Mobility: how it changes church life

Archie Poulos

"The church must be different today to what it has been" is a cry that is commonly made.

My response is that it is still the same church that Jesus loved and give His life for, which means some things must never change; but that so much has changed in our world also means that the way we think of conducting ourselves in church must change. 

I set about listing the ways the world has fundamentally changed over the last decade, but ran out of space on my sheet of paper. One such change is mobility. 

A generation ago church goers began in one congregation, which was the one in their geographical area and of the denominational affiliation they desired. If you moved suburb then you might or might not change churches, but always within the same denomination.

There was very little church mobility: you went to the parish church of the denomination your represented. 

Now denomination doesn't matter, and because we have much greater access to and use of cars geography is less of an issue too. 

What is this good and bad about this? 

The good side of mobility:

  1. It means that we can create and sustain ministries that reach 'affinity' groups operating across a region larger than our traditional parishes. By affinities I mean groups that congregate because they share something in common beyond geographical location. For example I am involved in a sub-continental [ie Indian, Sri Lankan etc] ministry that draws people from across several suburbs, and so is able to evangelise people from broader geographical locations. This could never have occurred if we were less mobile.
  3. It can lead to a transference of training and godly ways of thinking as a person joins a new ministry. For example some churches are better at training than others. A person trained in one church, as they move to another church can begin the training process in that centre.

The bad side of mobility:

  1. Enabling a person not to face up to themselves. Sometimes, as time progresses and people interact at deeper levels, a person is confronted with, and have to face up to,  what they are really like. This normally causes the person to change and hopefully grow. Mobility gives an easy out. You can move when confronted with such issues.
  3. Allowing a person to not face up to, and deal with, conflict with other Christians. Instead of resolving issues, a person can just leave. It is unhelpful, and non-Christian to leave unfinished relational business with others, and yet mobility permits this.
  5. Poor modelling. To move when I feel like it, or when it suits me says that church is low down in priority. When making decisions we should ask as a major concern "what will the effect be on my church?" And yet mobility can model that church is the least important part of our decision making.

In the end, mobility is part of our life. We need to use it for the proclamation of the gospel, and as far as possible examine our hearts when it comes to why we choose to be mobile.