I have invited some friends to begin a dialogue this week on their blogs (hopefully the first of many such opportunities for interaction) about Churches of Christ and the missional conversation.
The synchroblog is structured as follows:
Monday -Why the missional conversation in Churches of Christ is important.
Wednesday - The challenges that the missional conversation presents to Churches of Christ.
Friday - The strengths of our theological heritage that enable us to both enter and contribute to the larger missional conversation.
The days in between (Tuesday, Thursday, and the weekend) are meant to give time for interaction and engagement with the conversation. I will be posting links as soon as I become aware of them.
Here is my take on Why the missional conversation in Churches of Christ is important.
- Scripture is central for Churches of Christ and a missional theology helps us to read "with the grain" of the Biblical narrative in deeper ways than we might have before.
- As a movement we have made much of the Church and a missional theology helps us to refocus the Church into its proper place in the larger Mission of God.
- We have a rich heritage with some theological giants who gave great gifts to the wider church. A missional theology enables us to return to our roots in the Restoration Movement and regift these treasures to the contemporary church.
I want to take some time tomorrow to try and explain why I think these are so important. But for now, is there anything you would add?
"I like my church, we've built a really nice cage for God."
-- Homer Simpson
There are those in Christendom who would suggest that absolutely everything about the church in North America is broken far beyond repair and the only way to move forward is to "rethink", "reimagine", and/or "redefine" church. My first question to those who would make such a suggestion is "What do you mean by church?" Some of those who are "pioneering" new communities are really just rehashing of the old ways. It's what Alan Roxburgh calls "doing the same old things in sexy new ways". For example, some suggest that pews create an audience and performer mentality in our churches. So those communities purchase couches and chairs and sit them in a circle. The problem...one person is still speaking and everyone is only listening. Sounds to me like the same problem with a "new sexy way" of dressing it up.
But are there really things in the church that are irreversibly broken and need to be rethought, reimagined, and/or redefined? I would imagine that there are some things that would fall into that category. But I don't think they belong there simply because someone deems them to be irrelevant or culturally conditioned. Sometimes both of those judgments are contextual (a.k.a. in the eye of the beholder). However, there are a few things that I find in our churches that are needing to be rethought or reimagined because as they stand right now are in conflict with the explicit teaching of Scripture and are counterproductive or detrimental to the health of the church both locally and globally. The following are some of those areas...
When we read the Gospels it becomes very clear very quickly that Jesus is not interested in people who are willing to meet him half way. In fact, he appears to show more animosity toward their "offer" than those who reject him entirely. Why? Perhaps one of the reasons that Christ is so opposed to voluntary discipleship or nominal commitment is because they can appear to be genuine. I am convinced that there is little else more damaging than someone whom Christ may or may not consider his child (in the sense of having a place in the community of believers) somehow being a representative to someone of what it means to be a Christian. So how do we move away from a voluntary discipleship model? I don't have much of an answer but it is an issue that needs to be addressed in many of our churches.
Rugged (and Respected) Individualism
The more that I read the New Testament the more that I become aware of the overwhelming tendency to focus on corporate or communal aspects of faith than the rugged individualism that has become the Baal of our nation and really of Western culture. Being able to take care of, provide for, and make a name for self is seen as the barometer of one's status or success in life. This concept has been murderous on our understanding of the church, of witness (a.k.a. evangelism), discipleship, and even our understanding of God. Trinity is anything but individualistic. God himself embodies characteristics of a community. To relegate this concept to nothing more than an understood notion is to remove an immense amount of power and strength from the community of believers.
Evangelism as the Goal/Task of Paid Professionals and Religious Extroverts
This problem is tied to the first two. But this also runs deeper than it may appear. Somehow we have forgotten that every part of our life is to be a living testimony to the God of the Universe who sent his Son to this earth in humility to live, die, and raise again victorious so that all could have an opportunity to be eternally reconciled to the Father Himself. We need to take some time to rethink what evangelism is, why we do it (hint: it has to do with the Mission of God), and how it is to be done. Forget tracts, 5 steps, 4 spiritual laws, and other gimmicks. I'm talking about living a life of humility, sacrifice, service, simplicity, and holiness that is always a testimony to the power of God in our lives as individuals and as a corporate body of believers.
What needs to be rethought where you are? Have you sought to answer any of these questions already? What answers did you come to?
It's time to rethink some things. I think I'm going to start with my heart.