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Earlier this spring I attended a satellite service/ church plant of a large First Presbyterian Church. The dress was casual, the music contemporary (Chris Tomlin and some Hillsong style stuff with drums and guitars), the apostle’s creed was dropped from the typical Reformed liturgy. The pastor spoke fairly clearly and seemed to strive for clarity while preaching from a narrative text (book of Acts).

 

Within his sermon he made mention of being “missional”, but yet… He did not define it, did not articulate what it means, or describe what it looks like in action. And unfortunately, as a first-time visitor I left easily without being greeted by anyone except for an assigned greeter at the door.

 

To me, this attempt seemed very cross-wired between Modern/seeker-sensitive and an attempt at being more forward-thinking missional. Good intentions might have gone into putting together this service, but it wasn’t purposeful and intentional enough. It was just a re-dressing of a typical church service.

 

However, being “missional” does not mean dropping historic statements of faith like the Apostle’s Creed (which isn’t even burdened with denominational or sectarian baggage), to only replace it with more bland praise music.

 

Being “missional” doesn’t mean just dropping the word in sermons hoping people will figure out what it means. It takes talking about specific issues of the church’s mission, grounding them in scripture exposition, and trying to engage your church into thinking about, planning, and pursuing missional goals communally; not merely planting ideas in people head’s that they will individually pursue once they leave the four walls of the church building. That kind of individualism is what is plaguing the church already, we don’t need to blindly continue in it.

 

At this point I risk being very arbitrary and subjective; but I believe being “missional” requires us to faces some challenges, including but not limited to:

  1. Understand the people we minister to, by seeking to understand the people and subcultures we live among, which in some form requires us to be involved in oiur communities.
  2. Place people and our ability to spread the gospel to them ABOVE our buildings and our budgets. When we are capable of giving financially to support the traditions we have built up that serve us as believers, and are willing at times to even guilt a congregation into giving a certain percentage to maintain this, but leave many types of ministry to parachurch ministries- we are showing that our priorities lie with mainly serving our own needs- this hardly advances the Gospel.
  3. Humbly realize our minority status as Christians in our country, city, neighborhoods, etc; and adjust our church’s ministry focus to reflect this. Hanging our sign and worship times out by the road inviting the outside world to come join us is not enough.
  4. Avoid pragmatism, (because the ends do not justify the means); but yet still hold our traditions in question as to their effectiveness in communicating the Gospel to our communities.
  5. Be willing to sacrifice our comfort zones because outreach gets messy, sacrifice our time because mercy ministries demand it, sacrifice our money because serving others sometimes ain’t free, and even sacrifice our traditions if they set up needless boundaries.
  6. and *insert other additional radical, mission-focused, jesus-glorifying, self-sacrificing, neighbor-loving, community-engaging activities here*
  7. All of these things cannot be done by adding them onto what we already “do” or “are” as a local church. Being committed to them requires us to actually change how we do church, and shape what that ultimately looks like in motion.

This list is from a post over at Reclaiming the Mind. Read the whole post here.

 

Emerging Theologically

Calling into question many traditional Christian doctrines. This questioning can result in agnosticism toward the particular doctrine, marginalization of the issue, or a settled humble conviction concerning the issue. This is closely tied to being emerging epistemologically.

Examples:

  • Missional focus concerning the spread of the Gospel (Christians do not go to church, they are the church)
  • Less tendency to recognize or give strong credence to traditional theological divisions (e.g. Catholic-Protestant; Reformed-Arminian)
  • Not too keen to systematic theology since to “systematize” ones theology usually implies a seemingly forced system of harmonization that is seen to be inconsistent with both human ability and divine revelation
  • Hesitancy about taking traditional labels such as Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Liberal, or even Emerger since the labels associate them with a systematized system of beliefs and thought
  • 1) Agnostic with regards to the destiny of the unevangelized (e.g. we don’t know the eternal condition of the unevangelized)
  • 2) Inclusivistic with regards to destiny of the unevangelized (e.g. Christ’s blood can save those who don’t have the chance to hear the Gospel)
  • More agnostic toward the nature of hell
  • Willing to see value in multiple theories of the atonement, not just the vicarious substitutionary view
  • Traditional Protestant theology of imputation questioned

 

First of all, kudos to those guys at RTM for dealing with emerging characteristics in sich a straightforward and irenic way. If you are reading this, you really should go over and read their post in its entirety.

