Recontextualizing Church

Many churches do a good job of making converts, but if you were to listen to Gen Xers and Millennials you would hear the voice of those crying out for discipleship and authenticity in community.  People want relationship, and disciples are made through long term relationship.

The problem I see in many attractional-event and program-driven churches in the West is their system does a good job of producing converts, but not necessarily of producing disciples who are equipped to make disciples who make disciples (Matthew 28:19). Many churches in our country seem to have drifted from the biblical concept of “church” and have redefined it as the place, a building, where ministry happens. Hence, many evangelicals have built large centralized institutions using what seems like marketing as a formula for success: utilize attractional events to draw a crowd, and then develop programs and depend on professional clergy to keep people coming back. While this may have worked to build large communities of worship in the mid-to-late twentieth century, it has also consumed many of the smaller churches like a Wal-Mart monopoly putting out of business the mom-and-pop shops. And often when the pastor of a program-driven church leaves the ministry, that church tends to lose sight of the vision as it struggles to pull together in unity, and the congregation shrinks as people transfer to the new, next, and better program-driven church that meets their family’s needs. I would argue this doesn’t build biblical community; this fractures community among local churches as the competitive mindset takes over and as church leadership begins to use marketing techniques to promote their brand to attract church shoppers, and thus congregants shuffle from church to church.

This book explores the challenges church leaders and congregants face in shepherding a program-driven church to begin to reach out to the community outside of the four walls of a church building. Take this journey with me as I evaluate Jesus’ and the Apostles’ method of outreach and discipleship and seek to find ways to apply their methodology in today’s context. We will explore various small group models throughout history and in today’s contemporary Western context. We will look at the necessity of corporate worship and small groups to stimulate spiritual growth. I have interviewed Jeff Vanderstelt, Steve Timmis, Joel Comiskey, and Dan Braga to glean wisdom from these leaders in how to successfully shepherded churches through this kind of recontexualization of the local church. In the end I have mapped out a strategy for how church leaders can lead their churches through this transition from attractional events and programs to the missional home community and cell-driven model, which resonates with this generation disenfranchised with church.

I believe there are many methods of ministry that can work to make converts, but in order to make disciples that multiply requires an authentic faith community. This is what an unbelieving world is longing to see, a church that has closed the gap between their rhetoric and reality.

For a large print copy, order here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1521385904/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

For a smaller handheld version, order here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/152138293X/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_.eZmzb4A2CRW7

This book is a result of a Thesis Project for Gordon-Conwell Seminary Doctorate Program in Outreach and Discipleship.

GODSPEED

Christians are the silent minority

You have perhaps heard in the news about North Carolina, Target, Alabama, the DOJ, etc. What are we to make of all this? Especially if we are Christian? Or if we are considering becoming a Christian? What are we to do as the Church? Or as individual local churches?

Many have assumed for years that this is a Christian nation, and therefore the morals would continue based on Judaeo-Christian values.  As Michael Medved said on the radio last week, “This has always been a Christian nation, but with a secular government.” Jefferson, a writer and signer of the Constitution and non-Christian deistic former President once said, “This is a government that will work only so long as the people are moral.”  This was his motivation for affirming that Congress print and distribute family Bibles.  But no longer is this the view of our nation.  Why?

We live in a country where majority is supposed to rule – 50.01% wins when put to a vote. And so the silent majority, being Christian and assuming this country would never turn from a Judaeo-Christian worldview, laid down and went to sleep.  We are beginning to wake from our slumber and we are discovering, if anything, we are a small minority (or at least that those in power through the courts, government, media, and schools are actively proselytizing everyone, let alone our children).

We live in a culture with the mantra, “Don’t bother me and I won’t bother you.”  But now that the silent majority is a minority and is realizing it doesn’t have a voice, people are beginning to speak up and realizing we are being bullied into silence.  So what is the solution? Remain in our slumber? Go with the flow? Act like our adversaries and speak out of turn with a viperous tongue of political incorrectness?

My questions are meant to make you ponder.

