Wednesday, December 17, 2008

200 Words: What's in the DNA of a healthy Church?

I have been thinking, and talking, and praying. And now I wish to start blogging about a possible way forward for the northern end of the city of Sydney, for those who live and work somewhere near York St. That way, my gentle readers might help me in my planning and praying for this stunning city. Some may even wish to join us in this adventure.

I'm calling the series: 200 Words. You can read the series as it unfolds HERE.

And think of these posts like kites: let's just see if any fly.

First, if you are out of the loop, then read my post about moving from über-urban Manhattan to downtown Sydney.

Now, I know that no one really can, but I would like to start a vision from scratch. I'd like a Tabula Rasa if ever one existed, so that we could write only new and fresh things on it, trying to reach the lost as we love the city.

But (and here is a trustworthy saying and worthy of full acceptance), none of us start from scratch. Not even the church planters. None of us have a Tabula Rasa. The slate is not blank. Jesus has already written on the slate in his gospel. It is his church, not ours. And he has revealed his will in the Holy Scripture.

And more, the saints who are already serving in York St have been planning, and praying, and serving and reaching the city long before I will arrive, and long after I go (God willing). And so I will need to listen closely to those who are already serving Jesus from York St.

And even more, though some of my readers struggle with this, many of you are not a blank slate denominationally either: you are Anglican. And York St is Anglican, and I am one too. There are things we do, and its worth embracing what we have been given.

That having been said, I am beginning to conceptualize what a mature and vital church might look like and be like in the city of Sydney. Partly for my own benefit, and partly so that I will have good things to discuss when I arrive in Sydney.

I want to start my thinking, though, not with pragmatics, nor with a plan, nor with a profile of a city worker or dweller. This is not yet about cultural engagement. And this is not a vision statement for York St, or anything so specific.

I want to start with the broad vision of truths that matter.

I scribed these 20 points fairly quickly a few days ago. It's not exhaustive, and there is overlap. And I'll want to bring them down to only a few things in the end.

But this is kite flying, right?

I plan to write 20 posts (200 words a post) on the following 20 matters in the lead up to Christmas. Would that interest you? Would that be worth a read?

So, my question: what needs to be in the DNA of a church like York St? I'd say that a mature church needs to:
  1. Glorify and Fear the One True God
  2. Love and Serve Jesus.
  3. Be Born of and Empowered by the Spirit.
  4. Proclaim and Promote his Holy Gospel
  5. Inwardly Digest his Holy Scriptures
  6. Promote Preaching with Gravitas.
  7. Provide for both Sacraments
  8. Build and Serve Christ's Body
  9. Have a outward Kingdom Orientation
  10. Passionately Worship God.
  11. Appreciate Historic Anglicanism
  12. Submit to Discipline and Holiness
  13. Be Informed by Hope
  14. Love and Engage God's World
  15. Take Joy in Creation
  16. Live Generously and Hospitably
  17. Bind the poor and brokenhearted
  18. Express Joy
  19. Value Art, Literature, Music and Creativity
  20. Promote Productivity and Work
I know prayer isn't explicit there (but it is implicit). But then I liked what Packer said about prayer.


What's missing? What should be taken out? Say your piece now, before I write on each topic.

You can read the series as it unfolds HERE.



Dominic said...

Justin, I forgot to ask in our email exchange - when does the change actually take place? Cheers, D

Justin said...

Trying to get out by mid Jan. But I have some stuff to wind up here which is taking time.

Good to hear how fired up you are, Dominic. Looking forward to being in regional partnership with you!

Anonymous said...

looking forward to this series
I wouldn't take anything out & there's always more... could I humbly suggest something explicit on the Spirit, and perhaps something on suffering. I can see how both could be dealt with under what you have though - hope/suffering...
Does love one another/relationships/older-younger get a run - what about forgivness?
Fighting boldly against Satan
you can see how the Institutes blew out can't you?
on the way tell us how to pray for you

Matthew Moffitt said...

Do you need a clear statement about the Spirit? I guess he is assumed in a lot of the points - which I think are 'totally rocking.'

Pete said...

