Kan Van Wormen (Exiles #2)

Kan Van Wormen is Dutch for “can of worms” (more or less). That should make my good friends, Nico-Dirk & Diana Van Loo, happy Dutch campers.

Michael Frost, in his book Exiles, has a couple of interesting observations about liminality and communitas:

“Those who have emerged from a liminal state are able to bring a challenge to normal society about the meandering ordinariness of life … As people undergo liminality and communitas in whatever forms, they should be able to return to normal, structured church society and engage in this important dialectic (Exiles, page 112).”

I’ve been involved in youth and young adult ministry since the original Miami Vice made its debut. I’ve lost track of the number of times YWAMers (or other short-term NGOs) returned to their home church, only to become frustrated and disillusioned by the church’s apparent disinterest, if not outright dismissal, of their liminal experiences.

The results were easily predictable: frustrated YWAMers gave up and went back to where life made sense and they felt understood and appreciated – YWAM. This, in turn, reinforced the resentful perception that para-church NGOs are “stealing” gifted young people from their churches.

The counter-punch argument usually sounds something like, "Well, if the church would just do what it’s supposed to be doing, the para-church wouldn’t be needed.” I can’t in good conscience subscribe to that mindset – although I’ll freely admit that, in my early pastoral years, I was guilty of giving it voice.

If repentance = changing your mind, then I’ve repented.

I think several things are going to have to change in the next few years:

Churches will start listening, carefully and strategically, to the liminal fringe.

The line between church and para-church will/needs to be erased. Para-church isn’t valuable only if the church fails at its mission. Para-church NGOs (liminal ministries) are part of the church and must be allowed to impact the rest of the church.

What if – instead of wracking their brains for more “felt need” attractional programs – churches invested in short-term liminal communitas that attract people who are motivated by service, rather than felt needs?

The mind boggles. Who knew Kan Van Wormen could be so nourishing (and tasty)?

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