Archive for ecclesiology
It follows. If the God we serve is the missionary God, then what follows? While my last post, Non Sequitor, had 5 things that did not follow the Missio Dei, here are 7 that do. While the non-sequitur list does not include examples for obvious reasons, there are a number of good examples here. Here are some positive expressions of church that reflect the “sending of God.”
- Just do it – Some slogans transcend time because they ring true for now and other times. In athletics, Nike’s advertisers hit a home run. Some church slogans that ring true in light of the Missio Dei include Northstar’s “Don’t go to church, be the church.” This is key for a church that is awakening to the lostness around them. Another great slogan (and book) is by author Jason Dukes. His church seeks to “Live Sent” 24/7/365.
- Healthy networks – Teaching the things one has learned to others is evident in a number of networks, not the least of which is some great guys that are the Reproducing Churches Network. Multiple expressions and strategies here. Humility abounds. The message of Christ is being spread through churches that are planting churches. Through disciples that are making disciples.
- Taking it downtown – There is a movement of churches going into the heart of inner-city areas, bars, and other places where people live. Where lostness dwells. Where an incarnational witness has previously been scarce. Some expressions of this include: Redemption Hill in Richmond, Branch Life Church in Birmingham, and Evergreen in Portland. Another encouraging expression of this includes Christ Presbyterian Church where several families sold their suburban homes to move their families into inner-city Nashville to live among those they are loving and serving through a school of the arts.
- Taking it to the streets – Some have moved the church or made other radical changes. Rodney Calfee converted the children’s area of the The Downtown Church into a halfway house. Seeing people from the suburbs coming into the city for church, he realized that the population segments of downtown were not being reached with the gospel. With radical changes attendance plummeted, but God began to do amazing things in transforming lives. Matthew’s Table is an experience in community in Lebanon, TN. They meet in a coffee shop, and in homes, and wherever else along the way as they live as the church among their community.
- Sending Churches – Churches are sending people out in teams to the nations to be a blessing to communities and to seek to plant churches there. One church, LifePoint, is preparing to send multiple units comprising two teams to two different continents.
- Acoustic church – Caleb Crider with The Upstream Collective presents the “sound system rule” where a church moves toward either an attractional or missional model. Acoustic church could refer to what some call simple, organic, or house churches as well as some larger gatherings which are currently happening in other countries where Church Planting Movments (CPM) are underway. This is church with both a little more and a lot less. Some additions may include food, increased emphasis on prayer, relational discipling while also taking out lots of bells and whistles. Acoustic church is not for the glory or material enrichment of man. For some it serves as a place for the burned as well as the burned-out to have fellowship with believers. For others, however, it is a missional force. Exciting things are in the works here as a number of mega, multi-site, well-known churches are saying enough of our satellite or campus additions. Enough of us reaching a small segment of our city. Let’s go out to where the lost are and be the church among them. This is the church participating in the “sending of God.” Thanks to Neil Cole and Church Multiplication Associates for being one of the leaders in this for some time already.
- Ethnic awareness – Across the U.S. there are churches being planted for people groups from languages and countries including hispanics, Asians, Muslims, Europeans, etc. Additionally, church for skaters, surfers, cowboys, and others are encouraging. When this can coexist in one group of believers it is encouraging as well. Kudos to Mosaic and others that follow their lead.
From time to time I will be posting some things I have heard or read from U.S. church that may be worth a rethink. What are your thoughts?
Billboard ad for a church:
“Times are changing…we are not.”
Sunday morning sermon:
“People don’t come to church on Sunday night because they are lazy.”
Tweet from pastor on Sunday morning:
Paraphrase from a sermon:
Maybe suffering in our context is being willing to teach a Bible study in the church and facing possible ridicule for not doing a good job.
Mega-church pastor interview:
“My greatest value to the organization is not what I do 9:00 to 5:00, Tuesday through Thursday…there’s value, but it’s not my greatest value. If I’m not ready on Sunday morning, regardless of what I’ve done the rest of the week, it doesn’t matter…. It took me a while to give myself permission to do that, but once I did, it’s just better. And every leader has to get there. The younger you are, the less flexibility you have to do that. You’ve just got to do some things you don’t want to do, there are just some things you have to do. But the quicker you can get into a pace of how God wired you–it’s just better.”
Tagline of church ad played on Christian radio station:
“(church name), a church you can believe in.”
Happening again and again, the outcome is almost unavoidable. Individuals going on short-term international mission trips experience a significant level of disorientation due to the unfamiliarity of the location, language, food, culture, etc. Additional factors that often disorient include differences in worldview of the nationals; strategies of engagement and evangelism of on-the-field missionaries or ministers; previously unseen or unconsidered ecclessiology; as well as unbridled immorality and/or abject poverty, etc. Whether in a pre-Christian or post-Christian culture, the experience does not fall into line neatly with pre-meditated expectations or life in the place one calls “home.”
The disorientation process is naturally enhanced by experiencing so much that is “new” as a group on mission. Highly committed to the Commission of Christ for this period of time, group members that identify with each other bond and make fast friendships. The ethnocentric team member that is struggling with personal discomfort instead of fixing his eyes on the prize is oftentimes removed from the center of attention by the group. Through the process of identifying with each other and connecting because of the commitment to something so much higher and greater than ourselves, communitas is formed. This is deeper than community by far. The mission unites. Taking the gospel to the lost of the world is what drives the group. In this setting, friendship comes through living out a shared purpose, rather than a group of friends trying to find a purpose that they can share to become passionate about.
