Don’t you wish you’d come up with that before they did?
I wish we at the Outlook had come up with the catchphrase, “Fair and Balanced,” before the folks at FOX News did. The motto, “Light for all” could have had our name on it, if The Baltimore Sun hadn’t come up with it first. I wish we’d dubbed our website, “Presbyweb,” before our friend Hans Cornelder coined the term.
These days I’m wishing I’d come up with the simple title, NEXTChurch. The conjoined words epitomize “something old, something new.” And that’s exactly what we hope to promote as pres-outlook.org rolls out a new website feature — yet unnamed at press time — which will publish daily blog postings to be written by next-church leaders (i.e, GenX-ers, GenY-ers and Millennials).
NEXTChurch would have been the perfect title for the blog page, had not quicker thinking Presbyterians already coined it to label a string of conferences and an organization that are trying to fuel a movement of creative initiatives for the upcoming years in the church’s life together.
The NEXTChurch 2013 Conference did live into its goal (see pp. 10-13). It pulsated with a rhythm of improvisation and inventiveness seldom beating among this inherently staid body of believers. The need to protect one’s safe space collapsed under the promptings to hug and share; the need to maintain a sophisticated intellectualism gave way as worship leaders invited shout-outs and dancing.
This observer couldn’t help wonder how this was messing with our prevailing church divisions — and I’m not just talking about those of left vs. right, tall-steeple vs. small, white vs. nonwhite, male vs. female, older vs. younger. This time I’m thinking mostly of the Ps and the Js. No, not peanut butter and jelly, but Perceivers and Judgers. In the Jungian, Myers-Briggs categorizations.
When Theresa Cho and Ashley Goff asked the conference participants to stand up, to shout, to wave banners and to dance, they issued extroverts’ apologies to the introverts in the room. Of course, as true Es, they still pushed open expressiveness, but at least they gave a shout-out to the Is, the pew-dwellers and pulpit-critiquers.
However, no leaders ever acknowledged the divide between the Ps and the Js. In fact, the conference gave overwhelming preference to those who engage life as Perceivers, leaving the Judgers little choice but to appear enthusiastic while shivering in their boots.
To define our terms, “Judgers approach life in a structured way, creating plans and organizing their world to achieve their goals and desired results in a predictable way.” On the other hand, “Perceivers perceive structure as being more limiting than enabling. They prefer to keep their choices open so they can cope with many problems that the know life will put in their way.”
Further, Perceivers often see Judgers as “rigid and opinionated,” and Judgers see Perceivers as “aimless drifters.”
In the church, the Perceivers bring innovation and improvisation; Judgers guard theological orthodoxy. Indeed, the one criticism I heard at NEXTChurch 2013 came from a J, in the form of a theologian’s ponderings: “I would have liked to hear a bit more clearly that they are not trying to reinvent the Gospel.”
A subtle push-back came from the podium itself in the words of Steve Eason, pastor of Myers Park Church there in Charlotte. “We are not called to reinvent the church,” he clarified, “but to be the church.” Then, in the context of affirming God’s relentless creativity, he added the caveat, “It strikes me that what may be next will be the same thing that is at its core just what it always has been.”
As one whose Myers-Briggs assessment tilts wildly toward Extrovert and leans just slightly toward Perceiver, I enjoyed the enthusiasm and embraced the leaders’ urgings to improvise. But I also heard clear assurances that the one who Scripture claims to be “the same yesterday, today and tomorrow” still is the one whose Gospel knows no substitute and needs no improving. No one was reinventing the Savior. Time alone will tell whether the NEXTChurch’s awesome name will both sustain the Church and spur its NEXT great movement.