(I would be the one with the note pad...minus the hair!)
We live in a strange culture. Secular culture changes, it seems, minute by minute. About ten years ago, when I was studying youth ministry at Liberty University, the word was that culture made a complete turn every six months. Today it might be even more rapid. It is astounding how far our culture has advanced technologically. It is disheartening to see the depths of the decay of accepted norms of behavior. But, then again, should we expect anything less? One thing is for certain: Culture is dynamic. It changes very rapidly.
Equally befuddling is the rapidly changing church culture of North America. For some fifteen years now (perhaps even longer according to some) there has been an extensive growth of influence in "Missional Christianity". I was really first exposed to such terminology at Biblical Theological Seminary where I did my postgraduate work. Biblical, I suppose, is somewhat on the leading edge of this movement. They have completely reconfigured their course work along the lines of a missional emphasis. I am really grateful for my studies at Biblical. I think it was a very good complement to all that I learned at Liberty. My thinking about how the gospel engages culture was shaped in significant ways at Biblical.
There are far more intelligent folks writing about the present nuances of "Emergent Christianity" on the one hand, or "Missional Christianity" on the other. Ed Stetzer, Mark Driscoll, Brian McLaren, and Milfred Minatrea are just a few names of folks I've read about these respective Christian "movements". If you are interested, you can check out the Emergent Village for more information about that stream. Or, just type the word "missional" in the Google search bar and tens of thousands of links will instantly pop up for your perusing. (For the record, I am in no way endorsing the Emergent Movement. I simply cite this as an key example of radical change in modern Christianity.)
My real point with today's post was simply to get you thinking about how much of a reality change is in our world. Some people loath it. Other folks are clamoring for it. What are we to make of all this? Let me give you a few of my thoughts. If you have anything to add to the conversation (hey, that's a great postmodern word!), then jump in!
1. "Missional Christianity" is a redundancy. There are Christians who are not the least bit interested in reaching the lost. This is sad and should not be the norm. Maybe you are one of them. However, as I understand my Bible, there is a fundamental emphasis upon the church's mission to be a channel for God's eternal blessing to be communicated to the world (Gen. 12; Matt. 28; Acts). There are clearly some great insights from those who fancy themselves as missional. My point is simply that we, as followers of Christ, are summoned to follow him into the world with love, grace, and truth (John 20:21). It is my conviction (since I believe the Bible teaches) that all true followers of Christ should demonstrate a great concern for carrying the gospel to the world.
2. A changing culture may require a change in our methods but it should never cause us to actually change our message. You don't hear as much today about crusade evangelism or door-to-door campaigns. Some worship services today seem more like rock concerts than church services. Yet, in some instances, these progressive contexts are quite effectively reaching new people with the gospel of Jesus. In other places, the true message has been compromised or blatantly downplayed in order for people to "feel God's presence". Jesus challenged the traditional religious practices of his day (he also respected many of them...like teaching in the synagogue). The point here is that we do need to be culturally sensitive. But even more so, we need to be Biblically obedient. We need to take an uncompromising approach with an unchanging message to an ungodly world.
3. We live in a deceptive age...KEEP WATCH! I fear that many Christians are far too comfortable with judging other Christians. We need to nurture grace and communication with others who disagree with us. At the same time, the Scriptures give us a clear warning that there will be many false teachers and deceivers in the last days. We need to check everything against the Bible. There are methods that clearly violate the word of God. Something isn't necessary better or "beneficial" just because it is new or "cool". But remember, the enemy is subtle and deceptive. Whether it is clinging to stale and outdated traditions, or naively embracing new ones, we need to be watchful in a culture like ours.
4. Biblical, Christ-centered worship...authentic, mind-heart-and-soul discipling...and courageous, truthful, and gracious evangelism should be our focus. Maybe we are spending way too much time on being "hip". Maybe we need to focus more on preaching an unadulterated gospel and less on developing cooler websites. I've always loved the simple statement: Make sure you keep the main thing, the main thing. Our world doesn't need cooler programs; it needs Christ. Our world needs a church which is staunchly committed to the glory of God and making that glory known in word and deed. Actually, I think people are looking for simpler things these days. Our culture is overstimulated. Folks' schedules are overbooked. Maybe it's time for us to stop "doing churchy things" and to start being the true, sacrificial church of Jesus Christ.
Do you have any thoughts on this subject? Do you think the contemporary church is compromising or properly adapting to a changing culture?