Misunderstanding or ?
I find myself at times in the middle of what seems to be a battle over the how of missions or evangelism. I can think back to my Jesus Freak days and remember the goal of my fellow ‘freaks’ was to share Christ and truly seeing more and more come to faith. This was accomplished, usually by a type of confrontational sharing, which brought a conversation to a point where a decision had to be made. I would rejoice and share with my fellow brothers what had happened. We prayed and continued to reach out to those around us. I know that my group of Jesus Freak friends ultimately made their way to a hippie commune in the Foothills outside of Sacramento that saw a group come to faith. This commune became the center of much activity over the next decade.
As I reflect to my present day experience I have to be honest and admit that most of my theologically driven friends do little in the way of evangelism or missions. We are too caught up into making sure our theology conforms to a specific creed or standard. Don’t get me wrong I do affirm the historic creeds of the church, which have helped define or unfold the basic tenants of Christianity over the centuries. The challenge as one of my profs would state is that theology has to move you to be more not less missional in your approach to living day to day.
I know that Jesus seemed to spend more time teaching by doing than having a classroom in the desert. He would tell simple parables or stories that more reflected the present day culture or lifestyle. He didn’t have some long drawn out discussion on the ordo salutus or the different views of eschatology. He seemed to paint images with his ongoing life as a classroom setting. He obviously walked and talked with his group. I believe Jesus understood the more dynamic way to teach was by a living example than a power point presentation on his mac air in the desert.
I am reading a book on the missional church which wants to enlarge the understanding of the gospel as being more than just a pressured decision to say that you are a sinner who can only be saved by God’s grace through Jesus’ life and death. It isn’t to say that sin, repentance and salvation aren’t part of the gospel but wants to help us see that we as an evangelical culture have become too individualistic in our approach to missions. The book goes back to Abraham and gives a bigger sense that God is all about nations, people groups, culture and even the restoration of our planet. I know that many talk about the cultural mandate but few understand it well enough to live it out.
We tend to run and hide from the culture around us. We miss the Genesis gospel call of impacting and influencing culture as the social gospel. Abraham was called to be a blessing to many nations and that as we read more about the gospel in Genesis being unfolded in Galatians we see Paul gaining many frequent flyer miles on his feet or boat. So is it possible to allow church to be only a Sunday or Wednesday mid-week type of ‘thing’?
I have a close friend who is forcing me to articulate what is the relationship between the church and community development. I know that word and deed ministry or social action have always been viewed as a secondary expression of the church. Yet, as I read this book on the missional church it seems to not only bring this aspect of community work or blessing to the people as one aspect of the church but seems to be at the forefront of the church. As you read through the entire Bible it is clear that missions or the gathering of a people goes back to Gen 1, 3 12, etc….
Is it possible to share the agape love of Christ in a community action setting where your choice to become embedded in a neighborhood is the heart of the gospel? How do we love God but through loving our neighbor or as God commanded Abraham to be a blessing to many. I know that there is a tension about what really is the church? I will confess or admit that I am on the edge of the typical conservative reformed church. We do church on Sundays with a rather normal format but the outward expression of what we are is seen in what we do which is totally different from most churches.
If Jesus were to move into my neighborhood what would he do? I’m sure that he would have taken food to one of my single mom’s yesterday. I’m not sure if his disciples would be critical of his expenditure of funds and time and caution him that this really isn’t church but just an act of kindness. Much like having a group of teens come over and cook dinner and then do a mentor group talking about the real meaning of love on Valentine’s Day with the death of Whitney just a few days behind us.
I know that painting a house or doing neighborhood cleanup is far removed from the typical church service but does it have to be? Didn’t Jesus take his disciples for a walk on the Sabbath and actually perform miracles? This obviously brought much discussion on the part of the religious leaders around him. Jesus seemed to say that God was more concerned about your heart and not how big of a sacrifice you brought to the temple. Is it possible that we have become too wrapped up in services and ceremonies like our Israelite brothers? This is not to say that we don’t do worship services, prayer meetings or call on someone in the hospital but to consider if maybe our traditions have taken first place in our minds and hearts to God’s real heart.