Phil Miglioratti Interviewed Nancy Beach and Samantha Beach Kiley, Authors of "Next Sunday: An Honest Dialogue About the Future of The Church"
NOTE>>>Two excerpts from the book are linked below. Scroll "comments" for an exclusive thrid excerpt.
"We believe in the Church as a force for restoration."
PHIL @ The Reimagine.Network >>> Both of you have experienced great disappointment from "the "Church" ~ What drives your undiminished passion for the Church? And what do you mean by"restoration?"
NANCY >>> Once Jesus asked Peter if he was going to leave along with the others, and Peter replied, “Where else should we go?” Although I have experienced some church pain and disappointment, I still hold out hope for the church. Through many years now, I have experienced moments when the church is at its best. These moments include sacrificial giving to the under-resourced, experiences of unity in worship when people of different races, gender, age, and socio-economic standing join together to praise our Creator. I am passionate about the church because Jesus called it his bride, and showed zeal for God’s house when he tossed the tables in the Temple.
To me, restoration means coming back home to God, to love, to truth, and to hope. The church can be the place where we heal and build bridges across all kinds of divides. I want to be a small part of that restoration.
SAMANTHA >>> I have a great deal of hope for the Church. It really seems unlike any other aspect of contemporary culture: a school for love. A place for us to be in community with those who share different identity markers, and to surrender ourselves to the love that can transform us and our world. I believe whole-heartedly in the Church that commits herself to restoration. I think that includes an honest reckoning with not just the broken parts of our world but the Church's complicity in the divisions that persist, lament, humble listening, and willingness to surrender to a faith expressed through love and service.
"We write to open up the conversation. We are not historians or academics but storytellers."
PHIL >>> Speak to the person who sees no need for conversation...someone content to lead based on how today's Church has been shaped throughout history ... and explain how we can learn from storytellers.
NANCY >>> There is a humility required to be open to learning and to change. As we age, it’s so tempting and easy to avoid dialogue that might disrupt our picture of how the church should be led. I think Jesus calls us to the humble posture of curiosity, asking questions and listening well. When we listen to storytellers, our guard isn’t up so high and maybe new ideas and truths can be explored without so much defensiveness. I want to be an older person who frequently makes statements like, “Tell me more about that,” and “I could be wrong.”
SAMANTHA >>> In Scripture, we see our spiritual ancestors consistently re-interpreting their understanding of God and His calling for their particular context. As we learn more, as we include voices we have historically silenced, I think we got to continue to collaborate with God on making something new. We don't need to throw it all away - there are many good gifts from the early Church we can carry with us. But Jesus models for us what it means to allow room for stories, for those who have been overlooked to change the hearts and minds of religious leaders. In fact, His call to "repent" may be best translated as "change your mind." We aren't very good at that.
"The profile of a typical Christian missionary [or a missional believer] is changing."
PHIL >>> You indicate the Church has constructed an "attractional model" of outreach ... we are "consumed with building our own ministries" ... we have "historically wedded evangelism to conquest and assimilation" ... often employing a "culturally irresponsible approach to service." How do we reimagine church as "a place of disproportionate emphasis on responsive and sustained service" ... with a vision of "abundant liberation and generosity?"
SAMANTHA >>> When it comes to missions in particular, we can apply some grace, I think, to the parts of our legacy that we may now understand as problematic or insensitive. But it's important to reflect, to look back, and listen to how it felt to be on the other side of our more strident evangelistic efforts - in particular those that presumed that the people we sought to "convert" knew nothing of God, or that their suffering in this life wasn't worth our concern so long as we secured their place in heaven. I believe the Church that will thrive in the years to come will be one that exercises great humility about the mysteries we do not know as to how and where God reveals Godself, and may it be a Church that listens deeply to the needs and leadership of those they feel called to serve.
NANCY >>> I keep coming back to humility – because so many of us displayed the kind of pride that believed we held all the answers and knew what was best for everyone. I celebrate the shifts we are seeing in the approach to both evangelism and global missions. Many church leaders are actively listening and pursuing partnerships with people already in the community who likely know best what is needed and can build on their relational capital as they serve. We still have much to learn, but I’m encouraged by the progress I have seen.
"I wonder what a church community would look like if more attention was given to discipleship in the art of including."
PHIL >>> What would this reimagined "lead-with-love-rather-than-beliefs" discipleship look like? How would it function differently than most models employed by churches today? (Are you hinting at parties instead of programs?)
NANCY >>>I think there’s a place for curriculum or programs as long as we recognize the deep longing of people to be known. When we gather in ways that allow us to come out of hiding, to talk about what is going on in our everyday lives, people connect with one another deeply. The goal is not to pour more and more information into others, but rather to walk with one another as we seek transformation. And yes, I’m a big fan of parties!
SAMANTHA >>> Parties instead of programs is one idea! There are some churches building community in very creative ways now - whether it's around the dinner table, serving together, or, yes, throwing great parties. I think we get to re-examine the model of weekly living room Scripture study. I'm not sure that model - which can be an uncomfortable environment for doubt and disagreement without an extremely skilled facilitator - is very attractive for church newcomers or reluctant return-ers. We can't think our way to God, but we sure can meet Him in the face of one another.
"Showing up to Promiseland was like arriving at my own birthday party."
[Full disclosure: I had the privilege of shaping and launching the foundational stage of Promiseland; a Sunday School experience filled with the joy of discovering God's amazing promises in the Bible. Our colleague and friend Sue Miller took the baton and built a state-of-the-art ministry]
Why (and how?) must churches "elevate their focus on ministry to children, students, and families?"
