Now that the church plant I am heading up has become “official” knowledge, there are plenty of people asking me what the church will look like. These encounters have provided some interesting insights into the ways people think about church. You might think that when people ask you a question like that, they will then listen and absorb what you have to say. But from time to time, you would be wrong. I am discovering that there are a lot of people out there (especially Christians) who have what you might call prejudices about the shape of church.
To be fair, most people have listened to an explanation that has a lot to do with (in technical terms) exegesis and incarnational theology, and have responded positively. But there are those who don’t know how to react to a church model that is not programmatic or pragmatist. I had one well-meaning fellow actually disagree with me-that’s right, he asked me what the church’s vision was and when I told him, he disagreed with me. That is a little like the following conversation:
Potential Congregant, “So, pastor, how are you feeling today?”
Pastor, “I am feeling well, thank you.”
Potential Congregant, “I don’t think so.”
How does one respond to that?
In any event, the more I reflect on the culture and the role of the Church, the more I like the motivation behind the missional model. In several significant ways I think the culture has become post-Christian, and our role in the culture has changed somewhat. As a result, the Church in America is more of a missionary endeavor than it has been in the recent past, and that requires some changes in thought process.
What does this mean for church leaders? Here are a couple of quick thoughts. First, we need to exegete culture, find points of common grace, and utilize them. This is the process the great missionaries have always used when entering “the jungle,” and it is becoming more and more necessary for American Christians. Secondly, we need to pull people out of the nooks and crannies of culture which threaten their souls. As far as I can tell, good missions work not only meets people where they are, it betters their state and militates against evil societal impulses.