This week we have a new guest blogger, who is going to be writing a series of blogs for us following on from his doctoral research into tensions that charismatic evangelical churches face in their community mission. This post is an introduction to this series and will give a good idea of what is to come.
Andy Wier is a freelance researcher, consultant and practical theologian. He works with churches, charities and community organisations and has recently completed a Professional Doctorate in Practical Theology at the University of Chester. www.http://andywierconsulting.com
As Christians and churches involved in community mission, we sometimes find ourselves torn between competing priorities. We might feel torn, for example, between a desire to engage with our communities through acts of loving service and a conviction that we need to be proclaiming the gospel through words as well as actions. Or we might find ourselves torn between wanting to work in partnership with non-Christian organisations (like the Police or local community association) and wanting to emphasise our Christian distinctiveness.
How do we respond to such forces of tension when we find them at work in our hearts and minds or within our church communities? Do we bury our heads in the sand and ignore them? Do we choose to position ourselves on one particular side of the debate, surrounding ourselves with others who think the same? Do we try to sit on the fence?
Over the next few months, I’m going to be writing a series of blog posts reflecting on some of the tensions that churches involved in community mission experience. This will introduce some of the tensions highlighted by some recent research on Christian social action and offer some thoughts about a potential response. This isn’t going to be an attempt to provide answers or definitive models for resolving every tension that Christians and churches experience. (That would be impossible – we all need to find our own ways of responding to tensions that are particular to our situation and context). Instead, I will be offering some ideas and suggestions that I hope will be helpful in provoking further thinking and discussion.
In this series, we will be focusing particularly on the following six tensions:
- Collaborative or Counter-cultural? (How should we relate to the world?)
- Spiritual-evangelistic or Socio-economic? (What does community transformation look like?)
- Neighbours or Super-heroes? (Who do we think we are?)
- Applying my faith or Rethinking my faith? (How does community mission change us?)
- Providing services or Being community? (What should the church be doing?)
- Local or Global? (How wide are our horizons?)
These six tensions were originally identified through my doctoral research with charismatic-evangelical urban churches. However, the feedback I’ve received from a variety of different audiences leads me to suggest that many of these tensions are not unique to charismatic-evangelical churches. They are experienced by Christians and churches from other theological traditions as well.
In each post, we will be looking at one of the six tensions – providing examples from the experience of local churches and thinking about how we might respond. Within all this, I’ll be trying to facilitate a response to tension which is faithful and creative, not destructive and divisive. I hope that it is helpful!