What does life look like after mixed economy? (Malcolm Herbert)

Tuesday, 4 May, 2010

Malcolm HerbertMalcolm Herbert asks what life looks like after mixed economy.

When the volcanic ash descended and the skies above West London were free of planes, many people found it strange and hoped that things would soon get back to normal.

There's no doubt that people can find change very difficult to handle. Many of us are aware of the definition of culture as ' the way we do things round here'.

As a leader in a variety of contexts, I know that - whether it be church, business, college or family - all have ways of 'doing things round here'. I ignore it at my peril if I have a desire to see change and development.

Christendom has shaped 'the way we do things round here' for a long time, but we know it is on the wane as the prevailing culture. For the church, the change of religious and social contexts presents far reaching implications. I am not sure that a fresh expression of church 'here' and a new service 'there' are enough.

I think there are two key challenges:

1. To look beyond mixed economy

The church has bought 'big time' into the concept of a mixed economy church, as in the traditional or inherited alongside fresh expressions. But I wonder if the 'mixed economy' idea as a shaping culture is creeping towards its sell-by date.

David Muir, in his Share blog of 11th January 2010, uses the analogy of an oil-based economy. Oil has fuelled the way we do things round here, but it is a finite resource so a mixed economy using alternative energy sources enables us to move on. 

The 'mixed economy' idea is creeping towards its sell-by date

As a leader at the local level, it is obvious Christendom, as the 'power source' for 'the way we do things round here' for centuries, is on the way out. Yet to keep assuring existing church communities that they will continue much in the same way because they have an ongoing parallel existence with emerging churches, is surely to give false hope and no real sustainable future. Many congregations already demonstrate an ongoing anxiety and often anger towards leaders who try and develop a culture of responsiveness and flexibility to the developing context.

At the local level we are not always helped by some at regional and national level who for various reasons, tend not to see it this way and even deny it is happening. For example the resistance to the closure or 'mothballing' of unsustainable buildings is a case in point. Some cash-strapped CofE dioceses for instance are already cutting back on resources to further develop and sustain emerging and fresh expressions of church.

2. To select and shape leaders who are deeply rooted in God, in Jesus and are passionate about the primary need to re-shape church culture to serve a developing post-Christian context

Pioneer ministry may be a response to the 'mixed economy' church model, but I know from my days as a Diocesan Director of Ordinands that there is a danger it can be subsumed and even compromised by the culturally inherited model that prevails. Maybe it isn't just pioneer ministry that is being compromised.

We need to accept post-'mixed economy' as the prevailing culture and 'start doing things round here' accordingly.

About the author: 

Malcolm Herbert blogs his 'search for encounter and enlightenment' as a 'Church as we know it' vicar - from which this post is taken.


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