Change comes in a thousand different ways but never in a hurry or by unanimous consent. That may be one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned over the past 15 years. I used to think the best strategy for effecting change was through critical mass; get more and more people to buy-in to an idea and change will follow. The problem is, critical mass is generally content with the status quo, no matter how much they complain and dream otherwise. It’s as true of the church as it is of business, politics or any other endeavor; the middle of the bell curve, with all its critical mass, will never champion radical change.
What I have seen, both historically and in my own experience, is that most paradigm shifts come not from critical mass but from critical yeast. They come from individuals with an idea that is “too intellectual”, “too idealistic” or just “too complicated” for the critical mass. But that doesn’t matter to critical yeast they just plug away, usually in isolation, through countless iterations of trial and error on their way to what Walter Brueggeman called “futures that are genuinely new and not derived.”
When it comes to the idea of church missions and sustainable solutions the answers we seek are not derived from the safe and coopted practices of traditional church missions. Those practices have served a legitimate purpose and must now learn to serve an even higher purpose. Unfortunately, most churches will be content to simply mend and fend their mission efforts as part of their “brand management” in order to demonstrate that they are a caring church and keep their market share of a seeker-sensitive population demanding positive volunteer experiences.
However, there is critical yeast at work in the world of church missions. There is a small and growing band of individuals, ministries and churches that are genuinely wrestling with what church missions could be and must become. I’m convinced the best thing we can do is create the space and opportunities for critical yeast to gather and share their stories as well as what they are learning. That kind of format admits there are no experts with all the answers. It accelerates the learning curve for all and it gives a sense of welcome belonging to people who are hungry to be around others who “get them.”
That’s what happens at our annual SATtalks event. We create a space for churches, ministries and business-minded people to rub shoulders, share stories and explore new ideas. We capture those stories and make them available online for free to anyone looking for models of missions for the 21st century. There’s over 50 videos from leading voices, all practitioners, engaged in the hard work of turning prophetic imagination into concrete expressions. Take a look at www.SATtalks.org
For churches and communities wanting more, we’ve developed Missions 3.0: A Framework for Missions in the 21st Century as a workshop to help churches and whole communities move beyond the “helping that hurts” message. We also piloted our first Peer Learning Community (PLC) with a group of six churches in the Charlotte, NC area. This is a 2-year commitment for churches that want to accelerate the learning curve and pace of change towards missional work that is both sustainable and transformative. Take a look at their work here.
That’s our niche. We help churches and whole communities that want to reframe their missions work around sustainable solutions and create room for business-minded people who can help that happen. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read more about what we’re doing and planning for 2019. We would love to hear from you and explore how we can help your church or community move missions beyond simple charity and short-term fixes.
Tom Bassford | Founder and President