The following gives us a glimpse of history, for a wise man once said:

History

So how did our culture get to where it is today? Because Christians laid down and let someone else speak.  The following is an explanation of “how” by Francis Schaeffer.  (Warning, the following is for those desiring to really understand – it requires deep thinking and contemplation, but it is worth it to spend the time it takes to read it carefully and thoroughly, and then determine how this should affect us [Christians] concerning today’s issues):

“The attempt to make nature the basis of morals was also taken into the area of civil law, where it was called the Natural Law School of jurisprudence…It was an attempt in this eighteenth-century period to have principles of law, ‘even if there is not God.’  These jurists thought that a complete and perfect system of law could be constructed upon principles of natural law.  But there was a serious problem in trying to construct a system of law upon nature.  Nature is cruel as well as noncruel.” (P. 159)

“Alfred Charles Kinsey (1894-1956), a biologist-sociologist at the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University produced his influential Sexual Behavior of the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior of the Human Female (1953).  These were based on 18,500 interviews.  Kinsey made that which is “right” in sex a matter of statistics.  Many people read his books because at that date they were far more titillating than other books accepted as respectable.  However, their real impact was the underlying conception that sexual right and wrong depend only on what most people are doing sexually at a given moment of history.  This has become the generally accepted sexual standard in the years since.  Modern man has done the same thing in law.”

[Concerning decision making and democracy] “If there are no absolutes, and if we do not like either the chaos of hedonism or the absoluteness of the 51-percent vote, only one other alternative is left: one man or an elite, giving authoritative arbitrary absolutes.”

“Here is a simple but profound rule: If there are no absolutes by which to judge society, then society is absolute.  Society is left with one man or an elite filling the vacuum left by the loss of the Christian consensus which originally gave us form and freedom in northern Europe and in the West.” (p. 224)

“In our era, sociologically, man destroyed the base which gave him the possibility of freedoms without chaos.  Humanists have been determined to beat to death the knowledge of God and the knowledge that God has not been silent, but has spoken in the Bible and through Christ – and they have been determined to do this even though the death of values has come with the death of that knowledge.”

“We see two effects of our loss of meaning and values.  The first is degeneracy… “

“But we must notice that there is a second result of modern man’s loss of meaning and values which is more ominous, and which many people do not see.  This second result is that the elite will exist.  Society cannot stand chaos.  Some group or some person will fill the vacuum.  An elite will offer us arbitrary absolutes, and who will stand in its way?”

“Will the silent majority (which at one time we heard so much about) help? The so-called silent majority was, and is, divided into a minority and a majority.  The minority are either Christians who have a real basis for values or those who at least have a memory of the days when the values were real.  The majority are left with only their two poor values of personal peace and affluence.”

“With such values, will men stand for their liberties? Will they not give up their liberties step by step, inch by inch, as long as their own personal peace and prosperity is sustained and not challenged, and as long as the goods are delivered? The life-styles of the young and the old generations are different… But they support each other sociologically, for both embrace the values of personal peace and affluence.  Much of the church is no help here either, because for so long a large section of the church has only been teaching a relativistic humanism using religious terminology.”

“I believe the majority of the silent majority, young and old, will sustain the loss of liberties without raising their voices as long as their own life-styles are not threatened.  And since personal peace and affluence are so often the only values that count with the majority, politicians know that to be elected they must promise these things.  Politics has largely become not a matter of ideals – increasingly men and women are not stirred by values of liberty and truth – but of supplying a constituency with a frosting of personal peace and affluence.  They know that voices will not be raised as long as people have these things, or at least and illusion of them.”

“Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1794) said that the following five attributes marked Rome at its end: first, a mounting love of show and luxury (that is, affluence); second, a widening gap between the very rich and the very poor (this could be among countries in the family of nations as well as in a single nation); third, an obsession with sex; fourth, freakishness in the arts, masquerading as originality, and enthusiasms pretending to be creativity; fifth, an increased desire to live off the state.  It all sounds so familiar.  We have come a long road since our first chapter, and we are back in Rome.” (Pp. 226-227).

So what can Christians do to get back to being able to positively influence society? Two thoughts: first, become a biblical and attractional community.  How? If you are a Christian, intentionally devote your entire life and family to four things found in Acts 2:42.  The following is a contemporary summary of that verse: devote yourself to the authority of Scripture, especially the New Testament teachings; devote yourself to a Christian community called a church, where you find Christian “fellowship” (Christ-centered community); devote yourself to a smaller community like a small group in which you share with each other spiritually and materially.  When Christians live this way, they influence non-Christians (this is a contemporary summary of Acts 2:43-47).  This is the grassroots movement we need to be part of if we are every going to turn everything around.  For a major reason we (Christians in America) are less than the 50.01% majority is because of a lack of being a true, genuine, biblical community.  Christians have primarily been Sunday Christians.  But we are called to be everyday Christians and an everyday community, which requires that you (if you are a Christian) try to band with others to pick up the pieces and follow Jesus and His teachings in community with others.

