why are we doing what we’re doing? – part two

in my last post, i made a statement that may be perceived as provocative by some people.  i said, “i believe that attractional and missional are mutually exclusive.  in fact, i (as a church leader) will have to choose one or the other.”  and i promised to elaborate in my next post.

this is my next post.

i have been mightily challenged by alan hirsch’s video on “post-christendom mission.” this has been one of those times (and we all have them) where i said, “this guy is putting words to the indescribable feelings i’ve been having!”  it was a real epiphany and it has shaken everything i believe about ministry.

let me provide a little background/context…

we are fifteen years into a church plant in moore (a bedroom community of oklahoma city).   a former youth pastor, i just did what i had seen…except hipper.  i had no idea at the time, but i was doing what hirsch describes as “the contemporary church-growth model.”  everything was fine until i started having unchurched young people meet jesus.  passionate and idealistic, they soon started asking questions about our methods (which they described as “institutional”).  they couldn’t see how we could hope to relate to the culture they had come out of.  their questions resonated with me, and i began to ask god to give us new direction.  i began to see that we (the church) were out of touch with the community around us.  there was a vast chasm between church culture and “real culture” that was growing wider every day.  i began to pursue, and to lead my people in, what hirsch calls a “missional” expression of ministry.

that’s why i celebrate this message.  it’s like i discovered the solution to this puzzle i’ve been trying to solve for so long.  let me share a couple of quotes from dr. alan hirsch:

the attractional church is one that relies on others to come to it in order to hear the gospel.  it does work, but only when people are within it’s cultural orbit.

if we are succesful (in the attractional/extractional model), we socialize them out of their context into our culture.  they have to do the cross-cultural work to come to us.  in a missionary environment,  we do the cross-cultural work to go to them.  we go to them and learn their language and share the gospel within their culture.

statistics say that the church is becoming less and less relevant in our society.  i feel like the missional model has given me a direction for being genuinely effective in my local context today, and in the days to come.  i am revitalized.

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5 thoughts on “why are we doing what we’re doing? – part two

  1. Randy,
    Have you ever read the book, “Bruchko” by Bruce Olson. It revolutionalized missions.
    Without using the words Alan used, it says the same thing.
    Missions used to be about ‘westerninzing’ people. Now it’s not.
    If I understand you and Alan, we, in this postmodern nation, need to start changing our attitudes and actions like the missionary workers had to. We are not trying to culture them. We are trying to share the gospel within their culture.

    Thanks for the video link, btw.
    It was very good.

  2. The primary task of any particular church in relation to nonbelievers is to preach the Gospel.
    Isn’t getting nonbelievers into church to hear the proclamation of the Gospel the responsibility of church members? These individual Christians go out into the world within their own varied cultural contexts and witness to nonbelievers and invite them to come to church where, God willing, they will be regenerated by the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the Good News of Christ.

    Therefore, I don’t see where “church culture” is an issue. I’m not even sure I know what Hirsch means by “church culture”.

    • thank you for your questions, jb. i see your point and, i assure you, i know where you’re coming from.

      obviously, though, our opinions differ in a couple of significant areas.

      1. church culture

      i grew up in “church culture.” church culture is prevalent today and i believe it hinders us (the church) in our mission (as hirsch suggests in his video). we have a language in church culture (words like sanctification, communion, repentance, fellowship, worship) that people outside the church do not understand. oh, they know the definitons, but we are comfortable with their usage because we are immersed in church culture.

      church culture becomes an issue when we try to bring someone into the chuch. i completely agree with your point that we are to “go out into the world within their own varied cultural contexts and witness to nonbelievers.” but in order to do that, wouldn’t we need to speak their language? if an american missionary goes into the “cultural context” of china, wouldn’t it behoove him to speak chinese? instead, we bring people out of their cultural context into our cultural context (church culture) and expect them to speak our language and undersand our traditions. my experience is that unchurched people feel out of place (and even that we are judgmental and condescending) when we expect them to come into our culture and fit in.

      2. the church

      when you refer to “any particular church” you lose me. in my interpretation of scripture there is one church. “church” is not a building, or a service on sunday morning, “church” is the body of christ, the redeemed saints (ephesians 2:19-22).

      let me say that i completely agree that “the proclamation of the Gospel the responsibility of church members” (some people seem to believe that responsibility lies in the pulpit), but i do not agree that our job is to “invite them to church…where they will be regenerated by the Holy Spirit.” that happens sometimes. perhaps it even happens often and praise god for that. but biblically, it seems to me that the sunday meeting is not to be used for evangelism, but for the equipping and maturing of the saints (ephesians 4:11-13).

      jb, all i’m trying to say is that most americans used to attend church and today only a small percentage do. we can rant about the apostasy of our nation, but more and more people are dying every day without jesus. i contend that the it’s the job of the church to figure out how to connect with people who think the church is boring, irrelevant, and out-of-touch.

      thank you for your sincere comment. i offer my response in humility and in the interest of unity, and i trust it will be received in the same spirit.

  3. Pastor Morgan,

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

    I totally agree with you that the “‘church’ is the body of christ, the redeemed saints”. Perhaps instead of “any particular church” I should have said “any particular congregation”.

    As for the other points, I must ruminate on them for a while — if I can coax my atrophied mental hamsters back onto their wheels…

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