Mission and maintenance

Tall Skinny Kiwi (aka Andrew Jones) had an interesting post today titled “Baby or Bathwater or both,” referencing Jonny Baker’s post. But, TSK also picks up a quote from the same issue of Encounters by Jonathan Ingleby, who says:

My answer to that question is another question: can we begin to think seriously about ‘low-maintenance’ churches? Also, is this possibly one of the things that ‘emerging church’ is about? We are simply being crushed by the weight of the structures we have created in order to maintain our church life. People find they cannot take the weight and are slipping out to look for something which meets their spiritual needs and to which they can contribute something, but which does not weigh on them so heavily. Viewed from within the church, this is the familiar dilemma of ‘mission versus maintenance’. We are putting so much energy into maintaining the structures that we have not got time for anything else.

Which reminded me of our situation: we are looking for children’s Sunday School workers, and a SS director. We’re spending lots of time and energy to maintain the organization, and less on our mission of transforming our community. I’m beginning to think that “low maintenance” church is a great idea, but that is not an excuse for do-nothingism.

Low maintenance is the opposite of the mindless sustaining of institutional structures that no longer serve their purpose. If we channel all that spiritual energy into mission — real life-changing events focused outside the church walls and members — that would be more true to the tasks to which we are called. Problem is — institutional structures are hard to kill or abandon. Why? Because we’ve always done it like that. And the beat goes on.

2 thoughts on “Mission and maintenance”

  1. Chuck, thanks for this post! Love that you’re addressing this topic.

    what is a low-maintenance church? I agree that we are trying so hard to maintain our structures, and not investing in mission nearly enough!

  2. I read this and was reminded of the post on Amicus Dei on “The Collapse of Complex Societies.” It seems to me that both posts are approaching essentially the same question, from different angles. I tend to think that if churches don’t learn a sense of scale, and don’t learn a thing or two about agility–a hard thing to do when you’re paying too much attention to hierarchy–they could well collapse under their own weight.

    Just $.02 worth, and from an untrained observer, at that.

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