The above must be the norm for every Christian, or we will become spiritually weak-minded have no influence, which is precisely what happened in the 4th and 5th centuries of the Church:

“When Christianity was made the official religion in Rome in the fourth century, the church became socially and politically acceptable. People with halfhearted faith flocked to churches that could no longer disciple them.  Soon the word ‘Christian’ became meaningless.  And when the empire that sanctioned it collapsed, the church nearly went down too.

“And in our own day, one of the most inglorious examples [of Christians being spiritually weak and without influence] can be found in the church’s failure to stand solidly against Hitler in Germany during the 1930s.

“The church must stand apart from the state.  Independence from culture is what gives the church its reforming capacity and enables it to point society toward the truth.  The church must be free to address issues biblically across the spectrum and to speak prophetically, regardless of who is in power. [i.e., when your pastor is speaking about issues today that seem political, he is not preaching politics but rather showing you how the Bible relates to what is going on in this world – he is trying to help you develop a biblical lens to filter the news.]

“Ironically, political flirtations and alliances have threatened the church’s independence in the West even more than the direct oppression of the Communists in the East.” – Chuck Colson, The Body, p. 239

This is a great quote that gives us insight into history and politics in our modern era, especially during an election year.  Regardless of your political views I want to remind you that we, as Christians, are called to stand for Christ and His gospel, first and foremost.  We are also called to stand for Jesus’ values, which should inform how we engage culture.  This leads to the second quote:

“It’s time for lambs to roar.

“What I am calling for is a radically different way of thinking about our world. Instead of running from it, we need to rush into it. And instead of just hanging around the fringes of our culture, we need to be right smack dab in the middle of it.

“Why not believe that one day the most critically acclaimed director in Hollywood could be an active Christian layman in his church? Why not hope that a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting could go to a Christian journalist on staff at a major daily newspaper? Is it really too much of a stretch to think that a major exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art could feature the works of an artist on staff at one of our fine Christian colleges? Am I out of my mind to suggest that our son or daughter could be the principle [sic] dancer for the Joffrey Ballet Company, leading weekly Bible study for other dancers in what was once considered a profession that was morally bankrupt?

“The best way to testimony is through credible engagement from within our vocational call.” – Bob Briner, Roaring Lambs. P. 31

May we Christians live like this so that we will have influence, and that the world will be made a better place to the glory of God Almighty.

GODSPEED

What is a “Missional” Community? Interview with Jeff Wall

Soma in Tacoma, WA is a church that has been leading the way in the Northwest in developing “Missional Communities,” which have been highly successful in reaching people for Christ.  The pastor of Soma (until recently) has been Jeff Vanderstelt.  I heard him speak at a CBNW (Conservative Baptist Northwest) conference in 2005.  He was speaking on the Gospel and how to reach people effectively in the Seattle / Tacoma area.  He started by talking about what does not work anymore.  He shared how churches in the West traditionally have been able to build a church building in a community and that many people would automatically attend because, for the most part, everyone was either Christian or had a Christian worldview and knew that they were supposed to be in church.  He pointed out that the reason this doesn’t work in the greater Seattle area is because a large percentage of people are un-churched and have no desire of ever setting foot in a church building, and that a large percentage of Washingtonians are de-churched (they once attended church but for some reason do not desire to come back).  Vanderstelt pointed out that a majority of people who have never been to church only know what they know from the media and first hand experience with Christians.  Therefore, depending on the experience, there are a lot of misperceptions out there and it is our job, as disciples of Jesus, to fulfill the great commission by sharing the gospel with people and showing them what true Christian community is all about.

Pastor Vanderstelt gave an illustration when he shared about his experiences trying to get to know his neighbors and from there trying to start a missional community.  He shared that the neighborhood he moved into was relatively disconnected.  He and his wife started trying to get to know their neighbors and invited people over for dinner.  Pretty soon they were being invited over to other people’s houses and eventually the topic of the gospel would come up.  But Jeff and his wife focused on other people, being intensely interested in them, their interests, and needs, taking the spotlight off of themselves and showing love to others.

One night the Vanderstelt’s had a couple over for dinner and they asked the question, “So, Jeff, what do you do for a living?”

Jeff said, “I’m a pastor.”

The couple said, “You’re a Christian! Wow, you’re so different than the other Christian in the neighborhood…”  and then that couple proceeded to make fun of the other Christian and complain about him for being a jerk (you see, the other Christian was a Seminary Professor, and he had a private parking space in front of the condos, which reads, “No Parking!” – and so whenever someone would park there, like a friend or neighbor coming over for dinner, the seminary professor would put glue on the windshield of the car and stick a sheet of paper to it, which said, “Can’t you read?”).

