New Wine… Old Wineskins? | Steering Your Church to a New Place [2]

I promised some further thoughts following on from yesterday’s post… One of the most common questions I am asked is ‘how can I begin to get my church to change’, and while I’d never claim expertise, or that there was a simple answer to this, I thought it might be useful to note a few things.

I said yesterday that:

So if you’re feeling that new wine needs some new wineskins in your context, talk to them, be confident and not cowed, but empathetic and engaging and encouraging. See if there are any others thinking the same way, and talk about some positive, simple things that you can do together. It doesn’t need to be secretive or covert, though you may need to be sensitive and discreet.

I would also try to link in with some wider networks, both to see what other people are doing and to be encouraged that you’re not alone. Spirited Exchanges is one such network. Patience is going to be absolutely key. If things are going to be changed for good, then it is likely going to be evolution, not a radical revolution that will work best.

I’ve been writing here recently about the place of institutions, and I think it will be really helpful to have a robust view of what corporate forms are – and what they are not. Often we can think of the institutions we are involved in as monolithic and totally unchanging. This is very rarely true, and a perspective over time will show us that things can and do change. Churches are groups of people gathered around a common purpose; what is important is that the forms actually serve that common purpose. ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’ This can be a very helpful way in to a discussion about change. Not change for change’s sake, but change because we feel that current forms are not serving what we want to do. Giving some space for people to talk, share food and discuss openly how things might work better can be a good place to start.

There are also some very good books I’d recommend. A Churchless Faith by Alan Jamieson is quite old now, but still very good. My own book The Complex Christ has a lot about the processes of emergent change. Brian McLaren’s new book A New Kind of Christianity is also excellent.