At The Edge: The Renewal of the Church
In viewing the past with hindsight, we observe how it is often the unexpected, the unknown, the insignificant, the marginalised who lead the way towards the renewal of the Church in times difficulty. Indeed, the very process of institutionalisation hinders the renewal of the church by stifling creativity and replacing charismatic and creative leaders with traditional or institutional leaders. Stability and maintenance replace growth, creativity and mission as the objectives. Furthermore, those who are already at the heart of one movement tend not to need to start another. In fact, they are often reluctant to do so. The truth is perhaps that the renewal and expansion of the Church most often begin at the edge of the ecclesiastical structures of the day.
Historical examples include:
Jesus himself chose to begin his mission in the obscure backwaters Galilee, and it was said of Jesus and his mission. “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?
Look at the influence of students, women, lay people in the rise of new mission movements throughout the history of the Church. Their impact has been immense.
Likewise the Reformation grew in strength the further it got from Rome.
Indeed, a link can be illustrated between the growth of the new movement and socio-cultural change:
African Independent Churches grew by deliberately distancing themselves from the previous structures of the Mission Church.
By contrast, where the whole Church is persecuted or goes underground there is a strong chance that renewal will spring from the centre. All of this has to do with the very nature of movements of renewal and their relationship to Christianity from which they sprang.
What does this mean for the mission of the Church today in the Australian context?