Challenging the centre (Bob and Mary Hopkins)

Bob and Mary HopkinsBob and Mary Hopkins challenge the centre.

A few weeks ago, Ben Edson wrote a blog on Share: Called to the centre? Ben expressed an extremely important view and one which expands on concerns that many have expressed at a movement that has been radical, then becoming suffocated by the institutional embrace.

It is a possibility that needs much serious consideration and assessment of what could be done in the areas in which this can be a real danger. However, at one level a response could be that this is the inevitable outcome of an "edge movement" that is effective and fruitful as it impacts and influences the centre … the challenge being for new edge movements to arise that continually take us further and that in turn challenge the centre to further needed adaptation and flexibility.

We seem to remember that George Lings has long suggested that renewal movements can be likened to his beloved railways. A branch line being like a pioneering movement that starts from but initially is clearly separate and alongside the mainline (institutional centre), but if the traffic on it builds up, subsequently the mainline begins to divert and link to the branch line. Then he has always suggested that the need will be for another branch line. And this is probably just an analogy to illustrate the mechanism by which we observe the truth that Luther proclaimed that the church reforms herself and always is reforming (Ecclesia reformanda e semper reformanda est). 

At another level there may be the question as to whether some pioneers are particularly motivated by being "out there, unrecognised, breaking new ground that most in the mainstream haven't woken up to". This could mean that whilst they are worried and feel motivated to "move further out" … the fact that their efforts so far have played a part in how God is stimulating thousands of churches to begin to think beyond their fringe and initiate engagement with non-churched families, de-churched seekers, the homeless, addicts, dwellers in deprived urban estates etc. and that the institution is encouraging this and adapting structures accordingly, has to be fantastically good news – even if it looks domesticated to some.

Lastly I note the many responses to Ben's original piece. There is much important stuff there too. But I confess a slight disquiet that the focus seems to have shifted from an original concern about the domestication of a movement of radical mission to reach broken humanity and transform dysfunctional society, to a primary concern about me and who I am and whether the institution and its structures suits or fits me. I'm personally much less worried about that, sensing that we can mostly find ways around the mismatches in order to follow God's calling to radical mission, if we are flexible and set ourselves to it.