“Where are they now?” These words are often the start of a story about someone who has had their 15 minutes of fame and then disappeared completely from the news. Do you remember the books that were handed out at the Verge conference last year, in 2017? I began to wonder, “Where are they now?” One was Alan Roxburgh’s book “Joining God, Remaking Church, Changing the World: The New Shape of the Church in Our Time.” [https://www.amazon.com/Joining-Remaking-Church-Changing-World/dp/0819232114 Here’s what happened to my book: Like many of you, I took a copy and was interested in what Roxburgh had to say. He acknowledges that the church is in a time of change. The old structures are “unraveling” and new ideas are emerging. What hasn’t changed is God. God is still at work in our churches. And God is already at work “ahead of us” in our neighborhoods. Roxburgh invites his readers to get out there and see how God is at work. Sounded interesting, but then I put the book back on my shelf last fall and didn’t think about it much after that.
But not everyone put the book on the shelf. Wondering “Where are they now?” it turns out that several churches took the book to heart. Our brothers and sisters in the three Bellingham churches – Birchwood, First, and St. James- read the book, and took it to heart. As Pastor Doug Bunnell writes,
“The Roxburgh book is the most hopeful book that I have read in a long time. It seems to take a very realistic view at where we are but hold tight to the faith that God is doing something.”
They then invited the author, Alan Roxburgh to visit with their pastoral leadership. That led to a follow-up visit this past month where the church staff from the three churches had several hours with Alan talking about the kind of leadership needed in this new time of the church. That was followed by an evening session with him and many of the session elders from the churches, where he further unpacked lessons from his book. The pastors from the three churches are planning to meet in 2019 to encourage one another as they put Roxburgh’s ideas into practice for themselves and their churches in unique ways.
Pastor Greg Ellis from Birchwood summarized what he learned this way,
“Roxburgh's book brought several things into focus at once:
· how the Church has been trying for decades to fix itself by applying the latest and greatest marketing, entrepreneurship, or organizational development ideas...
· how God is subtly at work elsewhere--in the lives of our neighbors...
· how we followers of Jesus are called out to discover these myriad creative ways the Spirit of God is out ahead of us in our neighborhood.”
Reading and pondering this book has already led to experiments – small projects designed to listen to our neighbors. Pastor Doug Bunnell describes his experiment this way,
“This book finally challenged me to do something I have wanted to do for a long time, set up a book group with my neighbors. We have hosted parties for 15 years, but last year we invited people to our house for a weekly book study and over 10 began to show up regularly. We read 3 books over this past year, and we are excitedly looking forward to starting again in January with a 4th book. This has been a wonderful chance to listen to my neighbors and learn their stories. God is good all the time!”
Does that pique your curiosity? Have you been doing something similar? Or maybe it’s time to dust off the book, give it a read, and then give me a call. I’d love to chat with you what you are learning from those in your neighborhood.