Reimagining Church

by Mark Dunwoody

Mark Dunwoody is missioner for the Diocese of Montreal. He describes this as “the first in the series of missional thoughts focusing on the challenge of how we might ‘unlearn what to think, and relearn how to think’ as we re-mission our church to a future not yet known.”

Some words have powerful meanings; A.W. Tower makes a strong statement at the beginning of his book The Knowledge of the Holy: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

I’d like to propose that, in a similar way, what comes into our minds when we think of the word church is the most important element in shaping how we function as a church.

The way leaders define church will determine how they measure success, where they focus time and energy, how they design their strategies and form their ministry philosophies. How they define church even determines the focus of our prayers. This, then, trickles into the hearts and minds of our congregations, shaping how they think of church.

I’ve lived in four countries and have worked with churches in maybe 15 countries.  Even so, I have no idea what is ‘church’, or who is a typical Anglican. 

Rather, what I've learned from my life experiences is that many of the traditional notions we have about ourselves and how church should be structured are wrong.  It is not simply the loudest who have the best ideas; it is those who are the best at harvesting ideas from others.  It is not only the most determined who drive change; it is those who most fully engage with others.  And it is not power or prestige that best motivates people; it is respect and help from peers.

How can we be honest with ourselves and consider that what we think of God and what we do as church may need to be reimagined?