We Won't Get to the Messy Margins From the Manageable Middle

We won’t get to the point of sharing Jesus with people on the margins of society from the ‘middle’ of the local church’s classic programming approach.  Here’s why.

Between the rhetoric of the ‘gospel for all’ and the reality of how most local churches function, exists a deeply embedded and profoundly institutional gap.  It’s a gap between the manageable middle and the messy margins. This requires me to be blunt.  Most local churches are designed for organizational stability, the preservation of orthodoxy and around systems that can be managed.  As a result they exist as institutions rather than dynamic, responsive communities.  This is the manageable middle and makes it difficult, if not impossible to pursue new opportunities and ideas.  The new, the innovative and the challenging often can’t survive the policy & procedural gauntlet of an institutionalized structure.

Just because I am blunt and critical does not mean I think the church is irrelevant.  However it is stuck in a manageable middle.  Gordon MacKenzie, author of "Orbiting the Giant Hairball" describes this as a 'Hairball':


Ironically, all churches have members who have ideas about taking the gospel TO the margins, but because of the inertia that defines the manageable middle, they end up existing ON its margins.

Could this be you?

Church members with ideas to reach the marginalized of their communities can become marginalized themselves when their ideas and approaches represent threats to the systems and stability of institutional church structures.  They encounter resistance in many forms from church leadership.  To the leadership of the manageable middle, reaching the messy margins of a society usually implies:

·         Risk – financial, legal, theological, reputational etc…

·         Minimal “Gospel ROI”

·         A low chance of adding to church numbers

·         A potential shake up to congregational dynamics if people from that target community actually start to attend

·         A high leadership coaching investment to get a new idea going. 

·         Shaking up classic notions of how churches can and should be engaged  with society

These things don’t appeal to a structure or leadership occupied with keeping the machine going and in a stable state.  So what happens?  The person with the idea runs up against obstacles rather than equipping.  Eventually they drift to the edges of church life or maybe just leave the church completely, because there is no place for them.

Do you know someone like this?

Are you one of those people?

We have a proposal. 

Encompass Partnerships is launching The Urban Mission Company in Calgary on Tuesday January 30th 2018. Click here for your invitation.  Our purpose is to provide a supportive and equipping community to those who have the inclination and gifting to take the gospel from the manageable middle of typical church life, to the messy margins of our society. 

We are not out to bash the church.  Nor are we intent on starting a church for the disgruntled!  However, we are intent on ensuring the Church of Calgary does not lose the impact these people can have on reaching hard-to-reach people with the gospel.  We are a temporary context & an equipping community where a person with a calling to reach the marginalized is not lost to the building of the Kingdom of God in Calgary.

It may be you need a context like The Urban Mission Company  to develop your idea.  We will help you with that.  Our intent is also to assist you to head back to your church and bring them with you in your gospel outreach to the edges of our society.

No one should ever be left out of an encounter with Jesus.

Harv Matchullis

Executive Director, Encompass Partnerships


403 970 4148

Harv Matchullis