Archive for missiology
Attention church planters….I have a list of the top 9 cities in the US that are ready for a church plant. Looking for somewhere to make a difference….a good place to offer hope….try…
Wichita Falls, TX
Santa Barbara, CA
Carson City, NV
Now these aren’t your typical prime cities for church planting. These aren’t seminary cities, these cities don’t contain large corporations or tons of affluent people. In fact, the opposite is true. Fox Business.com lists these cities as the 9 American Cities nearly destroyed by the recession. Planting in these types of cities goes against conventional wisdom. Andy Stanley planted Buckhead among the most affluent of Atlanta and recently the team of Giglio/Tomlin also chose Atlanta, a city which has a mega-church for every Starbucks around the city. I’m not saying they chose easy locations….but it makes you wonder….what if Giglio and Tomlin had planted in Flint, MI where there is a 21% poverty rate….would they have a mega -church before they even opened the doors.
What is the purpose of planting a church? To build a name, a brand, to launch a career, to gather disgruntled sheep from smaller, more traditional flocks…..or is it more than that. I see the church as a manifestation of “His Kingdom come” here on earth. A community of authenticity, a community that offers hope, a helping hand, a message of hope to those that are hurting. These 9 cities don’t need entertaining, they don’t need self-promoting, churches with laser shows and billion dollar budgets. They need people that will love them, serve them, and help them come together for the greater good. They need pastors who would rather feed the poor than dine with the wealthy, they need pastors who would rather cater to the spiritually lost than the spiritually disgruntled, they need pastors who would rather spend times in homes than they would at conferences. They need you!
-edited 1/25 for content and clarity
On the TGC site today, Jonathan Dodson posted, Be Missional, Not Superficially Contextual where he generalized that many church plants today are not planting a church that fits their culture, but planting something that looks a whole lot like the church in the adjacent community, town, city, etc. Dodson wrote about two concerns with U.S. (at least I believe he is speaking about efforts inside the U.S.) church planting to “a superficial approach to culture and, second, gospel contamination that results from this approach.”
In short, I agree with Dodson. Also, I commend him for promoting contextualization as several have criticized it of late. His piece raises a couple points I want to write on quickly.
First, whether what Dodson calls syncretism is actually that or obscurantism as normally evaluated on a contextualization scale is debatable. Though I would contend the latter would be consistent with most evaluations, I see the situation he writes about as a possible combination of woes. On one side of the scale by making the gospel unclear due to forms that are held–he mentions “building, music, service, website design”–which may not fit the culture one is entering being a classic expression of obscurantism. On the other side, the consumeristic vice of “blending Christianity with another religion, in this case consumerism” could be described as syncretism. For this to be syncretism, though, church participants would be worshipping the objects which had been intended to aid in worship in addition to the One who alone is worthy of praise. This would be a very strong statement–a very strong accusation.
Second, and, in my opinion, the most important is that it is normal to be dealing with beginning contextualization issues in U.S. church planting. Issues such as whether or not a denomination needs to be on a sign or what style of music a people should sing, or whether or not to multi-site, or fill in the blank. In a number of contexts overseas, however, the reverse is of great importance. A much more common concern when on mission to other nations is what denotes over-contextualization. Cross-cultural planters must be careful to seek to express the gospel and the church in ways that are able to be understood and fit within the rhythms and moires of life in that context while seeking to keep the gospel of Christ as the point of transformation, the point of tension.
The contextualization issues that planters address today are important, but they are basic compared with some deeper questions that need to be addressed. As planters and church leaders, we would do well to be seeking to contextualize at deeper levels.
If you are easily offended, skip this post. You can come back soon for the next one.
This week I learned of Tim Minchin, a highly-talented British-Australian who is either a comedian that sings or a singer that does comedy–both descriptions seem accurate. In listening to some of his stuff, I found almost all of his songs and comedy to be laced with profanity, except for one song that consists of profanity sprinkled with conjunctions and a name. One theme that seems to run throughout his stuff is a disdain for all things religious as well as anything God-related.
