The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Keep waiting, keep listening

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I’m a pastor.

So I was in a Board meeting, listening (not my strong suit, BTW!). Each of us told a bit about what God was doing in our lives recently. And then we began to ponder our life together as a church.

This church that I serve is smaller than it once was. And we don’t offer all the ministries that we once did. Consequently, there is a temptation to run out and do something – anything – to fulfill our own expectations of what churches ought to be doing.

Yet, as we listened to each other, we found we were mostly in a similar place. It seemed like God was saying, “Have courage. Wait. Listen.”

Now this was intriguing to me, because my sense of where the church is goes something like this: It is as if God is saying to us, “I want you, New Oaks Church, to be among the ones who figure out what church now needs to be.” And I doubt that we could do that when we were flooded with people and furiously busy.

And then I came across this thought-provoking writing of Claude Nikondeha on the Emergent Village e-mail. I wrote my friends on the Board a little intro, like so:

Today, this piece arrived from Emergent. It suggests we are not alone. Maybe it will be reassuring to you, as it was to me. . . .
We don’t know the answers. But seems like one of many confirmations that asking the questions – rather than just pressing ahead – is the call we’re experiencing.

Peace to you today!


And then I tacked on the email and sent it along. For the whole piece, click here .

Look to the Margins: Hope for Leadership amid Liminality!


According to Alan Roxburgh, the North American church in late modernity is firmly in liminal space…meaning that there is little that is firm or solid as we transition into a post-modern or post-colonial era. In truth, the North American church has been on the margins for some time now . . .

. . . we need a compass, a remnant of a map or, truth be told, the leading of the Spirit. Alert and thoughtful leaders are trying to chart a new course…but with a very vague map and an atrophied sense of direction. How can we find our way in liminal space? Who knows the terrain of the margins?

There is a hint of direction in Roxburgh’s text…look to the margins! He suggests that resources for navigating liminal space for the North American church will include reengaging Scripture and, to the current point, ‘…listening to the voices of those Christian groups that have long lived outside the center of culture.” He believes that the future direction of the church will be discovered as we engage with ‘dissenting churches’ and ‘ethnic groups.’ “They understand the position of the underling and the outsider. Liminality requires us to listen attentively to their ecclesiologies.” This is one of the most valuable insights gleaned from a reading of Roxburgh’s treatment of liminality – there are leaders who are capable of leading us and who know the terrain…because they have been operating on the margins for years.

Around the world, many denominations are struggling to survive. As regular church attendance wanes, leaders are looking for strategies to bring people back into the fold. Roxburgh would say that many of these renewal strategies and church growth seminars are attempts to return to the hay-day [sic] of modernity/colonialism which is not going to happen. [Remember our temptation to activity?]

. . We don’t need a new coach to help us to start new programs (the preferred modern methodology), but we need a conversation, suggestions, personal antidotes [sic – probably “anecdotes” was meant] from churches around the world, partnerships between churches/leaders to walk together through this disorienting time. Friendships among missional churches/leaders could be the greatest gift for this season, if we can take the time to be together and listen. . . . [and he goes on to recommend the Amahora conference in Africa as a place for us to do so]

Keep listening, friends! Others hear the same still,small voice!

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Written by Monte

October 27, 2006 at 5:58 pm

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