Monday, October 17, 2005

What is the gospel?

Scot McKnight over at Jesus Creed has just finished another fantastic series called 'What is the gospel?'. In my experience this is a question that not many Christians ask themselves, but one that is foundational to who we are as the people of God.

If you're bold enough I'd like to suggest you head over and check out this series. (The easiest way to get to each of the posts is by this link.) But be prepared to have some things you might consider basics a little shaken up and helpfully put back together.

Also I think this is a crucial question for anyone seeking to have a missional focus in their lives, because your understanding of the gospel will shape the content of that missional focus.

Happy reading and let me know what you think.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Please, no more doing church for 'them'

For a few years I've thought that Seeker Sensitive Services are useless. I don't think I've ever been to one that I really liked or would be happy to take a not-yet-christian friend to. Even the idea that the church can put on a service/show that would engage effectively engage my friends seems ridiculous. And so I've thought that the place of the Sunday service is really for Christians to gather and encourage one another through remembrance of who God is and what he has done. Given those feelings I was very pleased to see a recent post from Ryan Bolger at TheBolgBlog titled 'Please, no more doing church for 'them'. He manages to gracefully articulate some of my feelings for me. I've included my fav bits below, but go and read the whole post here.
Relevant churches are rarely even closely relevant. Most Christians don't even like them. They might be better than Mom and Dad's morning service, but they usually are quite irrelevant to the outsider. The church person cannot 'guess' what the seeker wants, undoubtedly getting it wrong. 

A focus on the church service as connecting point perpetuates the idea that following Jesus is about going to church. The community's life takes the form of American congregational religion rather than the fluid practices of the gospel, and this emphasis presents quite a barrier to the 'seeker' outside, as they need to be converted to the values of American religious congregationalism before they can come to faith. Thus, virtually all of those who are attracted to the relevant service were raised in church or are currently going to another church -- they are not the never-churched. In contrast, a missional congregation connects with those outside the faith by, well, connecting with those outside of the community in their world. Connecting happens not in a 'come to us' CHURCH service, but through 'go and dwell' church SERVICE, i.e.
Mission happens in the 'world', in the world formerly known as secular, on their 'turf' -- not ours. As servants, the Christian connects with the seeker through service in their world.

Love your neighbours

Over at Signposts Phil has posted this great quote which I feel fantastically critiques much of the way Christians approach their faith today.
Jesus took the command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and pushed the definition of who is our neighbor, out, out, and still further out, until it reached to the ends of the earth and included all of humanity—all of God’s children.

Because Jesus’ teachings are so challenging and radical, it is much more comfortable to focus on a quiet, private, personal relationship with him than it is to follow his teachings that call for a public prophetic witness.

Alvin Alexsi Currier
I can't say I've ever heard of Alvin Alexsi Currier before, but I'd be interested to read more of his work if he continues to speak this powerfully. How often do we 'find' ourselves distracted by things that don't really matter so that we don't have to take a hard truth seriously?

Saturday, October 8, 2005

Love purely because love is right

Scot McKnight over at Jesus Creed is doing a series of posts called Doctrinal Statements and the Emerging Movement. In it he is reviewing Emergent Village's response and it's certainly worth a read. One thing particularly struck me was the following quote.
There is rhetoric here that seeks to rectify the “in” vs. “out” mentality of lots of evangelicalism, where “mission” is seen as evangelising others to become “in” people instead of “out” people. Emergent Village sees the process as a missional relationship of love: Christians are to love other not just because they are Christians out on a mission to get the “out” folk into the “in” folk, but because love is of the essence of God. I see an attempt to rectify “love purely for the sake of evangelism” instead of “love purely because love is right.” In other words, if God’s trinitarian essence is love rather than “getting love back” from the other persons of the Trinity, then the Christian is to love because love is the essence of what Christians are and are to do and be.
I love this, it cuts straight through any argument or debate about friendship evangelism which has bugged me for a long time.

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Monday, October 3, 2005

Aren't we all Cross Cultural Missionaries?

I've spent the weekend at a Short Term Mission Training Program run by Missions Interlink. Jay (my wife) and I are taking a team to Egypt in December with Interserve. The course was certainly insightful and great training for Short Term Missionaries, but key for me was the thinking about cross cultural mission.

I'm more and more convinced that all Christians (not just overseas missionaries) need to take the principles of cross cultural mission seriously. In fact I would say that we all need to view ourselves as cross cultural missionaries. Our culture is so diverse that any time we speak to people we are (consciously or not) faced with cross cultural issues. Christians need to be particularly aware of the Christian culture (which I affectionately refer to as ChurchLand) that they are a part of if they want to engage others with the Jesus. The cross cultural issues are often more subtle that the ones faced if you go to spread the gospel in tribal Africa, but they are still real and have a big impact on our effectiveness.

I often wonder if the Church here will ever take this seriously?