Both/and not either/or

I wrote yesterday about problems. Problems with he building centric model of being church and problems with the neighborhood missional approach to being the church.

It’s so very easy to point out problems.

The hard part is coming up with some solutions.

What could it look like to be the church in a fresh way as we move into the next age of the church?

I think in some ways we must go back to move forward. From the outset I want to stipulate something: There will always be church buildings. There will always be large gatherings of Christians meeting together for worship, study, and fellowship. There will always be gatherings of Christians who want to eschew those types of gatherings. They will be drawn to the hyper local and intimate and happily trade off the larger corporate gathering. This has been the case from the beginning and it will continue to be that way. There is no wrong way to be the church. There will always be different expressions for different people, cultures, and communities.

With that as our starting point, I want to suggest an idea that has been floating in my mind for a few years.

I think that the problems that the building-centric church model faces is corrected by the missional neighborhood model and vice versa.

These different approaches of being the church need one another. If we could figure out a way to bring these two approaches together we could, I think, begin to make a significant shift in the west towards becoming a living, breathing, movement again.

I dream of the day when missional pastors in neighborhoods can leverage their expertise and train pastors in the building to help them understand the needs, attitudes, and concerns of the average person. I hope for a day when missional pastors can be mentored and cared for by a team of pastors in the building centric church.

Could you imagine?

What if the building centric church mobilized its considerable resources to be dispersed by the missional pastors in the neighborhoods?

What is the missional pastors in the neighborhoods could connect people who they are reaching out to with the kind of programming and broader Christian community that the building centric church offers?

In my mind’s eye, I can see a new way forward of the old model of cathedral and parish.

The missional communities in the neighborhoods would be the parishes. The building would be the cathedral and both would work in symbiotic relationship with one another. The cathedral church building could become the hub of ecclesiastical training, a sending agency, and a sacred space for the significant ceremonies that we carry out in the life of our faith (weddings, funerals, baptisms, celebrations, feasts, etc…).

What if, because of the cathedral, every pastor would be part of a pastoral cohort? What if because of every neighborhood missional community the cathedral would be constantly pulled out from its four walls?

The working together of these two valid and important types of being church could allow the Church to stay focused on what it needs to in mission and yet also provide the stability of the institution.

This all sounds nice. But something deep within the leaders of these two approaches will need to change for it to become a reality. They will both need to humble themselves and determine together to serve one another. The building centric model will need to let go of expecting the neighborhood pastors to be at meetings and teaching Sunday school classes. The neighborhood pastor will need to let go of their unlimited freedom. The building centric model will need to see the missional communities in the neighborhoods as extensions and not as drains. The missional communities will need to embrace the building centric as a sacred space and be willing to help care for it.

Both leaders and communities will need to embrace the messiness of loving one another.

It is possible. It is doable. But the both/and requires humility and respect and conflict and grace and mercy and listening and learning. The question is, are we willing?

Originally published at on February 22, 2019.