 

Now, I would say that most of the items on this list do not characterize myself, even if I might sympathize with those who might hold these views more than your average Reformed guy would, but I would have to whole-heartedly agree with the first item on the list. In fact, I agree with it so much that I can’t understand why we shouldn’t view the church this way. Read it again:

“Missional focus concerning the spread of the Gospel (Christians do not go to church, they are the church)”

 

Why shouldn’t we view the church this way?

 

Theologically speaking, when did the church cease to be a worldwide universal communion of believers on a mission, that only happened to be expressed in the local congregation that usualy met in a building; and became only a local group of card-carrying members that from time to time has to stop and actually remind itself that they are 1) on a mission to spread the gospel, 2) only a small part of the church universal, and 3) not limited by their meeting place/building in being the church? When did this happen?

 

Why should it take an emerging generation of Christians to re-discover and re-awaken a new consciousness of something that the church was all along; a body of believers on a mission?

 

The early church was scarcely limited in their minds to only existing as a designated place to worship at a designated time. The idea of being on a mission to its immediete surroundings and the whole world while being in dynamic communion with one another and participating in community that was intentional and relational was certainly radical but it was implied and understood who lived it. The motivation and drive to draw outsiders unto the Lordship of Christ caused an explosion of growth while simultaneously inspiring great care and concern to be displayed for all others who were ‘in Christ”, even across the cultural chasm that seperated Jews and Gentiles, and different economic classes.

 

Tomorrow: My thoughts on being “missional”.

“We are neither postmodern skeptics nor modern rationalists. We find value in both skepticism, when truly warranted, and rationality, when the probability is conditioned by God to be such.”

Read the whole post over at Reclaiming the Mind.

I found this over at Reclaiming the Mind, its hilarious.

Top ten reasons why the Reformed Theologian did not cross the road:

10. A woman already crossed, and he would be in sin if he followed

9. The road is not safe if it wasn’t built between 1500-1700 AD

8. He believes that “road crossing” has ceased

7. The crossing guard was only helping people cross from one side, so he suspiciously thought he was denying double pre-destination

6. Romans 9 says nothing about crossing roads

5. The “Walk” sign was gender neutral

4. The road was called Tiber Ave

3. John Wesley said that God’s prevenient grace would pave the way, but he had to take the steps himself

2. He wasn’t elected to cross before the foundation of the road

1. Piper said that God is most glorified when we are most satisfied where we are.

Also, check out The Top Ten Reasons the Emerger didn’t cross the road 

and, the Top ten reasons the Dispensationalist didn’t cross the road.

 

http://emerginggrace.blogspot.com/2007/07/more-generous-view.html

Here are some remarks I ran across on a post linked above. (emphasis by me. It’s wordy but worth reading.) 

“The problems inherent in the church of modernity isn’t it’s dogma, it’s the rigid adherence to strict cultural codes that are unrelated to substanative doctrine. Those in the “conversation” make a similar blunder by strictly adhering to the code of cultural revolt. The blunder is compounded because of the philosophical doubt substituted for the sound doctrine that comprises the very message of Christ and the necessary beliefs that accompany saving faith.

It is hard for me to see (as a student of literary theory and philosophy) the Emerging “conversation” as anything more than Marxist theory applied to Christianity. Loving the unlovely and accepting the rejected are certainly part of the work of reconciliation, BUT it is worthlessly futile if the unreconciled are not awakened to their own depravity, repent, and cling to the mercy of Christ. The language of the “conversation” does not permit these to be subjects of certainty. Therefore, the lost remain lost.Life is but a vapor. I would rather be naked, cold and shivering in a corner with the assurance that one day I will be with Christ in paradise, then comfortably sipping a latte in front of warm fire ignorant of my eternal peril. From my vantage point, it is hard for me to see anything but those in the “conversation” rationalizing why this juxtaposition is anything but an illusion foisted by the dogmatists of modernity. It’s arrogant navel gazing, and shameful.”

