Monday, October 31, 2011

Charge to the Mechanicsburg Church

Give Permission for a Jesus Movement

My charge to the beloved saints of the Mechanicsburg Presbyterian Church is a simple, direct, two words, “Give permission.” Give permission to your newly ordained and newly installed Associate Pastor. Give him permission to dream dreams, see visions and do ministry.

I have been in our Presbyterian Church for a long time, all my life as a believer, and for more than 25 years of professional service. I know this will be hard for you to believe in Mechanicsburg, but I have learned that there are people in our church today who are discouraged. There are people in our church who are kind of weary, whose hands are hanging down, whose heads are kind of drooped, and, believe it or not, there are people in the church today – some of the them are elders and some of them are ministers- who do not feel good about our Presbyterian Church.

Then we come to a day like this. Here we are celebrating that God continues to call, God continues to work in the lives of young people, God continues to call people into service and ministry in our Presbyterian Church. How sweet is that! How can we possibly be discouraged? When these newly called people come into our midst we must stand back in awe and wonder and simply give them permission. Let him go to live into this powerful call from God. Let him go to dream about the ministry which God alone has placed on his heart. Give him permission. Do not hold him back. Do not surround him with constraints and limitations and expectations and demands. Give him permission. Let him go.

I am doing a lot of reading, pondering and discussing these days on the relationship between institutions and movements. What is the difference between an institution and a movement? This fascinates me, and I believe I am on to something important with this question. An institution is structured and organized, it knows how to make transitions and perpetuate itself. A good institution knows how to make decisions as groups, and knows how to share power, manage risk, and implement plans and strategies. A good institution always has a plan for the future. I am an institution guy. The Presbyterian Church is a great institution. I love the institutional church. The institutional church has formed me and nurtured me. I trust the institution. I believe the institution is beautiful. Many of you are just like me. Yes, session members, I know who you are.

But today, for lots of complex, social reasons institutions, including the church, have lost their ability to transform hearts. Transformation happens in movements. Movements are free, fast and flexible. Movements are relational, not structured. Movements are about transformation, not planning for the future, but creating a new future.

This is my thought experiment. I believe institutions and movements need each other. Institutions bring structure and longevity. Movements bring passion, enthusiasm, flexibility and freedom. Without each other, movements and institutions, both will die. We are in a situation today in the church, it is an exciting time, when the institution needs to encourage, needs to give permission for a movement quality in our midst. But an institution can only encourage a movement quality if, and only if, the institution itself is strong, vital, self-confident, proud and trusting. If the institution is discouraged or paranoid then the institution will constantly snuff out any movements that emerge near it.

Give permission for Mark to inspire a movement quality for Jesus in the midst of your church. Give him permission to be free, flexible, spontaneous, creative and imaginative. Give permission.

Mechanicsburg Presbyterian Church, you are on my short list of our top-tier churches who are helping us live into God’s new future. Go for it!

“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3: 20-21).

Mark Englund-Krieger
October 30, 2011