Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Recent Chewing

Although I am just now beginning to dabble my feet in church planting there have already been some challenges to my thinking. Mostly, these challenges are things that I have not thought much about and therefore do not have many preconceived ideas. (I just want to note: this is why I love reading, I love being challenged and love to learn. I must say, I am truly enjoying this summer and all the reading I get to do.)

I mentioned before, I am reading Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age by Ed Stetzer, a leading author on church planting, so I’m told. I have only read the first two chapters but I am really enjoying it so far. I just finished the second chapter entitled: Redeveloping a Missional Mind-set for North America. The chapter basically tackles the subject of tradition vs. technique, both are pitfalls. I was challenged to begin thinking biblically and practically (should be one in the same) about how the church should look in today’s world. I grew up in mostly traditional Baptist churches in the bible belt and now, working with Freedom Church, which will be much more contemporary in style, I am having to think through all the biblical implications of church life.

I have only been in Georgia working with the beginnings of Freedom Church for a week and already I am learning and being stretched to think about things that I haven’t really thought much about…I love it! You want to become real familiar with what you actually think and believe about theology, try and plant a church! Or just think about it! Think about ALLLL the implications of how you’re going to conduct the services, and church life, and music. It’s a lot to think about and a lot to try and organize in your head, but it’s so good for me.

Anyways, the challenge of this chapter has to do with breaking out of the traditional mold in efforts to reaching a changing culture. Stetzer is not saying that tradition is necessarily wrong but that it becomes very difficult to reach new generations with the old traditions of the past. He states: “Every culture is imperfect, and thus, at times hostile towards the gospel. But cultures remain the context in which Jesus Christ meets persons by grace. We must pay attention to the culture if we are to be truly missional(pg 24).” Stetzer is neither appealing to technique but saying: “The missional church rejects the false hopes of tradition and technique, repositioning itself as a body of people sent on mission(pg 17).”

Should all churches look the same? Should they all sing the same songs and have the same style of preaching? These are some of the questions that have been posed to be by this chapter. Stetzer says: “The church always struggles with the need to enculturate while guarding against syncretism(pg 25).” Let me say that Stetzer has prefaced these issues with a strong appeal to biblical fidelity. First making sure that your church is biblically sound, then looking at some of the outlining issues. I enjoyed this paragraph:

Indigenous churches look different from culture to culture. Thus, one would expect that a biblically faithful church would look different in Senegal from an indigenous church in Singapore. One must also expect an indigenous church in Seattle to look different from one in Sellersburg, Indiana. Indigenous churches look different from location to location. Further, they look different from generation to generation. Faithful indigenous churches take their teaching from the unchanging biblical text and apply it to the ever-changing cultural Milieu(pg 25).”

I nearly dried up my highlighters on this chapter marking good statements. Here are some other good statements, some more food for thought:

-Stetzer quoted C. Peter Wagner “The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.” –Pg 28

-“Church planting is always on the cutting edge of North American Missiology because it has no emotional investment in the patterns of tradition.”-pg 29

-“We risk Condemnation of those who are comfortable within the crumbling walls of Christendom. They may never understand the necessity of taking these risks because they choose to equate contextualization with compromise. They cannot understand because they love their church culture too much.” -pg 29

-“Church planting can reach those untouched by the established church. New churches approach evangelism in a way that tends to be more culturally indigenous than established churches. If new churches can avoid the trap of technique, they can engage the changing culture effectively with the unchanging gospel of Jesus.” -pg 30

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