Minchin could easily be a key narrator for a western, post-Christian world. With a recent trending on Twitter and his concerts taking place in some of the largest venues in the western world, his message clearly resonates with a large percent of audiences in Australia, the UK and the US. Having examined various aspects of religion including a number of key points from the Bible, he rejects it all. But, he is not rejecting all that is good. In what is becoming a Christmas standard, White Wine in the Sun, he sings of the deep trust and safety he has in his family. His holiday celebrations with them represent a place and time that he treasures. Something that he wants to convey and extend to his baby daughter. He values the deep community made up of people that he loves, a people that love him well.
In this song, Minchin celebrates the sentimental aspect of Christmas. His celebration is of a Christ-less Christmas. For him, I pray a wonderful celebration with those he loves and that one day he will experience the transformational love of Jesus. For me and others that read here, I pray that we can learn from Tim about how to better represent Christ to those that have wholly embraced a post-Christian non-belief.
When I think of Christmas I think of comfort….traditional songs, warm food, candles, fireside chats, thick sweaters…to me Christmas is all about comfort.
When I look at the first Christmas I don’t really see much comfort. Jesus left the right hand of the throne of God for a dirty, smelly manger. He left behind the worship of the saints for the sounds of sheep and camels. He left a place of prominence for a place of obscurity. He was born to an unwed mother and went from being the Creator to the created. He went from being all-powerful to needing diaper changes and meals. He learned a new language, found a new role, learned a new craft and subjected himself to everything human….sore feet, acne, being hot/cold, temptation….everything human. And he did this…for us. He was the ultimate incarnational, cross-cultural missionary. He took on a life of being uncomfortable to please God and rescue us.
In our ministries we get to choose who is uncomfortable….us or them. Our traditional, attractional models are comfortable for us. We invite someone to our church or our small group or our event. We invite them into our world….and they are the ones made uncomfortable. They have to learn our rules, our “Jesus” language, our way of dress and our rules of behavior.
This is the primary way the US church does ministry….we like it on our terms, in our context…it’s safe for us. But if we look at the way Jesus did life and ministry we see a different approach. Not only did he become the uncomfortable one in his birth, but he maintained this approach throughout his ministry. He taught in the synagogues but he also dined with sinners. He spoke with religious leaders but also met a samaritan woman at a well. He was viewed with suspicion by religious leaders because he chose to hang out with tax collectors, whores, the sick and the crippled. He never lost his faith or became like the sinners he was with but he constantly chose to learn their language, enter their world, minister in their context and in doing so took the gospel to places it had never been before.
So it’s not about giving up our comfortable Christmas with our rich traditions, favorite foods and family. It’s about looking at the amazing life of Jesus and learning from Him. We have a hurting world all around us….most of which will never come in contact with our church campuses and dynamic worship services. They already gather and find community in clubs, pubs, coffee shops and other activities. What if we became uncomfortable and went to where they are….entered into their world. What if we stopped inviting and started going and serving. What if we went to church less and became the church more?
I want to learn to accept being uncomfortable as a way of life. The best way I can honor Jesus and his birth is to learn from his example and allow myself to be made uncomfortable for the sake of King and Kingdom. Merry Christmas!
Last night my wife was helping a friend that has recently begun seeking to learn and live the ways of Christ. During their time together, my wife mentioned the Jewish people. In reply, our friend shared that she had heard the word Jew before, but had no idea what it meant. None.
This kind mother of four is, for several months now, seeking to teach her children to follow Christ. She is recently characterized by sharing the hope that she has because of Christ with others in her neighborhood. But she did not have a bit of knowledge about the Jewish people, the nation of Israel or any of their history either in Scripture or modern day.
Realizing this made me aware that I need to slow down and back up in my expectations of what others know. Seems like a good idea with her to now “start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” Also, our realization last night made me thankful that we are called to make disciples that obey everything Christ commanded, not disciples that are simply chock full of knowledge.
Putting up a video today that has gotten some play time lately. It was brought to my attention by a tweet from an Upstream Collective buddy and posted on the Missional Church Network. In case you have not seen it, I encourage you to make the time to work through it. Participating in the Page Lecture series at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Christoper Wright does a great job of making a case for a missional reading of Scripture.
