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$$$ | Part 1

April 2, 2010

Aidan: So Mike, one of the things I’ve been wanting to ask you about is money. There are two things I’d like to discuss. One we’ll do for this post, the second for another time.

1) In a more decentralized church (and I recognize there will be variations of what this looks like) where there is both the organic (missional communities) and the organization (the organizational church center), how can you sustain things financially so everyone isn’t simply giving to the organic thing they are a part of (which is far more causal) and will give to the “organization” that resources all things organic and organizational? (this feels like the longest run-on sentence of all time!)

2) What ways have you taught about giving or processes you’ve used to help people give that have really reinforced the individual discipline of giving? (we will deal with this question another time)

Mike: You’re not kidding, man, that first question was LONG!

Well as you know, I wouldn’t really call myself an “expert” in European history, but I’ve definitely taken a strong interest in it over the years and have read a smattering of books on the subject. Ok. Perhaps more than just a smattering.

So for this question about funding and the organic vs. the organization, I think we can learn a lot from where this question has been asked before in history. Because basically what we are discussing is an understanding of paying for the resourcing of an MC network rather than one big “center” where the center is what keeps growing rather than the number in the network.

In European history, we see this question being answered in minster churches or monastic mission centers which we have come to call “resourcing churches.”

You see what happened is that the two dominant church models of the day, the Roman and the Celtic, were combined to great effect to evangelize Europe.

For today, let’s look at how they combined, and in our next post we’ll look at the funding, perhaps how we can talk about it well, and also look at how this fell apart in Europe. That will give us some real insight into how we can shape our own communities when it comes to this.

Aidan: Sounds great.

Mike: So again. You have the Roman model and the Celtic model.

In the Roman model, there was a very “if you build it, they will come” mentality (this is pre-Reformation). You establish a new mission base in the church and then invite people into it.

Now what happened is that many of these missions grew; and they grew to be quite large. In almost every way you can think, they developed into the mega-churches of their day. They were the consumer driven pilgrimage sites of the Middle Ages. These pilgrimage weeks turned into massive Festival Events. Just think about Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales…that’s what we’re talking about.

These pilgrimage sites (which later turned into Cathedrals), were less about outreach and  far more about indrag.

Notice I’m not saying this is bad or wrong or anything. In both the Jewish and Christian tradition there has been a strong place for the event-driven Pilgrimage. For the FESTIVAL! Think about it this way: A Jew is Jesus’s day would go to the Temple twice a year. That’s what we’re talking about here. Not an every week thing.

As it turned out, these Cathedrals had all of the problems that we attribute to mega-churches: nominalism, inch deep/mile wide. It’s not that they wanted it that way, it’s just that it happened that way. People wanted the “Cathedral” experience more and more.

However, you also have the Celtic model.

The Celts had this very organic thing going on. It was mobile. It was agile. It was missional.  Perigrination. (meaning, “the wanderer”). The Celts were known as “Wanderers for Christ.” They left the island and simply wandered around Europe and evangelized the fiercest people you can imagine: Germans, Vikings, wild northern tribes of England (in fact, your pseudonym, Aidan, is after the Saint who evangelized these tribes, one of the great Celtic monks and missionaries).

They were constantly in fear of death. It’s hard to really grasp how barbaric these tribes were that the Celts “wandered” into.

Now, a pivotal turning point for both of these models was the Synod of Whitby. The Celts made a decision to join in with everyone else creating a combination of Roman and Celtic models into one. In other words…they began to work together. The missional churches that were being started were no longer just outposts for the missional frontier but a place of invitation and in-gathering. This combination of mission and invitation proved to be a killer combination for the evangelizing of Europe.

Aidan: Honestly, this is just fascinating. It feels like we are in such a similar juncture in our own history here in the present we live in, particularly as the battles over “attractional” and “missional” continue to wage over the blogosphere and countless books are being written on the subjects. Because there seems to be things right about both and things missing from both. If I’m honest, though, I’m pretty wary of attractional because I’m highly skeptical it can actually shape the types of people Jesus was looking for in Disciples.

Mike: I think you’re right that there are things “right” in both, but that both have weaknesses. But just look at this way, it’s absolutely fascinating: The story of the Romans and the Celts coming together in the Synod of Whitby is both basically saying, “My weakness is your strength. What if we could figure out a way to work together?”

Here’s the question I would pose: What if the purpose of “attractional” isn’t to make Disciples in the same way that “missional” can? What if “attractional” serves a profound purpose but it isn’t the every-day, ins-and-outs, life-on-life of making a Disciple? What if we shouldn’t expect “attractional” centers to do this?

Aidan: Huh. So if I’m hearing you right, the killer combination here is understanding what each does, what each doesn’t do, and then figuring out what is necessary for bringing them to work together? Basically…they don’t work on their own (in that neither answers all of the commands of the Great Commission), they need each other.


Aidan: Well that would certainly answer a lot of questions!…and raise a lot of new ones.

So here’s the thing: It feels like there may be more exploring we can do here and obviously we’ve left the money/funding question we started with. Do you see us getting to that?

Mike: I definitely do. I think what we’ll do is take one more post to dive into this attractional/mission thing a little further, maybe look back into history again, dig around there, and see where it worked and how it fell apart, and maybe have a third post on the practical implications of what all of this would mean for funding.

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