How To (Intentionally) Liberate A Church, Part 2

For those with access to last week’s article on (unintentionally) frustrating a church, you are likely ready to move on to more helpful approaches. So now, we are glad to offer these insights on liberating a church.

Here’s this week’s equation:

The first step in this equation may be the most difficult. We are so steeped in the 20th century attractional church paradigm that it must be like what fish experience in water. Do they even know they are living and breathing and water? No, since it is their natural habitat, with no other point of reference. Most of us are so conditioned to believe our calling is to get more people to our church events that we cannot even think of another way to be church. Perhaps the saving grace here is when churches practice The Church Frustration Equation described in the last article (find it on our blog at When they exhaust their efforts to renew the worn-out 20th century church paradigm, then they are open to letting go and finding a better way. Church leaders can help this process by overtly granting permission to let go of life-depleting ways of being church. Disciples in congregations often respond with a deep, profound sigh of relief. “Finally we don’t have to keep pushing that rock up the hill, pretending all the while it’s productive work.”

Once we are sufficiently liberated, we grow open to the Holy Spirit’s movement in new ways. This is when raising awareness of the congregation about new and different ways of being church is so helpful. Often this looks like learning events with presenters, book studies with ideas outside this church’s typical cultural perspective, and testimonies from disciples about how they are experiencing God in their world away from the church campus. These activities combine to fire the imagination, expanding their understanding of what is sacred and stimulating movement. The Holy Spirit adds passion and energy, fanning the flames of sacred imagination.

Then holy experimenting is the natural and intentional next step (see more in Shift, pp126-131). How do we discover the road ahead; God’s calling for our congregation? We discover the road by walking. Intentionally conducting missional engagement holy experiments leads us forward. When disciples are liberated from previous constraints, with fired sacred imaginations, then they cannot hold back. They must engage their communities, looking for God’s action and direction as they go. Some of these holy experiments will blossom, leading to larger and longer community engagements. Others will be redirected to more fruitful endeavors. Either way, this part of the equation involves high levels of community engagement.

The result or outcome of this equation is a major shift in what it means to be church. Rather than measuring ourselves by 20th century metrics, like buildings, bodies, and budgets; we shift to lives transformed and communities changed for the better. When we make this shift, then we return to how we do church, analyzing our governance, staffing, and everything else for how they support this kind of robust church movement. We proactively adapt to our world as we find it, being church in theological faithful and culturally relevant and meaningful ways.

It’s funny that when we are church this way, we resemble our spiritual kin from the first century who started this Jesus movement. No, they did not have to liberate themselves from culturally irrelevant church paradigms…being different from us in that way. On the other hand, they were very much discovering the road by walking; living in The Spirit.

May we exercise the courage to employ this Church Liberation Equation, living by faith and trust in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Mark Tidsworth
Pinnacle Leadership Associates