Next week Sojourn Community Church will be hosting an Engage@Work Forum where I will be participating on a panel. In preparation for that, panelists were asked to put a paragraph down addressing “why [work] is an important issue for Christians and the church as a whole to consider.” Below is my response. Other responses will be linked here as soon as they are posted.
Work began or at least was radically altered as a result of the curse and consequence of sin as recorded in Genesis. Because of this, redemption of a person’s work is one of the key ways that evidence transformation by Christ. While this real-world working out of one’s faith is naturally a blessing to the individual, it is vastly more. In a context where bottom-line and the resulting self-gratification is often viewed as both the primary objective and metric, work that is done for the glory of God is markedly different to observers including co-workers, clients and the community. Products manufactured and services delivered with the highest levels of quality control, contributions to make more just the lives of the needy, work relationships that are healthy and others-oriented, and work policies and practices that raise the ethic levels of the business showing it to be distinctly different are some of the ways that exalt Christ in the workplace. In a day of globalization, work that is conducted in this way has potential to provide evidence of the reign of God to the nations. This transformation of work from being the curse of man to a vehicle that exalts Christ to the nations in keeping with the mission of God is a clear example of the complete redemption that comes only through Christ.
With the swearing in of the new Greek Prime Minister this past week, I heard multiple news pundits share that it was really strange to see such a strong religious aspect accompany a seemingly secular event. Many references were made to separation of church and state–yes, our separation of church and state. Some personalities seemed to imply that our less religious political transfers of power should be more of the norm for other western, developed countries. The commentary was often laden with ethnocentrism mixed with disbelief that others could be so different. Disbelief that others could be so elementary or even so wrong.
Just because there are religious leaders all over the place does not make Greece or other declared Orthodox countries super-religious. This is not too different for Catholic countries as well, but one peculiarity of Orthodoxy is the nationalism that it reinforces and generates. Without a centralized Pope, many Orthodox countries have their own Patriarch. There has been a multi-century symbiotic relationship between the state and the church in these lands which I would contend continues to this day. The state has relied on the church to confirm its voice or authority as the one designated by God to lead the people. As for those of the cloth, the church has relied on the state to keep its head and shoulders connected. Whether this is actually execution, state funding, and/or unique, favorable legislation, the mode changes, but the outcome is very similar. In addition to the nationalism that this codependent relationship fosters, it also often leads to a secularization of society. Everyone is aware that there are charades afoot and all are willing and expecting to play along. Once the ceremonies are over, however, all can return to normal.
So, methinks, maybe a little less ethnocentric worldview would be good in general and especially so for the sent ones. Also, methinks that there is much to learn about how another people think, worship, live, etc. Understanding culture is a never-ending incremental process that we would do well to embrace if we are to be the ones to announce and demonstrate in contextually appropriate ways that indeed, our God does reign.
There is a percolating discussion on the blogosphere about the mission of the church with the release and subsequent reviews of What is the Mission of the Church? by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert. I first learned about this from my compadres at UC and then this morning saw a pretty exhaustive list of those critiquing the book on Stetzer’s blog.
I wanted to add my 2 cents to the conversation. First, let me state the obligatory disclaimer that I have not read the book. So now for my critique…just kidding.
Second, I have decided that these discussions make me tired. Not because they are unimportant, on the contrary I think they are very important. Thinking through why these discussions make me tired, I thought maybe it was because the debate wasn’t done over a cup of coffee. Then I dismissed this as I took a sip of my coffee and still didn’t feel the conversation to be any brighter. Then I realized it tires me because it is not done with visible eyeballs. There is something about sitting around the table or campfire or wherever and drinking a cup of coffee or tea or whatever and talking about how these things impact our lives. So, carry on the discussion, I just wish it could happen with some of my buddies where theological discussions happen best: in person, in community.
Still, I do have something I would like to offer to the conversation. Here’s a clip with Frost’s take on the purpose of the church. This seems important as Gombis states that he is “not sure that the authors are familiar with the viewpoints of missional Christians.” Consider this guy as one of the voices among the missional tribe(s).