*Throwback Thursday. Originally posted Mar 31st, 2009, and re-posted with edits.*
I was re-reading Tim Keller’s online intro article to the missional church and something struck me.
One of the reasons the American evangelical churches have not experienced the same decline as mainline churches in the US, or churches in general in Europe or Canada, is because of a powerful and vocal right-wing conservative base that still clings to the remnants of Christendom.
Canadian Protestants are unlike their American counterparts, (although we try to consume all the conferences and books). Canadian culture has progressed 10-15 years ahead of America’s. The significance? Canadian churches looking to re-orient, say towards a missional posture, enter that conversation under the pre-tense that face the same struggle as American churches (metropolitan churches in America may face a similar problem).
Consuming materials from churches that operate and require the function of Christendom to grow (church growth movements), miss the mark when it comes to accurately conducting environmental analysis locally. When we face cultural shifts it’s necessary to be culturally aware if we have a chance to survive.
The trends in your neighborhood and city may not match the prevailing view. Trust your own data, the results may surprise you.
As North American culture becomes more secular and more and more people emerge as having no religious affiliation, and have no connection into religious stories that we’ve taken for granted in Christendom, the approach of the church needs to change. Not strategically, but rather, a paradigm shift on how we view the world in and outside of the church community.
Contemporary churches are quick to put on a different hat and play harder rockier music to re-attract a lost millennial generation. Small shifts in service orientation does not equate to a paradigm shift in mission which is what we require.
The task at hand is a revamping of how we approach mission. Rather than an off-shoot of the function of the church, it is the defining characteristic of a church participating in an unfolding Kingdom movement to restore all things that works to live out the character of the incarnation in the neighborhood and beyond.
Pragmatically that starts with discipleship, the existing small groups who should be released and commissioned to enter the race. In the past, small groups were designed to accommodate spreading around pastoral care, increase biblical knowledge, and improve internal relationships. The missional identity releases small groups to operate under the assumption they are ‘entering God’s plan to redeem humanity–to make disciples as they are being discipled.
Something needs to shift, even if the notion of ‘missional’ seems too much. Generally speaking, churches are declining–all churches. If we are in decline it presupposes that our perspectives need a shift. Rather than placating a, “sit and consume” Christianity, let’s mobilize the community to be connected into the commission.
How is your church participating in the unfolding Kingdom in your city? Still stuck in the 80/20 pareto principle? Are you caught looking to big churches for all your answers? Or are you a leader in your community, putting your ear to the ground and finding out where God is already moving and how you can join?