"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

More on rabbit churches.

Admittedly, my last blog post was a little cynical, without any real answers. And while our rabbit-churches are fully dysfunctional, there are, within most of them, genuine believers who either don't recognize the rabbit-system's dysfunction (having never known anything else) or aren't equipped to help change the tide. Within my own congregation, I can think of half a dozen such people, just off the top of my head. (That doesn't sound like many, but in reality it's a sizeable percentage.)

So what does one do with that sizeable percentage? I don't think imposing a top-down strategy is healthy. As soon as the rector or other leadership leaves, dies, moves on, it all falls apart. A friend of mine introduced the idea that a congregation, as a whole, has a set of core gifts that color the tone of the congregation. This makes sense to me, and I've discovered that even the most stagnant congregation can learn to live a little if the core gifts are the means of ministry. Its sort of like doing a spiritual gifts assessment for the whole congregation. Even my most difficult church got into that activity.

I've served a church whose core gift was hospitality... ministry out of that function is very fun, but the danger is that they start to throw parties for themselves. There's health in the gift, unhealth in the expression. Post Genesis 3 we're all like that. The idea is to be aware of the pitfalls.

I served a congregation whose core gift included a passion for healing ministry. I wasn't with them long enough to see the pitfalls, but post Genesis 3 I'm sure they'll stumble upon them. They were a community minded church with a solid future ahead of them. Lots of fun, even though healing ministry actually isn't anywhere close to my own gifts. But within the core, our own gifts as individuals found a place to serve.

Both of those places were awesome Christian communities; both also were in the process of growing out of the rabbit phase.

There has to be an identification of the rabbit-phase to outgrow it... a tough sell in any congregation.

For the curious, my method of exploring a congregation's core gifts is actually a modification of an interactive spiritual gifts assessment I wrote years ago. The program requires some adult ed time and a lot (whole lot) of those giant sticky pad pages (and a big marker). Maybe when I'm over this head cold, I'll post the actual questions for discussion.

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