Home > Words of Wisdom > Sunday, 23rd of September 2018

The Church culture in Australia is changing. The question often discussed is how can we be “Church” today? We at Hampstead Gardens don’t tell people what they should believe; rather we help people to discover for themselves. An extensive quote from Frost & Hirsch, 2013, appears in the Reading Guide to the book, “Changing the Conversation: A Third Way for Congregations,” by Anthony B. Robinson, 2008. 
“A useful illustration is to think of the difference between wells and fences. In some farming communities, the farmers might build fences around their properties to keep their livestock in and the livestock of neighbouring farms out. This is a bounded set. But in rural communities where farms or ranches cover an enormous geographic area, fencing the property is out of the question. In our home of Australia, ranches (called stations) are so vast that fences are superfluous. Under these conditions a farmer has to sink a bore and create a well, a precious water supply in the Outback. It is assumed that livestock, though they will stray, will never roam too far from the well, lest they die. This is a centred set. As long as there is a supply of clean water, the livestock will remain close by.” (p47)
“In our metaphor of the wells and fences, the notion of building fences to keep the livestock in fits with the normative idea of organising churches. The traditional church makes it quite difficult for people to negotiate its maze of cultural, theological, and social barriers in order to get “in”. In fact, “getting in” for some people takes a great deal of commitment and effort. And by the time newcomers have scaled the fences built around the church, they are so socialized as church goers that they are not likely to be able to maintain their connection with the social groupings they came from. They are fundamentally changed by the experience of wanting to be on the inside of the church. They become insiders and now have a clear notion of who the “outsider”  is and why.”
“We propose that a far better and more biblical way is to organise like the Outback ranch. Sink wells. If you sustain your connection with the water source and ensure others can get to it, you will find a whole host of people relating to Jesus from different walks of life. We allow people to come to Jesus from any distance and from any direction. Our aim in mission is to fully present Jesus and to facilitate that vital connection. This is the essence of our Priestly function – it is evangelistic (Rom 15:15-16). The person of Jesus stands at the epicentre of what we do.”  (p 208, The Shaping of Things to Come, Frost M, & Hirsh A).  
I would be very interested in your thoughts about this illustration of what a Church community could look like?