When Dorothy lands in Oz, she tells her dog Toto, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” But where are they? Oz is a strange and disturbing place.
That experience parallels the way many Christians feel today (especially older disciples), in a western world where values and beliefs have changed drastically, and continue to morph at a speed that is frightening to many. How do we navigate such a world? How can we be witnesses to Christ in such a place?
The Liverpool-born Canadian missional expert Alan Roxburgh tells how more and more senior church leaders are describing this very experience to him:
There isn’t an executive leader I’ve met recently who doesn’t recognize that practically everything about their jobs and roles has changed. They can describe how things used to work but confess they have few clues about how to lead in this new space. Leaders find themselves in a ‘space between.’ This is a space between the world in which we were formed and this indefinable territory our churches now have to navigate. What is coming into focus for leaders I talk with is that this space between is more than a stopping off place while we wait for the fog to clear; it’s the new normal and will be so for a long time to come.
Where is the good news? Roxburgh says church leaders are asking how we lead in this new, awkward space, and he goes on to say,
Critical to leading in this new space is grasping that this is exactly the location where God has always met us. Throughout the Biblical narratives, as well as at critical moments in the church’s history, God has come to engage us in this space between where our capacities to manage, control, predict and strategize no longer work. Space between is God’s space! It is, therefore, the space of hope – not escape. The God of Jesus Christ continually meets and invites us to live in this space between. It is exactly where God’s future unfolds. It’s not a problem to be solved but the place where we learn again, as God’s people, how to thrive.
In other words, God is in this strange space in between. The good news for those of us who would serve Christ in the world is that he is present in this unfamiliar place. We are only going where he already is.
Can we be hopeful, even as the world seems unsettling to us?