Marvelous post by Mark Love: “Learning Without Cynicism” —
We also try to take an appreciative stance in relation to the congregation. We do this in two or three deliberate ways. Part of it is built into our notion of “missional.” The church is not an abstract list of marks, but rather a living organism in time and space. It is the particularity of the congregation that helps us discern what God’s calling might be for any given congregation. Each congregation, therefore, is brimming with the possibilities of God’s enlivening presence. God is not simply the ideas present in the minister’s head, but is more likely to be seen in the lives and concerns of God’s people. So, the congregation is not simply a place where the minister dumps his or her theology. Instead, the congregation is a source of theology as the Spirit moves among people.
Because of this, we use appreciative tools to attend to the congregation. The congregation is not a problem to be solved, but an imagination to be released. And this is done best by inquiring into the life-giving stories of the congregation. We build Appreciative Inquiry into the design of many of our courses.
This is big. I mean, I’d scream in delight if WordPress would accommodate big enough fonts.
Read the whole thing and compare that to your own experience in church. How often has church leadership tried to erase a congregation’s history and personality, only to replace them with a baseball diamond from Saddleback.
I’m not against Rick Warren’s baseball diamond, just the theory that there is nothing worth keeping where we are. A church may be eaten up with legalism and hidden sin, and yet the Spirit might already be present and working long before the new preacher shows up. Discerning what the Spirit is already doing and what is already right about the congregation is time far better spent than time reading the latest church-growth evangelical pop book. (And appreciating what’s there and already right will go a long way toward persuading people to try out the baseball diamond thing.)
I’m thrilled that a university masters program would consciously seek to consider the work of the Spirit in the congregation at least as important as the work of the Spirit in the publishing houses.