Changing structures won't change hearts !

structure.JPGThis is a crucial time for the Church Without Walls idea, or movement as some are calling it. We need to keep our focus as we continue to plan the national CWW Event in 2008. Let's remember keep it simple, our core business is worship. We as the Church of Scotland are in the business of creating sustaining and developing worshipping communities. This is the whole essence of Article 3 of our Articles Declaratory with reference to "matters spiritual". To do this more effectively the Special Commission anent Review and Reform wrote about the need to change our mindset. It suggested the centre exists to service the local. As an institution this will mean consistently redirecting our resources from the centre to the local. So how do we define local? Local Defined Surely one definition of local church is where it can be demonstrated there is a robust expression of congregational or district groupings working together with a renewal plan to make worship an experience of excellence for all ages. Local will also recognise new forms of groupings of believers which are being built around natural communities. Could this be in cafes or cyberspace? We may have to discover another definition for a local congregation one which may not need a minister or a Kirk Session or even a building as we know it. 1212.JPG Thinking out of the box in creative ways has to become the order of the day for those who are called to serve at the centre. Resourcing the people of God in local parishes, where many feel exposed, under valued and sidelined is to bring them into relationship with the whole of the church again. Doing this will go a long way to healing the divisions and hurts that are commonly expressed in the disadvantaged areas of our land. I'm glad that this is becoming more and more an important factor in the agenda of many serve on the church councils. Many of our members live on the edge of poverty and violence. It is to make the statement that requires to be heard by every parish throughout the land â€" we trust you, so we will help to resource you. Presbytery as local The report produced by the Presbytery Boundaries Committee way back in 2001 makes for fascinating reading. It was suggesting a regrouping of Presbyteries into much larger units. They failed to convince the Assembly to back their proposals that year. In many ways I believe the real change in the life of the church will not simply come about by organisational restructuring. At the beginning of our deliberations as the group writing the CWW report, we were tempted to think that changing the structures would change the heart of the church. In reality, it is an easy road to go down, the shear activity in changing structures can be seductive. John Tiller writes: The gospel community relates to church structures as a new building to the scaffolding which surrounds it; reforming the structures is like reorganising the scaffolding: it may be necessary but it does not in itself alter the actual building. Creating alternative new structures is like replacing the scaffolding; it may be useful, but then again it may be a waste of time. ( The Gospel Community, p51) The real change comes about when we talk of the hidden work of the Spirit. To some this may not sound radical enough but it is radical. The radical question is not, can we reform the existing church structures, or will new ones be created when revival comes? Both questions are superficial. Christ himself sought to do neither. He did the hidden thing. I think by this I mean the training, the out of sight work. The radical key to bringing about effective change is often that which we cannot see at the outset. From time to time it will become evident, but we must not confuse it with structural reform. We talk of the Spirit changing us but do we train ourselves and the worshipping community to be available to expect the transformation. I think I am saying talk is not the same as training. The emergence of a common vision. Some believe there appears to be an emerging picture of the Spirit at work in our Church committees. Some people are beginning to think similar visions. We must not however, look to the structures to shape the church. It must be the Church that shapes the structures because the Spirit is shaping us. We may have to exercise patience and flexibility as the grassroots renewal takes place. The discovery of the functions of the church locally will determine the shape of our organisation centrally. The Shape of the Church There is only one shape for the church and it is a shape that was suggested to us as a Commission from the most unlikely of sources, the atheist Professor of Sociology at Aberdeen University, Steve Bruce. He writes; " the only area of life the church can compete with any secular institution or social practice and win is in the glorification of God "(unpublished letter to the Commission) In many church communities we have moved away from the heart of worship. There is no music in our soul and no soul in our music. It is a much more fundamental change that needs to happen. We need to recognise the power of worship. We are a people made to praise God. Perhaps our greatest achievement as a movement will be the extent to which we can recover for the Church of Scotland a sense of doxology. The Vision & Purpose of the Church Our vision is to have in every community throughout Scotland a vibrant loving caring, growing community of worshippers in touch with the emotion of God; allowing everything within them to praise God. Communities of prayer where people come to encounter love and forgiveness of God the Father through the grace of Jesus Christ. The recovery of authentic worship within the context of natural communities is our sole purpose. This is summed up in the words of Jesus when he said, love God and love your neighbour as yourself. If I love God I am worshipping him, if I love my neighbour I am longing to bring her to the place where she too is worshipping God. The how of this is summed up in the phrase, a church without walls. We must not restrict the place or the practice of worship. While worship must encompass the broad sweep of everyday activity, it should be noted that the renewal of the church historically has always been accompanied by a renewal of doxology. The local church is at its most effective teachable place, when it is caught up in the emotion of worship. It is at these high points the compassionate, loving, caring, life changing Christ reveals himself. In these teachable places, the risen Christ reveals himself. In the words of the 1662 Anglican Communion Service, "it is our bound and duty that we should at all times and in all places give thanks and praise." It is also in these places that the Church is united both in earth and in heaven. Theological differences disappear when God's people are brought to the place of doxology, because the Spirit is at work in our hearts changing our mindset. The recovery of praise in the jail at Philippi brought about the release of Paul and Silas, and the conversion of the jailer. It should be our chief priority to teach the people of God to sing the praises of God. For too long our lips have been silent. In the same liturgy from 1662 there is a phrase. " O Lord open our lips and our mouths shall show forth thy praise." It is my desire and longing that St Andrew's Bo'ness would become sold out on worship. Come fill us again!
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