I liked several of the posters from the post….

1truth.jpg1humility.jpg1liberty.jpg

and didn’t like some of them:

1postmodern.jpg

rob-bell.jpg

 

Relevant magazine recently did an article on Rob Bell and his Mars Hill Bible Church (not to be confused with Mars Hill Church in Seattle), and they focused on mostly environmental and social issues like poverty. I dig some digging on him and apparently he has single handedly re-invented church and made it relevant for thousands of young people in Michigan who must be pretty irrelevant considering they can get fired up about poverty and the environment, but sin and salvation seem a bit better suited for the back burner. This guy doesn’t come right out and deny or defame orthodox Christianity, but he nonetheless is subtle redefining what it means to be Christian with some ideas that are very hostile to Christianity, which will have to be another post at another time. Anyway….

I’ve long understood the relationship with liberal Christianity and social activism. I mean, when you subtract the supernatural aspects of Christianity like a virgin birth, incarnation, atonement, and resurrection,- all you’re left with is a social gospel; moral platitudes of service to others, justice, and good will towards man. But the dividing line between the two camps of orthodox Christianity and a more Liberal “gospel” isn’t so stark as it was half a century before. There are new issues on the table this time around like pacifism and environmentalism as historical Christianity is being parodied, by new voices like Rob Bell and a whole new generation of young people lined up to make the same mistakes.

As far as environmental issues, I’m down with trying to make less of a negative impact on the earth. God created us to be stewards of His creation after all. I compost what I can instead of sending it to a landfill. I drive a small car that gets 35 mpg, and I seriously think we need to get off of fossil fuels. I would be an avid recycler if the county I lived in made that possible. And I respect people who try and “build green” as long as it means they aren’t gutting a place and sending all the debris to a landfill in the process so just so they can live in their eco-friendly monument to their own human merit.

But what I don’t get is the idea that somehow God created all of this; land, water, air, trees, animals, and most importantly PEOPLE- and somehow caring about all the elements of creation have taken precedence over said PEOPLE, more specifically the state of a man’s soul and standing with a Holy God. Nowhere in the Bible did God judge a nation for disrespecting tracts of land or polluting an area. I mean, Jesus referred to “gehenna” as a being a horrible place without actually condemning anyone for the fact it was such a horrid mess. But he had plenty of scorn for those who hid their sin under a false façade of piety, and those who committed idolatry.

I believe for some, this newfound Eco Movement is the new Baal. They might as well craft a golden statue where Hollywood elites can come burn their money in front of it, which is about the equivalent of buying carbon credits. To see people running after the arrogant idea that man has not only created a climate crisis but is also capable of solving it if just evil corporations and other obstacles (you know like those pesky people who like to have electricity and won’t settle for wind-generated power that would struggle to power our toasters) would just get out of their way is bad enough. But to see so called Christians jumping on board is like the High Priest seeing Israelites in line to offer their sacrifice turn and leave to go burn incense to Baal outside the city gates instead. I would imagine that High Priest would shake his head in disappointment, except this is the New Covenant and the High Priest and Mediator of this covenant is Jesus Christ Himself who has to witness the great exchange taking place in His church, that exchange being the trading of clinging to His righteousness for grace that covers our sins, for the coolness factor of being hip progressive Christians who care about the environment and eliminating poverty instead.

“When people say that the authority of Scripture or the centrality of Jesus is in question, actually it’s their social, economic and political system that has been built in the name of Jesus that’s being threatened,” Bell says. “Generally lurking below some of the more venomous, vitriolic criticism is somebody who’s created a facade that’s not working…But I love everybody and you’re next!” he says, giggling. “That’s how I respond to criticism.”