congregation but concludes, ‘We couldn’t do it because we’re just not you’, then we will have failed.


Thoughts for NYNO on ‘Reformed, Reforming, Emerging, and Experimenting’ (2)

I’m still thinking about the Dranes’ Report for the Church of Scotland, and still dwelling on the preference for creative and reflective worship.

An interesting book is mentioned, Curating Worship by Johnny Baker. (We haven’t read it yet, we may well. It’s gone on the list.)

Just the very title and brief description raises some questions. Is the creative church just as much dependent on a professional, skilled, perhaps theologically literate leadership? Don’t misunderstand me, it would be great to have a church led by an artist or a curator. Is it feasibly reproducible, though, on the large scale? The alternative doesn’t sound appealing, a McDonaldized church with no space for the new, for the prophetic, creative or reflective, except as such gifts are possessed by the pastor.

We certainly want congregations where all can participate (although I don’t want to prejudge the full variety of what that participation might be) and understand that each other’s participation matters. We don’t want congregations where, essentially, older people receive from willing younger volunteers. All can give.

So, it would seem we have a circle to square: diverse participation of all probably will require coordination (the judging elders of 1 Corinthians 14, if you like), but we are still hoping to find ways in which our churches can grow without professional leadership, possibly amongst those who have no desire for a public role. Is it possible?