Either you're crazy or ......

Ashley, Anji and Amy Barker outside their home in a Bangkok slum

When I first met Ashley he was twenty-four years old. I was used to church planters seeking me out for coaching but Ashley was different. He didn't want to just start a church. He wanted to start a missionary movement that would multiply churches among the poor in Australia and throughout Asia. As Ashley shared his dream I told him, "Ashley, there are two possibilities. Either you're crazy, or God has his hand on your life." Over the years I've watched Ashley build Urban Neighbours of Hope into an effective missionary order among the poor. Eventually I gave him my verdict, "Ashley, you are crazy - and God has his hand on your life!"

"My house is in ruins. Restore it!" was the cry that Francis of Assisi heard in his vision in the church of San Damiano. Movements are born because something needs to change. A wrong has to be put right. An opportunity neglected has to be grasped. They are born out of dissatisfaction. Out of the discrepancy between what is and what should be. They are born in discontent. They are born because people care enough to what to do something that will make a difference.

Theodore Modis uses winter as a metaphor to describe this phase of development. The leaves have fallen. It's cold and desolate. Something is dying. Yet in the midst of death and decay something is ready to be born. The stagnation of winter is preparing the way for something new to burst forth upon the world.

The situation looks grim. Hope is in short supply. There is a need for new beginnings and creativity because spring is coming. Many of the new forms of life will not survive. The greater their number, the better the chance that some of them will survive and grow and pave the way for the sunnier seasons ahead. If early winter is the time for creativity and diversity, late winter is the time to choose from among the new directions.

I was corrupted in my denominational theological college through the study of Church History. Denominations and church structures that appeared to be, if not eternal, at least permanent, were shown to be "accidents" of history. From the perspective of history, each form of the church is constructed in response to a particular historical situation. No one church tradition can claim to be the "True Church" in isolation from all other expressions. No one form of the Church is relevant across time or geographical and cultural boundaries. The true Church is in a constant state of flux and change. Old forms are passing away. New forms are emerging. That's the one constant in church history. The church is the living Body of Christ that adapts itself to new cultures, new eras, new challenges.

Therefore it should not surprise us to find that throughout history God renews his church through the emergence of new forms of the church expressing themselves in new movements. Those movements are formed in the "winters" of church history. When all looks grey God is preparing for spring. "Surrender All : A Call to Sub-merge with Christ" (Ashley Barker)

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