I’m teaching my 7 year-old son how to tie his shoes. Now many of you might be thinking, why so old. Well, he’s had Velcro shoes for all his life. Just slip on and tighten and you’re good to go. But something different happened this last time we went to go buy shoes. He wanted a pair of work boots. Just like his dad has. I explained to him before buying the boots that this meant he had to learn how to tie his shoes. And he agreed.
Now, I never knew teaching a 7 year-old how to tie shoes could be so hard. It takes a lot of work to explain something that I know so well. It’s hard to explain something that you just do. I never realized that it took so much fine motor skills to tie a pair of boots. And my son is trying. He wants to learn how. And he gets frustrated but he’s not giving up.
Watching him try to tie his boots got me to thinking about other things we take for granted–like the church. Too many times we take church for granted. We take the very fact that it exists for granted. But when it comes time to teach about church, about what the church truly should be like, then we realize just how hard it is.
When I talk about the missional church, I talk about the church in the New Testament. The church in the New Testament was a vibrant church. It was a church that spawned new churches just by being present in one location. Churches started in homes not in warehouses and store fronts. Churches had their issues (the Corinthian church read like a family from the Jerry Springer Show) but in the end, they were all mission outposts in a strange brave new world. There was an urgency to the Gospel message being spread in word and deed.
To be missional today, to be the missional church, is to rediscover that. To rediscover the urgency of proclaiming the Gospel message. And so, we must teach it again. And that is hard. We’re so used to Velcro. We’re so used to the slip on and go model. If we are to not just survive but thrive in this world today, this world that is changing and moving and rapidly becoming something leaving us in the dust, we must learn how to tie our shoes as the missional church. We must rediscover the urgency of the Gospel. We must rediscover the way in which the New Testament church moved in the world.
We are in a strange brave new world where things aren’t what they used to be like. The center will no longer hold. We’re in a realm of splintered and shattered people with Spiritual ADD, distracted by the shiny objects and squirrels of life. As the church, we must learn how to connect, how to move, how to live in this new world and become the focus that is so deeply desired and needed in a world that doesn’t think we’re needed.
I wish I had an easy answer for this. I don’t. What I do know is that I’m still teaching my son how to tie his shoes. He’s so excited that he no longer even wants to try to use Velcro again. And he struggles with it too. It’s hard for him. But he’s not giving up. He’s not giving in. He asks for help from adults and those who know how to tie their shoes already. And they do help. There are times where I watch him from a distance tie his shoes and let him struggle. There are times where I sit next to him and talk him through it. And there are other times where I help him tie them and we do so together.
The same is true in becoming missional. We need help. I think we need help from other missional churches who have gone through this before, who have been able to rediscover the New Testament urgency in their church itself. And we must learn from them in order to grow and be weened off of Velcro church.
It takes time. It takes time an energy. And because it takes time and energy, the fall back is to just stick to Velcro. And Velcro works. But it’s not tying one’s shoes, it is only letting something else to the work the way things used to be.
So, we as a church need to no longer be a Velcro church. We need to learn how to tie our shoes and get moving, rediscovering the New Testament urgency of proclaiming the Gospel message.