Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Newfrontiers Weaknesses?

This is interesting. In this post I listed why I'm happy to be a part of Newfrontiers and in the comments, my friend and fellow Newfrontiers elder Dave Matthias suggested a discussion of how should I put it, areas for development (IMHO)? - H being humble.

I think this is helpful because we need to be able to have an honest discussion and reflection. Mark Driscoll's challenge to the movement at the summer shows we're not afraid of hearing and responding to challenge. But an insiders view is different from an outsider. There are plenty of critiques against Newfrontiers - views on apostles, spiritual gifts, roles of men and women, baptism, missiology, ecclesiology etc... Well if I had too much of a problem with any of those things I'm probably ministering from the wrong place. On the whole, I don't so those things aren't in my critique.

But I probably need to write a whole host of caveats and disclaimers. Whenever you offer a critique there's often an inherent claim to be able to do better, and I'm not sure I could and I don't want to be arrogant about this - heck I'm just a blogger. There's also a personal preference element, I have some preferences but which may not be shared by the wider group. So I have to not throw a tantrum about it, grow up and get on with it. And of course, I could be wrong - won't be the first time.

So here are my discussion starters in no order of importance:
  1. Our conferences are a bit dull. I don't mean boring, I mean the opposite of cutting edge. Dull not sharp. I'm probably in the minority on this one. The worship is great and some of the talks are excellent. But some of the seminars seem to be the same every year and tell us what we already know rather than stretch us in new ways.
  2. Our response to culture is a bit sluggish. I've not heard much on our response to climate change, financial crisis, terror, technology, debt to name just a few. There are tonnes of issues that hit our culture not including arts, music, film. Even amongst our bloggers we don't interact much with those sort of things. Reading Calvin and Edwards is great but if you can get them to interact with today. Even better.
  3. We're very middle class, quite old and mostly white. I don't know if that's true of the churches but it's certainly true of the leaders and their wives, from my observation at their recent weekend conference. I reckon less than 10 would have been under 30 and not nearly enough under 40. If we're keeping up with the broader population as a national group you could argue that 8% of our people and our leaders should be non-white. I live in one of the least ethnically diverse places in the UK but it would be great if out of our cities real multi-cultural churches developed. We want that, we're just not there yet (great post by Steve Tibbert on this very issue). As for the class thing, well it's not just us is it, that's Christianity in general. I think we probably need to do more work on how to make leaders from tradesmen and women who don't have degrees or whatever. Jesus managed it.
  4. Can we have some different styles of worship please? How about some gospel? Some blues, I don't really mind as long as its not country and western. But it would be nice if we rediscovered the piano over the guitar, took our outstanding creativity in music into new genres.
  5. Our response to theology is a bit defensive. There's a time to hold ground against false ideas. That's needed, that's important, but if that's all we do then we become theologically reactionary, conservative and outdated. There's always a need to do theology in our generation, in changing times. As Bonhoeffer asked, 'what does this mean for today?' We can do creative theology that doesn't simply respond to other people's bad theology.
I think that's me and the question I have to ask is can I contribute? Can I offer something to my team, my company of believers that will help us in these areas, just as I helped by so many others who are so much sharper and wiser than me in church leadership.


Peter on 9 December 2008 at 15:46 said...

As a young person in a New Frontiers Church, I think big steps are being made towards encouraging younger leaders across New Frontiers. I know there was a big emphasis on that at Momentum this year.

You are quite right though, more and bigger steps need to be taken, and that is a huge area that you as a Church leader can help in simply by encouraging the youth and 20-somethings in your Church to get involved! It's been really exciting for me to be involved in leading a home group within my Church, and I know that was something of a gamble for my pastor in asking a 20 year old to take that on.

Phil on 9 December 2008 at 16:43 said...

Hi Peter, thanks for your comment. Good to hear that you feel encouraged to take steps in leadership. Keep going. I know we're investing in this, I think my comment says, 'we're not quite there yet'.

DaveW on 9 December 2008 at 18:09 said...

Phil, Great post. Thanks

Mark Heath on 9 December 2008 at 21:57 said...

some good provocative thoughts here. we need constructive criticism from without and within if we are to continue to thrive as a movement.

not wanting to come off as too much of a sycophant, but I must say I was disappointed not to spot your name in the TOAM speaker list this year as you have good stuff to say on a lot of the "blind spots" of newfrontiers such as environment, consumerism etc.

Phil on 9 December 2008 at 22:39 said...

Thanks Mark, sycophants always welcome!! Seriously, thanks for the encouragement. I don't mind who the speaker is but it would be great to have those sort of issues somewhere on the agenda. I was encouraged that it made it to Newday and a seminar stream led by Matt Hosier who did a great job.

Simon said...

I quite like the thought of country and western worship ;-)

Phil on 16 December 2008 at 10:29 said...

Country and western worship? The very idea scares me silly...

Anonymous said...

My daughter, who joined a NF church while at University, remarked on the low level of formal theological education among the churches' leaders. I'm a member of the CofE, where a degree in Theology/Divinity is normal for Vicars.

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