It'd be good to work with some of the larger workplace Christian groups, guess that would help Points 3 and 7.

byron smith said...

I'm with others who have already spoken.
#1 God
#2 Jesus
#3 ... not the Spirit?

Justin said...

Thanks so far.

At first, #1 was going to be Trinitarian: so that Father, Son and Spirit are together 'worshiped and 'Glorified'

But I wondered if I might be howled down for not mentioning Jesus in the Post titles. So #2 came in.

Which naturally leads to your observation about the Spirit.

What do you think that we do. with the Spirit? What's the verb I'd use?

Giraffe Pen (기린 만년필) said...

I think the verb with joy should be 'practise' (with an s), not simply express. Joy is a lifestyle choice in the Bible (e.g. Ps. 34). What exactly do you mean by binding the poor and the broken? On that I think the church should be a place where the broken and poor in spirit meet Christ and are healed by Him and be free to express their need for healing in community without fear or shame :)

Dave Miers said...

I plan to write 20 posts (200 words a post) on the following 20 matters in the lead up to Christmas. Would that interest you? Would that be worth a read?

yes. yes.

What do you think that we do. with the Spirit? What's the verb I'd use?

be filled?

Mark said...

I'm so slow! 'Spirit' for me too.

Father, Son and Holy Bible ;)

I know its a bit twee, but I would go for 'empowered' with the Spirit, ie. Acts 1:8. That would lead nicely into gospel proclamation as well.

Wendy said...

Hi Justin
I am excited about you going to York st - I met with the guy there around easter(in my role with Anglicare) and they were having a terrrifc outreach lunchtime series
In your 20 I know its also implied but I would like a specific point - of reaching the people
It is a great opprtunity to introduce Jesus to inner city apartmaent dwellers
Good work!!

gbroughto said...

Justin, I have a whole rant I give the youth ministry students at MTC about 'healthy' vs. 'effective' vs. 'successful' churches / youth ministries. In my view all are misplaced adjectives, usually adopted (unconsciously) from psychology / business leadership & management / sociology (in that order of pairing).

Instead I think a better (& biblical) adjective is 'mature' which has fitted well with my previous church contexts of Darlinghurst and Glebe.

I have been regularly accused (and stand guilty of) pedantry by those I live with, but I think there is something crucial in the distinction I am making.

Not sure it would change the actual list of 20 much, but I would love to see a church / body of Christ grow to maturity in York St!!!

michael jensen said...

GReat stuff - especially the bit about the non tabula rasa!

TRouble with the Spirit is what verb do you use? What do we do vis a vis the SPirit? Be filled is very passive, no? but maybe that's the point.

Mark said...

You don't like the passive/active sense of 'empowered' Michael?

Giraffe Pen (기린 만년필) said...

By the way Justin I LOVE that quotation at the top of your blog about "I'm ramblin' again". Very funny :)

Martin Kemp said...

I'd combine 19 and 20 under "embrace creation" and explicitly add prayer. Maybe "Pray in the Spirit" and kill two birds with one stone?

Justin said...

Martin -- what am I killing????


Anonymous said...

Hi Justin,

Isn't the Holy Spirit active in pts 2-4, 7-9, and 11-18, as well as being implicit in pt 1?

Now, call me a simple evangelical, but isn't that the role of the Holy Spirit - not to call draw attention to himself, but to point to Christ?

Oh, and I quite couldn't connect the Holy Spirit with pt 10 - appreciate historical anglicanism... but some helpful soul might illumine me.

Bottom line - stick with what you've got. The Holy Spirit is in exactly the right place - inconspicuously present throughout.


David Clarke said...

I am a fan of some of the Natural Church Development ideas that emphasises the importance of being a healthy church.

They identify the eight quality characteristics as:
Empowering Leadership
Functional Structures
Gift-Oriented Ministry
Holistic Small Groups
Inspiring Worship
Loving Relationships
Need-Oriented Evangelism
Passionate Spirituality

(There is also a who lot of very hard to understand stuff amongst the NCD gold that you can safely ignore too)

I think the final particulars you identify as the Aims at York St to be a healthy
church will need to wait until you get there, meet people and get to know them.
Then they can also share some ownership of the final aims –which is vital if you want them on board.
Also many people are good at establishing aims, but then do not get very far with implementing them.
To get anywhere with your aims you will need to develop strategies for each aim, and to develop a good strategy you will need to understand who and what you are working with.