After a week or so, a person is preparing to return home or perhaps just returned. So many thoughts and questions may excite or may trouble a participant. Individuals and groups don’t want to let go of the feeling…of the mission. Whether the experience serves as the sole stimulant or a part of many influencing factors, individuals often realize there are questions to address. Well into the current Upstream Collective JetSet vision trip, Ed Stetzer tweeted: “Really need to go to bed since it is 3am, but ideas are racing through my head. I’m feeling prompted to risk something big for God. G’nite.”
How Should We Then Live? To have been on mission in a sea of lostness, how do I return with enthusiasm to an environment where I have few if any relationships with people that do not already claim to follow Christ? If front line work in this cross-cultural environment is fulfilling the Great Commission, is inviting people to church the equivalent in my home setting? Do I do annual mission trips to scratch the itch that living on mission requires and then devote the rest of my time to saving and preparing for an annual week of communitas?
“How Should We Then Live?” is a question not only for the individual, but also for the sending church. How should we then do church? How should we then live as a sending and sent church?
Yesterday I had the privilege of being on mission with a wonderful group of people. I was amazed as this church worked to bless their community. While helping to break down the largest of the numerous tents, I asked the pastor what percent of the church participated in the event–knowing that it had to be a high number. He responded that probably about 80% of the church members were involved. One person helping had just joined the church this week.
In this missional endeavor, there was lots of sunshine, heat, blisters, language barriers, a fainting, and so much more. Raised blood pressure levels due to deadlines, roles and responsibilities, and natural mini crises were an inevitable part of the day. With so many focused on the mission, these were just speed bumps to be crossed. The purpose was so much bigger than any one person involved. The goal was for the further magnification of the glory of the Most High. As a result, this church was in partnership together way beyond the normal connotation of “community.” What they experienced through this may be more aptly labeled “communitas.”
Good job CHBC! You are a church on mission! Thanks for letting us be a part for the day!
It was my privilege to participate in an international church planting conference in 2007 where Michael Frost was the keynote speaker. Unfortunately his first talk is not recorded here. However, it is important to know that he began the conference with a talk on the post-Christian reality that: had already come about in Australia; was a functioning reality in Europe; and was in the process of becoming reality in North America. (Note: these talks were delivered almost two years ago. During that time, trends have not, in my estimation, slowed or reversed course.)
In this follow-up talk he covers material from a book he coauthored with Hirsch–Exiles. Frost borrows some ideas from Brueggemann about the Hebrews living in Babylon and the resulting exilic literature. This may serve as a roadmap for how we can live a radical faith in our postmodern, post-Christian context.
The content shared here may disturb and disorient some. For others, it may begin or advance a process of reorientation that leads to meaningful change. I would encourage you to invite your spouse, your friend(s), and/or the team with whom you are seeking to share your journey of faith to watch the hour-long video with you. Grab some pastries, doughnuts, bagels, ramen, and/or something else to fit your palate and budget, fix enough coffee or tea to let them know you are serious about this activity as you have prepared in advance in order to honor them. Then view the video and set aside at least another hour to discuss it. Below the video are some possible discussion questions.
BTW – If given serious consideration, this is not easy material. Also, parts of the presentation are NOT APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN.
Some questions for discussion. (Don’t wimp out and do these solo!)
- In what ways does our context merge with post-Christendom?
- If we were to view ourselves as exiles, how would that change our praxis? How might it change our living out the Great Commission?
- What aspects that Frost shares do we consider implementing now? What does that look like?
- What do we need to revisit in the future? When do we plan to come back to this?
- Would the lost community around us agree with our discussion / conclusions to the above questions? How could we verify this? Is that a conversation we are willing to begin?
- What other questions should we be asking right now?
- How serious about this are we? Honestly?
Disorientation -> Reorientation -> Meaningful change
The intensity of a disorientating experience may vary significantly. Some may be confronted with a near-death encounter, others may be captured anew by a sunset. The intensity of the disorientation is not the determining factor to dictate the extent or lack of the change. Reorientation is the process that will determine change.
A contrast in disorientation intensity may be found when considering Lydia and the Philippian jailer. Lydia believes while hearing Paul the first time. We read that “the Lord opened her heart.” On the other side of the spectrum, the jailer is ready to take his own life thinking that the prisoners had escaped following the earthquake. Upon learning that all are still present he runs in and falls to the ground shaking. His next response is then the same as Lydia’s. He believes. (Acts 16)
For both characters mentioned above, their reorientation was a complete paradigm shift. A radical worldview adjustment. They would never see things the same again. Not long after that we see Paul writing one of his most encouraging letters to the church that had been planted in the city of Philippi by most likely Lydia and/or the jailer. Here the reorientation was radical, the change was substantive and lasting, but the disorientation experiences could not have been more different.
When Paul addresses the sages in Athens, the responses are multiple. There is change for all: some sneer; some believe; some want to hear more. Paul offers a message that is completely unfamiliar to them. The disorientation is equal for all in the story, but the reorientation and the resulting change has eternity as the variance. (Acts 17)
These three posts on disorientation have strong correlations to someone’s understanding of and response to the gospel. And church. And mission. And missiology. And life. And…?