November 14, 2012

The Center and the Fringe


I've been thinking a little bit about the huge transition of the church in America.

Something is happening. Everyone knows it. But we can't quite leap into what's next.

And there seems to be two camps emerging: The Center and The Fringe.

There are some that are willing to jump. 

They're on the fringe. They're hungry. They're desperate. They don't have much, but they also don't have much to lose. So they are making strides out into the newness of what God is doing.

Others are not so willing.

They are in the center. They were pioneers once. They were hungry once. And they went out after the Spirit. They saw and heard God and ventured out to follow him. They blazed the trails and brought us this far. Now they have accumulated the fruits of their work. They have fought hard and achieved some amazing things. Now they have much to lose. They are not so willing to leap out in faith again.

What if they lost all they worked so hard to get?

Denominations and, to an extent, new networks are facing the push from the fringe. Established churches are also feeling it. The way the fringe talks and moves is scary to the center.

Can they coexist? Yes.

But it will be a tricky dance.

The Center has to fuel, empower and encourage the Fringe. They have to give them freedom to try and experiment and create and fail and win and show us what is ahead. They have to understand that the Fringe has nothing to lose so they don't have to listen or fall in line. They are crazy enough Jesus followers that might just leap without a safety net. The Center has to learn from the Fringe. Our stubbornness cannot bottleneck the movement of the Spirit. Finally, the Center has to jump ... even just a little. It's been awhile and we may not know exactly how to do it any more, but leaps of faith are what we've always been about.

The Fringe must be gracious to the Center, not judging or condemning, but being lovingly prophetic. The Fringe has to know that at times it will be able to partner well with the center and at times they will have to venture out on their own. There are some battles worth fighting and some that are not. The Fringe must keep building bridges, but must not expect or assume the Center will cross. The Fringe must always show respect to the center, even in dissent. Keep listening. Keep learning. Know your history. Don't jump ignorantly. Finally, the Fringe must always be open-handed and bless all with what they have learned, always giving away their lessons, both the good and the bad.

The Center needs the Fringe.
The Fringe needs the Center.
And when the Fringe becomes the Center may we be able to dance this dance again.

Praying for the future of the church in America.

CC Image • mckaysavage on Flickr

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