Our aims at St Marys (and each have their own strategies) are:

1 Current members attending church regularly
2 Loving and caring relationships amongst our church community
3 Every member involved in ministry
4 New people incorporated into the church community
5 Services that are inspiring, purposeful and creative
6 Catering for the needs of all ages
7 Personal Christian growth
8 Each of us passionately concerned for those who don’t know Christ
8 All members able to share their faith with others
9 All members able to share their faith with others
10 Create opportunities to share the gospel in the community
11 Ensure that the message of Jesus is communicated clearly
12 Personal and corporate prayerfulness
13 Support of ministry outside our church

A couple from our church are planning to get married at York St late next year.
We can talk further about that when you are in town!


Jennifer said...

Justin--great post, so much food for thought. I'm with others on the Spirit question, too, and Michael Jensen in particular. I read "what verb?" for the Spirit, and immediately thought "receive" which might sound passive, but is actually a really hard thing to practice/live, so to speak.

Also, I love that you included art and creativity in your list, but in that case would encourage an even more active stance--all of us should not just value those things, but DO art and BE creative. I think?

York Street's gonna be rockin'!

Clifford Swartz said...

I guess I would come at it from a different angle -- having moved to Christ Church, NYC to serve with you before this new ministry in Sydney. We've been in transition (new city, new baby, etc), and so I have had to be deliberate about short term versus long term activity.

So this isn't a DNA remark, but relates more to the energy of the ordained minister. Whatever groups or programs you form, there will need to be a balance between doing things that are right before you (keeping the body alive) and then building your long term plans into reality (altering the DNA for health in the future). This has a theological basis, too, of being active and zealous with each person and opportunity, but also trusting for long term substantial fruit from the ministry.

So whatever you do, maybe think in terms of 100 words for today, next week, next month, and 100 words for next year, next five years, next decade...

Blessings in the new patch!

seapea said...

justin, sometimes reading your blog makes my head's too much!

Matthew Moffitt said...

Has Katay given you his 5 Means of Grace yet?

Cameron and Alex Grey Jones said...

What about looking for his coming kingdom?

It is in this context that Jesus teaches prayer and what informs its content.

Our citizenship of the coming kingdom also defines our living today.


Sally said...

I'm not sure the word "Bind" in 17 always implies what you want it to in this "out of context" context?

I wonder if there could be a more explicit reference to involvement in the global church more than just the local. I know you're big on the implicit nature of prayer in everything but I think not mentioning it reduces an important role the local church plays in the global church... involvement with our poor and persecuted brothers and sisters (most of whom you're not going to find in NYC or Sydney) is essential to the local church no?

Sally said...

Oh I forgot to say I really like the list as a whole and I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts on them...

Julian said...

I wondered what
>6. Promote Preaching with Gravitas.

meant. I decided quickly it meant preaching with Justin.

(Will also look at Justin's earlier blog posts on how he prepares for a sermon.)

Justin said...


Markus said...

Thanks Justin,
I would be interested in how you came up with this list of 20.

With regards to a verb for the Spirit, I echo the thoughts about the difficulty since the Spirit 'moves where it will'; how about not "quenching" the Spirit [1 Thess 5:19]?

With regard to the other 20, I would suggest that it would be helpful to explicitly mention prayer. Also something about perseverance/suffering?

Rather surprised that you have omitted church fetes and provision of quiches at parish dinners...or does that come under appreciation of historic Anglicanism?

Bev said...

hey j. i love this. but as i read it, is creating a list of things me "must do". as you say, it is not our church as Jesus has already done it all, is there anything we have to do?

one thing echoing around churches at the moment is the need to meet peoples needs - address them, pray for them, dont avoid them. i would love to see york st as a church where people's needs are honestly being met, prayed for, talked about, not avoided.. how can you take part in this?

Rob Hughes said...

sorry, that last comment from rob, not bev.