You’ve got to appreciate the irony when I suggest that a large percentage of the “grey beards” in our movement would likely not be accepted into OM today. I would consider this a personal compliment, but also a real problem that a disconcertingly large number of churches would also fall prey to.
In our pursuit of so-called excellence and professionalism, we are starving our organisations of the kind of relatively uncontrollable forces that created OM in the first place. To borrow a well-known saying: “You don’t have to be crazy to work here [or create a missions movement or plant a radical church], but it helps” – in a greater degree and more ways than we might presume.
By “crazy” I don’t mean people suffering from mental handicaps; there is a role and place for them in God’s Kingdom and, whether we are a church or an organisation that serves the church, we should share with them at one table. Rather, I refer to those people who are sufficiently different in their abilities and passion that the term “crazy” should be a title of respect, not a stamp of rejection. Our history, and that of the ability to change the world, suggests that these people are the ones who create irreversible shifts.
The family lineage
OM’s beginnings were simply preposterous. A handful of young college students had this idea that they could do what few, if any, attempted to do before: call a wave of other young people to forsake all but their ignorance and zeal and love for Jesus, go to other lands to preach the Gospel, and expect God to do something.
Detractors were many for these evangelical punks, but still they went with a few coins in their pockets and no realistic strategy. Even so, God showed up. They didn’t go “from glory to glory”; they went from near-miss to disaster to Square One to crises and back again. There never was a Plan B. It’s human nature for us to Photoshop our history, but—such as it is—this is our DNA, folks. Comfort zone approved or not, any fair study of our history reveals that God was mightiest on our behalf when we were at our weakest. That’s why we do the things we do – or do we any longer?
Who would dare speak against the consolidation of experience, or greater efficiency, or (God forbid) save-the-day software? What can be said in caution to our buffet of pastoral care tools and courses, leadership tracks and counselling fests? Only this: that none of these will ever be able to supplant the need for individuals (and teams) who are prepared to pay any price, jettison their reputation and never give up in their passion for Christ’s kingdom.
Crazy people prefer passion to paperwork, impact to introspection, results to rules. Such people see things that others may never see or even imagine. They don’t care about the personal cost, or being misunderstood. They don’t think much about themselves at all, and perhaps that’s why we think they are crazy. They’re not like us; we know that for sure. But when did being good stewards overtake being radical disciples?
The world is getting crazier by the day; we all agree on that. All our systems and theology seem inadequate in the face of global crises. We need abilities and approaches that are apparently beyond our own imagination (remember when you had one?). Maybe we need to create space for sanctified “crazy” people in our midst who, if nothing else, will challenge us to bend the rules for all the right reasons, who will be rewarded for thinking outside the box and who, in the end, regard not the praise of others but only their calling from God. Not unlike the people who started all this in the first place.