Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Then and Now...something's changed!

1900’s – My church AS community

There was a time in the United States when “church” was at the center of community.  Friendships were centered there, so fellowship and recreational activities were enjoyed in the context of those relationships, even if they didn't take place at the church building.  

It was a time when the cultural values were much closer to Christian values and a great majority of people were raised in Christian faith, so the intentionality of discipling each other in the ways of God was probably less challenging.  Most of the people who lived in the neighborhood were probably of one Christian denomination or another.  When “God” was mentioned, one just naturally assumed the Christian God.  Concepts of heaven and hell, and faithfulness and sin were commonly understood.  In the mid-century, post-war era that many still remember, the church grew easily, and for many today, that’s what church life and the relationships within it should look like.  The Pastor was the primary discipler of this community. 

2000’s – The Cultural Shift

Today, life is very different!  Today, the world is coming to the United States.  Beyond that, American culture has shifted... when we consider the people in the places where we live, work and play – it is probably the minority who are publically Christian and faithful church-goers.  The neighborhoods and communities are no longer predominately Christian.  For many, it seems like a strange land with a variety of gods, religions, and practices that aren't understood.  

Somehow, it’s as if we've been transported for a missionary adventure without having been prepared!  What are we to do?  

2000's - The Missionary Shift

Today, we need to think about our lives, here in the United States, as though we are foreign missionaries. To make the Missionary Shift, a new skill-set is necessary.  It is vital that the people of God gain a higher fluency for applying the Gospel to the circumstances of life and learning to impart compassion and comfort that sustains when circumstances are beyond control. 

Missionaries study the culture and the people so that they can learn how to communicate the Gospel in a way that the people in that land can understand. 

What if each church community
grew into a set of missional communities and did exactly that? 

  • What if we understood our church as a place of worship AND a mission training center?  
  • What if we discovered how to become missionaries within the network of relationships that we have?
  • What if we had a better understanding of how to be generous sowers of Gospel seeds and knew how to disciple the people that were drawn to know the Lord, just like a foreign missionary?  
  • What if, we began to gather in smaller communities where we live, work, or play to grow as disciples of Christ together, as a missional community? 

Reading the gospels and the book of Acts,
this seems to be Mission, Jesus style.  

The Pastor identifies missional community leaders who become trained to do their part, sharing God’s love with the people around them, helping them come to know the Lord and grow in His ways.  This seems to be the way that ministry has developed on the foreign mission field for years - with the primary focus being  the identification and training of local leaders.  
What if… just imagine…what if on Sunday there were now multiple missional communities gathering for worship together?  The Pastor fulfills his calling to preach the Word and administer the sacraments, as well as fulfilling the role of equipper described by Paul in Ephesians 4, preparing God’s people for works of service.  

This could be our new perspective!

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