How does a local church leader prepare for a world of constant change? How can leaders raise on the “old wines” of denominationalism and traditional church forms embrace the “new wine” of the emerging, missional church? How does one who survives on the traditions and practices of the old system turn loose of the old and embrace the new—especially when turning loose of the old may involving losing your position, power, and influence.
Kester Brewin in his book Signs of Emergence suggests that before the “new” can be born within us we must read the last rites to the “old” that has been our foundation, security, and safety. In a sense the grave must precede the resurrection. Or as Paul put it “the old has passed away and behold everything has become new”.
Theologian Walter Brueggemann in his book Hopeful Imagination looked closely at the responsibilities and roles of the ancient prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah. They were called to the daunting task of leading their people through the death of their nation, the exile and the rebirth of their dreams. He wrote:
(These prophets) are cast in the difficult role of providing voice and articulation to the faith and experience of a community in exile. Their pastoral responsibility was to help people, enter into exile, be in exile, and depart out of exile…to help them relinquish the old world, and receive the new.”
It occurs to me that God may be raising up among us prophets who have the same challenging and exciting task. Some of us may have to fulfill these roles today. If own journey is like that of Israel, we do not enter the exile willingly, but rather by force knowing in many ways we are suffering the consequences of our own sins and failures. Living during the exile calls for a faith that can trust God in a new land surrounded by strange people and customs and yet holding firm to Christ. The good news is God does not leave His people in exile—He leads them by the hand back home to new days of fruitfulness and faithfulness.
To be frank, I am not sure if we as a people are entering the exile or in the exile, but I am hopeful that we will soon be entering a new day in our history. May we learn the good and hard lessons of the past, but more importantly may be dream bold dreams of tomorrow with absolute faith in the One who can make all things possible.