NANCY >>>The local church has a unique and remarkable opportunity to help parents and families grow in their love of God and for one another. Parents are longing for practical training in how to guide their children emotionally and spiritually. Churches must be intentional to create spaces where children can be loved by other adults, where families can come together for both celebration and service, and where moms and dads can be equipped to more effectively do what is arguably one of the most challenging of jobs!
SAMANTHA >>> Many people give church a second chance when they bring kids into the world. We want help introducing our little ones to the love of God and the freedom and joy of following His ways. When churches invest deeply in these ministries - perhaps through a strategy that integrates them into the larger life of the church - they may see the benefit for years to come, as young people grow up with a love for God they don't need to deconstruct or heal from, but can simply build upon.
PHIL >>> Please unpack this statement. How does it help us reassess and recalibrate how to shape ministry?
"Church is not fundamentally a classroom where we seek to fill our minds with abundant information."
NANCY >>> When we leave a gathering, our primary question should be focused on transformation, not information. So instead of asking, “What do I know that I didn’t know before?”, we ask, “How will my everyday life be different if I apply these truths?” I’m not anti-learning. I’m anti learning just to build up knowledge, with no apparent changes in our character.
"We cannot think our way into an embodied expression of love."
SAMANTHA >>> Sometimes I wonder how our Western corporate spiritual practice became so heady. We sit quietly for an hour and absorb knowledge, but we know that God meets us in our hearts, and in one another. Perhaps the invitation to stop thinking so hard might unleash more artistic expression, contemplative practice, and a greater focus on service.
"Men And Women Leading Well Together"
PHIL >>> I am convinced the Enemy's strategy since The Garden has been to have God's followers misinterpret Genesis 3:16 as a prescription (inescapable judgment) rather than a description (prophetic warning) resulting in an acceptance of a husband controlling their wife, rather than a mutual submission out of their submission to Christ (Ephesians 5:21). Whether you agree or disagree with that statement, please explain how a rethinking of male/female relationships is critical if the Church is to develop a culture that is safe for women and open to the full use of their calling and gifting.
NANCY >>> I do agree with that statement, and grieve how we have historically sidelined women, limiting the ways they can use their gifts in the local church. We need church leaders to be open to thorough study of the difficult passages, and willing to engage in dialogue about these questions. Wherever we “land theologically”, we can be intentional to open up as many opportunities as possible for women to lead and to serve. When a higher percentage of women are sitting at the tables of leadership and teaching in our pulpits, we will see a massive shift in the culture. Little girls and little boys will see it as “normal” for women to lead and teach.
SAMANTHA >>> I think that makes a lot of sense, and that spirit of misinterpretation or narrow interpretation is applied to so many other passages that have kept women from places of leadership in the Church for far too long. When we broaden our reading list, we see the great diversity of approaches to Biblical interpretation and theology. It is possible to hold a high view of Scripture and interpret passages that subjugate women in such a way that we don't have to continue minimizing the pieces of God revealed to us through female leaders and teachers. If the Church continues to lag behind all the other industries opening doors to women to lead, the Church will simply have less and less to say to the modern world.
"Every church is dysfunctional in some way. It is a question of degree."
NANCY >>> It’s vital that we adjust our expectations. We will never find a perfect church. This doesn’t mean we tolerate sin, only that we are not so shocked when we see it in ourselves and others. We commit to bringing truth to light, confessing our sins to one another, asking for forgiveness, and extending grace. In this way, over time, we will become more like Jesus and create a community of love.
"I believe there is a place for zealous anger about the ways the church is not what it should be."
NANCY >>> If we love God, we love what He loves – and God is crazy about the church. So when we see apathy, moral failure, hiding, selfishness, greed, pride, narcissism or any other sins, we should be passionate and angry and committed to transformation.
"To love well over time will require me to develop some new skills."
SAMANTHA >>> I don't want a perfect church culture. I want a church culture that is comfortable with rupture and repair. That's what being in community means to me: that we keep moving towards each other in love.
"Churches must face how we have failed to follow Jesus in liberating people at the margins..."
SAMANTHA >>> It won't be enough to call for reconciliation if the white American church doesn't first own and name the part we have played in the disenfranchisement of BIPOC folks, LGBTQ+ children of God, those with disabilities, etc.
PHIL >>> One more thing we need to ponder...
NANCY >>> I believe the pandemic has been a catalyst for the church to examine where we have been and where we are headed. What an opportunity for church leaders and key volunteers to prayerfully ask questions like, “What do we need to let go of? What is no longer working well? What do we dream about becoming? How can we make a true difference in our local community?” A spirit of curiosity and openness to the Spirit may lead us to a future that is more like the church we all long to be a part of.
SAMANTHA >>> It is easy to critique something from the outside. How might those of us who love the Church get in the game and put something on the line when it comes to the project of restoring the Church that she may better reflect the love of Christ?
"...O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church..."
PHIL >>> Your book concludes with a prayer. Please write a concluding prayer here that will help us start an honest dialogue with God, and our ministry partners, about the future of the congregation/ministry we serve...
NANCY Father, we confess that we have often failed you in our attempts to build the local church. Help us to show up with a spirit of both humility and enthusiasm. May we avoid bitterness, cynicism and pride. Give us a picture of what life in the community of loving Christ followers can look like, and help us to play our part with faithfulness and joy.>>>
SAMANTHA >>> God, give us ears to listen well. Increase our zeal and hope for the future of the church. Renew our calling to make the Church more like you.
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Follow her on Twitter: @NancyLBeach
Visit her website at nancylbeach.com.
Samantha Beach Kiley
Follow her on Twitter: @BeachSamantha
Visit her website at SamanthaBeach.work