As Jeff Vanderstelt heard his neighbors talk about this other Christian he cut them off, politely, and said, “You know, he’s a friend of mine, you should really get to know him…he is not like what you would think.  I know it is wrong of him to stick a piece of paper on your friend’s windshield…I’ve talked with him about that and he feels bad.”

The couple then felt a little uncomfortable, but eventually agreed to have dinner all together with the Vanderstelt’s, the Seminary Professor, and the un-churched couple and the relationship was resolved and peace was made.  In other words, Jeff was able to bring about what only the Gospel can begin to bring about in people.  Eventually this turned into a “Missional” community and many un-churched people from the neighborhood became Christians and started attending Soma in Tacoma.

This last week I had the privilege of meeting with my area mentor, Pastor Jeff Wall from Soma Communities in Tacoma.  He has worked with Jeff Vanderstelt and has been a part of leading and shepherding “Missional” communities.  You might ask, What is a missional community?” A missional community is a group of Christians who live in a neighborhood and who are intent on serving one another, being the church to one another, and saturating that neighborhood with the love of Jesus Christ eventually earning the right to tell the story of the Gospel.

Jeff Wall’s group meets weekly on Thursdays at his home.  In the Fall they use curriculum called The Story of God, which goes through the story of the Bible from Genesis to the cross of Christ.  Each week there is one rule, you need to answer the questions related to the Bible story for that week and you are not allowed to rush ahead to Romans or some other story in the Bible.  The goal is for everyone in the room, no matter their biblical knowledge, to start at the beginning and come together as a group as the learn the whole story together.  By the time they get to the cross everything is in its proper context and the light bulb goes on for many people because the cross is the climax, which has been built up to in the Old Testament and in the life of Jesus.  Those who respond to the story are given the opportunity to continue the story in the book of Acts and beyond to learn to form a church community (an EVERYDAY church as Chester and Timmis would call it).

Then when summer begins, Jeff Wall switches his group from Thursday nights to Friday nights and they invite their neighbors to a weekly bond-fire, BBQ, roast marshmallows, hang out and build relationships between the churched and the un-churched.  Then at the end of the summer the invitation is given to all to join the group starting on Thursday nights and they would begin again The Story of God.  The one rule about joining this group is that if a person has been through The Story of God, then they are not allowed to come unless they bring someone who has not been through it before.

This is awesome.  This is a missionary way of living the gospel on the mission field called “Chronological Bible Storying.”

Friends at Grace Church Seattle, if we live in a mission field and if 42% of the people in our community have not been to church and have no intention of going to church, then what could we learn from above about how to tell the story of the Gospel to reach people for Christ?

GODSPEED

EVERYDAY Church

What is church?

Is it a building? Is it an event on Sunday mornings? Is it a group of people who gather to listen to some guy talk about the bible and then for us to sing songs we don’t know that well and then for us to go our separate ways without thinking about what we have learned?

There was a lady who grew up in England in the early 1900s and church was a part of her everyday life.  There were only about a hundred people who attended the church and about fifty of those people were children.  The church building was the center of community activity.  There were essentially two options in town for places to hang out with friends – the church or the pub.  As this dear woman grew older and the culture began to change, less and less children came through the front doors.  Eventually the church was only filled with a dozen or so people who were all over the age of fifty.

So begins the book “EVERYDAY CHURCH” by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester.

These two authors go on to talk about the cultural shift resulting in people finding other things to do and ultimately the church became irrelevant to them.

The solution of the Baby Boomers was to create big events with entertainment and programs done with excellence.  The result has been many large mega churches being built, which depend on the personality of the pastor or the attractional / entertainment value of the program.  But most churches can’t afford to hire enough quality pastors, musicians, artists, etc. to create a church with this kind of excellence.  And so the average church finds itself competing against Xbox, NFL Sunday football, sleep, a weekend away, or the mega church down the street.

The problem with the above is that the point of church is lost.  When church becomes about the attractional event, then discipleship on a person-to-person level doesn’t happen like it should; and so people learn more from the world and their friends about how to live and deal with problems than they do from Scripture or the pastor or a godly mentor.

