Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Are we really missional and to whom?

This blog post entitle, UK vs. USA Battle Royale, by my friend Rob Lewin compares the US and UK emerging church movement and it kicks butt. It challenges the emerging church in the U.S. to be missional first and allow the emergent structures to come out of authentic engagement with our culture. Or to site Frost and Hirsch let our missiology determine our eclesiology mot using these same structures but dressed up with candles and icons. It has great analysis and posts a stinging challenge to those of us who think we are being innovative and really just spinning our putting lipstick on the same old pig.

I often feel this tension like all I want to do is get as much silverware off the sinking ship before it goes under. And then somedays I see a glimmer of hope that maybe just maybe the ship is not completely beyond repair. Our community for the time being is called to work within the old wineskin, modeling and incarnating a new wineskin along side. It creates deep confusion and a split-personality at times but the people within the mainline churches are just as valuable in the eyes of God as the pagan postmodern culture. Are we not called to care for these people in the dessert? As Alan Roxburgh said, God is often found in the most God forsaken places and one of those places is the institutional church. I believe our particular call as the Open Door is to be a prophetic voice to both the denominational church and the culture. Pray for us as we live and breathe between the missional and the institutional, the new wineskin and the old wineskin and death of the old and birth the new. Check it out but it is not for the light at heart.
UK vs. USA Battle Royale!!! - 4th post down


Scott said...


I read the post you linked to. I liked it alot. It provoked alot of thoughts. I'll share just a few.

1. The U.K./U.S distinction with regard to Gospel/Culture issues is helpful. Rob is right to point out the obvious and significant differences. My question is how to deal with them. I think the sort of reliance on money and programs is a bad thing. A cursory glance at 2 Corinthians makes it obvious. But are we to yearn for the conditions in the U.K.? George Lindbeck once said that the North American Church is in the odd predicament of no longer being established, but not yet being disestablished (actually, the U.S. Church has never been "established", and the U.K's Church still is, but you get the point). The challenge of doing ministry in North America, or at least one of them, is the ambiguity that surrounds the Church with regard to how it fits in society. In Christendom those roles were clearly defined. In secular Europe, where the Church is becoming increasinlgy marginalized, there may be more freedom for God's people to define how they will posture themselves in relationship to the culture. In North America, we may have less freedom. Or that freedom may at least be complicated by the fact that our culture might still have a curiousity about the Church, even if it understand's the Church and its Lord reductionistically. Ought we eschew this reality. Next month I am marrying a couple who is unchurched. Is this an example of me engaging culture faithfully because I met them as a Karaoke DJ? Or is it an example of me being accomodationist because I haven't refused their request because they don't have a proper theological understanding of holy matrimony? I don't know. And I don't think that the U.S. or the U.K. context is necessarily more favorable to Gospel faithfulness. I used to have stronger feelings about this. Being a student of Darrell Guder, I am not a Christendom fan. But, as Darrell has constantly reminded me, Christendom is akin to Israel's Monarchy. It is a highly ambigious reality. But so was Israel's monarchy (a careful student of the text will of course know that few of Israel's kings received passing grades by the Lord's standard). Yet Israel's monarchy produced Jesus. And Jesus will continue to be born, or so I believe, in the hearts of those in our sordid U.S. context. I think of the Lewinski scandal. After it, Clinto began regularly meeting with Tony Campolo. Would this sort of situation have happened in a more secular context. I don't know. But I know Tony had words of affliction and comfort for our President, for which I'm thankful.

2. I don't think that the problem with evangelicals is that they aren't good at engaging the culture. They (we) are too good at it. This is a context where Bush won the last presidential election and 70% of Mainline Protestants (always cast as "liberals") voted for him. We are a culture drunk with power, a Babylon confusing itself with the New Jerusalem, which is why we will resort to any means, including torture, to protect our idolatrous illusion. Evangelicals play well to this crowd. Many know the culture better that it knows itself, and that's part of the problem. We need a good dose of Anabaptism right now!

3. I am called to be part of a confessional community of the Westenr Church. I am not free to simply create or reinvent structures, but I do yearn to reform them. So many in the Emergent scene are free Church, and so they don't face the old/new wine debate like we do.

Anyway...Much Love,

bj woodworth said...

Scottu boy,

the best par about bloggin' is that you throw out your mediocere ideas and frustartiosn and then folks with PhD come and make you sound really smart. Scott thanks for your input into the conversation. It is good to know there are other mainliners thinking through cultural engagement issues. YOur marriage of this couple is sacramental. IT points to JEsus. In Rob Bell's new book Velvet ELvis he describes the exact same situation and says that inherintly marriage is of God and we ought to take the opportunity to calima what is God's whcih is always good and true as partial as it may be. But the hope is that things of that nature that are good and right and true point to Jesus the author, sustainer and perfector of marriage. So I say go for it.

I do not think there should be or is a longing for us to be a culture that we are not (i.e. the UK)it is just complicated as you say and makes me desire greater clarity and ease at making decesions as a pastor.

Thanks for stirring the pot a bit more.


IAN said...

Certainly mission and worship are not the same thing. When they become too interrelated, worship merely becomes the seeking of worshipers rather than the seeking and entering into the presence of God.