Thursday, 19 January 2012

Critical questions

Canadian priest Gary Nicolisi makes some good points about the sorts of questions that Churches couls useful ask themselves in the 21 st century (see full article here

"The Canadian Jesuit philosopher Bernard Lonergan began his seminal work Insight with this statement: 
“When a dog has nothing to do, it goes to sleep. When a man has nothing to do, he may ask a question.”
A good question unleashes imagination, provokes curiosity and expands our vision. 
Some questions are so full of complexity that no adequate answer is possible, but that does not prevent us 
from considering multiple perspectives, 
surface more possibilities and 
ask the “what ifs” that result in different scenarios, responses and outcomes. In the end, inquiry beats certainty every time.
With that in mind, I want to suggest seven questions every church should ask itself.

This seems to me a very perceptive introduction to the whole process of questioning. Nicolisi goes on

1: What would be lost, and how would the world be worse off, if our church ceased to exist?

2: How does our church add value to people’s lives that they cannot live without–whether they know it or not? 

3: What challenges in the fulfillment of mission does our church face and what can we do to bring about that new thing God wants our church to be?

4: What are the barriers to seeing reality that our church needs to move beyond?

5: What issues does our church need to face within the next year so that five years from now, we won’t have to say, “We wish we had…”

6: If money were not an issue, where would you like your church to be five years from now?

7: In what ways can we affirm “Jesus is Lord” without appearing to be bigots?

There you have it – seven questions that every church needs to ask itself. No one has all the answers to these questions. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that there are no “one size fits all” answers, but that each church will need to develop its own style of ministry in connecting with its own unique environment. This is a “bottom up” rather than a “top down” process that needs to be discerned at the local level rather than imposed by any hierarchy. Churches that can rethink their assumptions of ministry, reformulate their mission strategy and re-examine their way of doing church are more likely to revive and renew than the ones that do not. These “missional” churches will lead us into the future–confident and resilient, open and affirming, life-giving and liberating, with a compelling gospel message that centers on Jesus combined with flexible methods of ministry.
(The Rev. Dr. Gary Nicolosi is the rector at St. James Westminster Anglican Church in London, Ont.)

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