Everyday church points us to be just that – a community committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, living it out, and working together within a community of committed believers who are committed to Christ and committed to one another in such a way:

  1. That they are willing to serve one another.
  2. That they are willing to lay down personal preferences.
  3. That they are willing to sacrifice for one another.
  4. That they are willing to spend time praying with one another.
  5. That they are willing to spend time confessing sins to one another.
  6. That they are willing to call each other to obey Scripture.
  7. That they are willing together to be on mission, sharing the gospel with the world.

These seven points (and many more) are what it means to be a church.  You can’t do these seven things without committing to one another and seeing each other more than one day a week.  And it is near impossible to do this with more than about a dozen people.

The early church in the time of the Apostles meet in homes.  Each house church had a leader called an elder who was responsible for shepherding the people.  As each church grew, the elders would reproduce and grow up new elders who would take on shepherding responsibilities and multiple the church.

The early church also had deacons, men and women who had the time and would serve and care for the needs of those who needed nurturing care.  They also assisted the elders by doing what the elders didn’t have time to do so that the elders could focus their time on prayer and preaching.

The early church also was a communal affair.  Everyone in each house church daily cared for each others needs, daily were involved together in prayer, daily were involved in evangelism.  Daily had a deep love for one another like a family.

As the church became institutionalized, this daily care stopped.  The professionals took over (in the Roman Catholic Church) and started making lots of money off the people manipulating them into giving money for forgiveness of sins.  The average person became an attendee rather than a participate in the life of the church.  And so the average person was turned off and many stopped coming to church.

Throughout this time there were different leaders who turned people back to the way of the early church as we read in Scripture.  St. Patrick developed a missional community, which worked together to reach the Celtic people of Ireland.  John Wesley learned from him and used his method to create congregations (societies), home communities (classes), and accountability groups (bands).  The Celtic way and the Methodist way is a biblical way because it does not focus on creating attractional events, but rather attractional and biblical communities.

Here at Grace Church we (the elders and staff) are intentionally trying to become a missional, biblical, gospel community.  The sermon series beginning this Sunday is based off of 1 Peter and the book “EVERYDAY CHURCH” by Chester and Timmis.

We (the church) on Sundays are purposing to come together to learn how to become an everyday church.

We (Home Communities) are purposing to come together in a more intimate way to actually live out everyday church principles.

Please join us this fall to learn how to do this will us onto the glory of God.

GODSPEED

Putting on Gentile Clothing – Part 2 – The Celtic Way

What does it mean to “put on Gentile clothing” to reach people for Christ?

We need to understand that the message the early Christians preached was a Jewish message rooted in Jewish religion.  Israel had a Covenant relationship with God through the faith of Abraham – but what the heck does this mean?

See, I have to translate this before I even begin.  It says in Scripture:

Genesis 12:1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

2 “I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”

God’s promise, through Abraham, was for all the people of the earth.  As you read
on in the Old Testament you discover that God was defining a special relationship with Israel, but this special relationship was supposed to result in Israel being a shining light in a dark world.  Israel was supposed to be a missional nation, but the ceremonial laws, circumcision, and Temple worship became a “dividing wall of hostility” for the Gentile people (Ephesians 2:11-18 – i.e., the Jews during the time of Christ had many Gentiles [non-Jews] who wanted to convert to Judaism, but the regulations of the Law, beginning with circumcision, were too strict and so many Gentiles stopped short of conversion and some were even hostile to the Jews for being so legalistic).

Then along came the Christian message – a Jewish message with a twist – Jesus has abolished the “dividing wall of hostility” that was preventing Gentiles from converting.  And now all the pre-evangelized Gentiles (by the Jewish people) were interested in converting to the Christian version of Judaism.  But many Gentiles still didn’t understand some of the language – like “Messiah” or “Kingdom of Heaven” – and so the early Christians had to translate these terms into Gentile language:

For example: Messiah means “Anointed of God”, Christ, or King – to the Jew this meant Jesus was God’s representative King and Lord.  But to the Gentile there were many kings.  To say Jesus was king was not a big deal.  So the early Christian evangelists translated the word Messiah into a Gentile word, which has a similar meaning – and so they called Jesus “Lord.”  For the Gentile, calling Jesus “Lord” was to say Caesar is not.  This captured the attention of the Gentile.

Similarly, the term “Kingdom of Heaven” didn’t make a whole lot of sense to the Gentile.  For the Jew this meant God’s eternal reign and the faithful Jewish people being a part of His Kingdom for eternity.  And so the early evangelists translated the Jewish term into a Gentile term people could understand – “Salvation.”

Today: There are many terms we Christians use that don’t make any sense to the average non-churchgoer.  For example, “evangelism” or “witness” or “justification” or even “saved by faith.”

