Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Kicking Basketballs

I'm reviewing the book "Church Turned Inside Out" by Linda Bergquist and Allan Karr for the Ministry in Motion website. As I was looking back through the pages, I reread something that serves as a powerful illustration of the cultural need we have to reevaluate our notions and mindsets.

This comes from chapter 7: "Designing in Culture."
...Alvin Toffler says, "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot unlearn and relearn." Despite Jesus' teaching about love, humility, and service, this is a really difficult posture for many because we assume ourselves to be teachers rather than learners.

In the summer of 2006, Allan and his family spent a month in Spain. One week, Allan's children helped an American group with a basketball camp in an upscale Alcobendes neighborhood, just north of Madrid. That same week, the World Cup championships were being played in Germany, and Spain was in the championship hunt. The camp was being held in a futbol pitch converted into a basketball court, by adding portable hoops (goals). The Americans rolled out rubber basketballs and all the children started kicking them, taking shots at the soccer goals on the pitch. The Americans running the camp screamed, "Stop kicking the balls!" After a few minutes, the director of the camp called the children into a meeting and told them that it was against the rules of basketball. Allan asked another leader, "Why don't you just play soccer on the pitch; the goals are already there? The American leader said they couldn't play soccer because no one from their group knew how to teach soccer. Allan asked, "Why don't you let them teach you? You will still have the missionary contact you hope to have with them." The leader said, "We are the ones here to teach; we're supposed to be the experts."

...Proverbs 1:5 says, "Let the wise listen and add to their learning." Being a learner is the convergence of two qualities: humility and the understanding that in order to evolve into an indigenized servant of the people group, the people have much to teach the missionary about sharing the truth with contextual relevance.
When I think about designing in culture, I also think about how the landscape has changed drastically within my own lifetime. The need for adjusting our mindset and challenging our notions persists. We need to watch and learn.

In the "Church Planting" classes and seminars I have attended throughout my "career" - it was consistently taught that the best way to "grow" a "church" was to begin in a sprawling community (most often a large metropolitan suburb). From what I've observed, it takes a large amount of capital resources to commence, operate and maintain. But when the desired mushrooming effect occurs (most often from other churches), it seems to diminish the intimacy, cultural relevance and development of a Kingdom mindset. A very small percentage on the outside are drawn in, but the majority of everyday people drive by gazing at the clever marquee wondering what those people do in there every week. A pattern develops where 3 in 1 oil is needed for both the front door and the back door.

Many in our American culture today are kicking basketballs. Many are still screaming that it is against the rules.

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