Lessons from Missional Church to Tea Party By Fred Peatross

People by default are resistant to almost all change. I have friends who left their job because computers replaced manual systems. I know some who hate electronic readers and digital books. They would rather have a paperback in their hand. “It just feels better.” Borders understands all about electronic readers and the inroads digital books have made on the traditional book store. Change never comes easy. People resist individual change and the strength of an established long standing institution can enforce decades or more of resistance to any movements attempt to change the structure of what has become “the normal conventional way.”

For a minute think about established institutions, specifically churches and governments. Think of the people who are employed, elected or supported in a multitude of ways by the currents models of these two institutions. For most it’s all they’ve experienced and known. Thousands are supported by the conventional church and our government and its spending ways. Many believe in these system — others find comfort in them — it’s all they know. Their livelihood depends on it. Change within these “bigger than life” models seem overwhelmingly impossible. But change does come…slowly. Rarely, if ever, does change happen immediately with the exception of violent coups or tragic wars. In civil societies change is achieved via a gathering conversation turned viral culminating in a movement.

The difference between a conversation and a movement is a movement’s chatter has to be sustainable beyond initial, passing curiosity. People may gather around a water cooler and discuss last night’s game but it doesn’t make these fleeting events a movement. A movement has sustainable chatter, with ebb and flow, but it’s always there. Think of it as a buzz on steroids.

It’s been ten years+ that I have been a part of the missional church conversation and it has yet to become a bonafide movement. Unlike the missional church conversation the tea party has become a movement at an amazingly rapid pace changing the conversation in the three branches of the government. But, nevertheless, changing the government’s addiction to spending will not be complete overnight or even the next two years or three. As Ben Stein said on CBS today, “Impossible.”

I love how David Bosch draws the distinction. “The difference between an institution and a movement is that one crosses boundaries the other guards them.” The Tea Party movement proved that when a movement gains momentum, it’s a hard force to ignore. But like the missional church the tea party needs to take it’s victories one step at a time. And more often than not victories comes with small gains.

Many pastors with missional persuasions have been hired by traditional established churches in the last few years. It’s not a complete take over but these are small victories taken one step at a time. The ripple effect of these missional minded pastors now participating in traditional institutional system can spread ideas and make the movement itself viral. Overreaching or rigidly pushing too soon in an attempt to gain more ground than is possible in a moments time will set a movement back rather than advance its cause as well as destroy any influence gained.

Finally, when and if a movement culminates in replacement of an institution the cycle begins anew. A conversations forms … a movement starts and another fight for change begins.

Fred Peatross is a Christian who lives and worships in Huntington, West Virginia. He has been a deacon, a missionary, a pulpit minister, and shepherd. Presently Fred is responsible for carrying out the Great Commission and directing a Nuclear Medicine department.

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