I was reading the other day an NPR article about “Evangelicals and Adoption” – the person who wrote the piece may have meant well, but all the terms being used (which were biblical terms) were run through a filter of mistranslation and the article made Christians look manipulative in their motivations for adoption.  In one sense I was offended.  In another sense I realized that we Christians have a totally different culture and verbiage compared to the rest of the world.  This is part of the reason people think Christians are weird or irrelevant or uneducated or judgmental.

We need to do a better job of translation: and this begins with admitting we have created a wall to the non-Christian world.  The wall we have constructed comes in many forms: we might think you have to be a certain type of person before you are ready to hear the Gospel; we might think you have to look and act a certain way before you are welcome in our church; we might make a person who is looking for help feel like they can’t find it here because they are not welcome until they have solved their problem; etc.

Examples of Translation:

  • One of the problems the current church in America is facing has to do with music – the churches that are shrinking are the churches that insist on a music style “Imported from Europe” (i.e., mainline denominations).  These churches, and the people in these churches, are sometimes so insistent on keeping the old style of music and liturgy because it is enjoyable to them that they are missing out on a really important function of the church – reaching the next generation.  Conversely, the churches that are growing in America have a style of music that is “Made in America.”

I love hymns and I love much of the contemporary music.  I love people who love hymns and I love people who love contemporary music.  When a person walks in off the street, daring enough to search for God in a new community, two questions are running through their mind: (1) do they welcome me? And (2) do they love each other?

If we welcome them, they will be more likely to come back.

If we love each other and they see this in the foyer and during worship, they will want what we have.

But if they are looked at wrong or if they see people sitting down with their arms folded during worship, they will think, “That’s awkward” – and make judgments about our community, which may result in people never coming back.

What am I saying? Love needs to be translated to people no matter their race, clothing, or musical standard – and – we need to be a community in which true, biblical love exists.

  • One reason people don’t come to church is because people in the church are not inviting people to church.  We have a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” evangelistic strategy.  There was a church that was struggling to reach people for Christ – they said, “People in our neighborhood just don’t want to come here.”  There was an author and speaker named George Hunter who was visiting the church and decided to test if what the pastor was saying was true.  He went to the local laundry mat and saw 8 young ladies in their late teens and early twenties.  He boldly asked them – “Do you go to church?” They said no.  He asked, “If you were invited to church would you go?”  Seven of 8 said yes.  Then he asked them for their contact information to give to the outreach director.  Six of the 8 women gave their contact information.  George Hunter went back to the church and gave the information to the outreach director who said, “Where did you find these women?”  George said, “At the local laundry mat.”  The outreach director said, “Oh, those people aren’t even nice.  I don’t think they would accept the gospel.”

What is the point of this true story – some Christians create a wall based on pre-judgments and don’t even give people a chance to hear the gospel.  Before we share the love of Jesus with someone we think, “Are they the type of person who would accept this message?”  And so we don’t even attempt to share.

What is translated to the world is – “Christians are not nice, not welcoming”  or “You have to be a certain type of person to go to church.”

  • Another translation problem has to do with the purpose of Church – are we to be a missional community that is living the love of Christ and seeking the lost? Or are we supposed to be separate from the world focusing what we stand against so that we can be good while we wait to go to heaven?

In the Holy Roman Empire, monasteries were built in deserts or on mountains away from society so that the monks and nuns could live lives of pure devotion to the Lord as far away from the evil world as possible.  There is a good goal in this, which is purity and devotion to the Lord.  But the result was a lack of Christians being devoted to the Lord by fulfilling their mission of positively influencing the world for Christ (Matthew 28:18-20).

There was another kind of monastic community developed by the Celts (Irish) – which was missional in nature.  Their purpose was to develop a small evangelistic team, which would move to where the people lived.  Their goal was to live in Christian community, on mission, welcoming all who entered their community to love them, pray for them, pray with them, work with them, eat with them, invite them to prayer and study groups, and allow the visitors to soak it in – with the result being that many eventually found themselves becoming Christian and joining the community.

What was translated from the Romans was – “Become the type of person Christ accepts and then we will accept you.”  What was translated from the Celts was – “We welcome you as you are, we want to know you, we want to share God’s love with you.”  And the people responded and the Celtic way saved Christendom in Europe during the Middle Ages.

May we follow the Celtic way for it is the Christian way forward in reaching a postmodern generation; this is what it means to put on Gentile clothing to communicate the Gospel to this generation.

GODSPEED