To many the Church in general appears closed. Closed to new ways of doing things (the message remains the same but the methods are not sacred and so should change but apparently do not for many); closed to people who do not already live like they are believers; closed to those who don’t know the special lingo; closed to outsiders; closed to the next generation. It is as if we have placed a “Closed” sign on our main doors and we are not interested in welcoming new business.
Yet many in the emerging culture are interested in spiritual issues and are even fascinated by the historical figure we call Jesus Christ. However, they are not looking to the Church for insights and understanding. They feel (and I know feelings cannot always be trusted) that the Church does not have anything to offer and that we have literally closed our doors to new business – their business. But that feeling keeps them from looking our way and from asking us their questions.
May I suggest that for the Church to be “open” to this emerging culture requires a move from a Reformational to a Missional paradigm.
A Reformational paradigm is fixed on the message: getting right what we think about God. A Reformational paradigm focuses on the church and the differences between Christians – the marks of a pure and true church versus a false church. A Reformational paradigm assumes Christendom thinking. Christianity has been in the Reformational paradigm for 500 years.
The Missional paradigm is fixed on methods: communicating what God has done in and for us; communicating the divine presence through worship, the arts, and community. The Missional church focuses on the world where people don’t believe the gospel in the least.
Purity is the goal if you’re in the Reformational paradigm. Communication is the goal if you’re in the Missional paradigm.
The biblical model is both Reformational and Missional. But the Reformation occurs in the context of being in mission: how do we mediate (share, introduce, experience) the saving grace of Jesus to and in a fallen world?
Christianity must give up its Christendom (Reformational) mind-set and become a missionary movement once again. And here is where the problem arises. We are comfortable where we are. We are not good at welcoming newcomers who will change the “mix” we are use to and who may introduce new thoughts and new ways… We are not interested in having to relate to people we currently don’t know and who may not only think in ways vastly different than the way we think – but they may dress and act differently than we do. And, they may have numerous problems and we have enough of our own to deal with, thank you! Threatening. Too much work. Too much effort. Too uncomfortable.
We have forgotten the purpose of the Church – when it was first founded and ever since that day. Its purpose is to carry on the mission of Jesus Christ and He came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). We have the wrong idea – we think Church is here to serve us and met our needs. Heck, we think God is here to serve us and meet our needs. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are here to serve Him and to do what He commands (not asks) us to do – win the world for Jesus one person at a time.
To go from Reformational to Missional will require a whole new approach to Church and the Lord Himself. An abrupt and permanent change in our way of seeing things as well as a new understanding of the Christian faith is needed.
Are you up to the challenge?