Going back to our roots

Archie Poulos

Sydney Botanical Gardens has just replaced a statue down by the ponds.

So what you say? The significance is the motivation behind this move, which has gone unquestioned.

The reason for the statue being restored and replaced is that this is the way the gardens were back in the 1880's.

Isn't that interesting? The assumption is that going back to how things once were is what we now strive for, without asking "is this the best thing to do?"

We see this return to the source in many places. In Christian ministry we see it in the title of Mark Driscoll's Vintage Church. Vintage, original, old fashioned is now "in" again. There are endless pages written on why this is happening. Most adopt a sociological framework and say our current age has lost its "rootedness". That may be true, but it could also be there are other reasons like, it is the right thing to do.

But it does make us re-think our ministry. Here are a couple of areas of rethinking on my part.

1. Church buildings may not be a liability. For twenty years I urged people to move out of church buildings, as many of those we were seeking to reach had negative attachments to church buildings from bad Sunday School days. That is not the case today. Very few have been through Sunday School, and the buildings now give a sense of permanence in a transitory world. Of course there are still the problems of inappropriate, or dilapidated buildings, and the constant inference that you meet God in spooky buildings.

2. Denominational affiliation is a positive. It taps into a sense of history, permanence and safety.

Of course there is always the danger, so often fallen into, of us thinking something is good because it is old. In the end, the question we must answer when determining the shape of our ministry is not "is it old or new?" but "is it helpful?" That said, to dismiss something just because it is not novel is a mistake.