just an apprentice

the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

the missional church...in a post-Christendom world

"There is a fundamental schism in American cultural, political, and economic life. There's the quicker-growing, economically vibrant...morally relativist, urban-oriented, culturally adventuresome, sexually polymorphous, and ethnically diverse nation...and there's the small town, nuclear-family, religiously-oriented, white-centric other America, [with]...its diminishing cultural and economic force.... [T]wo nations..."
Michael Wolff, New York, February 26 2001, p. 19

The LMC Leadership Assembly is going to provide opportunity to interact with an artical by Tim Keller--The Missional Church. This theme should generate a healthy and necessary time of reflection and discussion. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend because of school and leaving for Kansas in the afternoon.

The article by Keller effectively surveys the landscape of culture in an increasingly post-Christendom context. Wonder what church would look like if we fully acknowledged that the Christendom footing is crumbling....

Love these points made by Keller in the article:

  • The missional church avoids 'we-them' language, disdainful jokes that mock people of different politics and beliefs, and dismissive, disrespectful comments about those who differ with us
  • The missional church avoids sentimental, pompous, 'inspirational' talk. Instead we engage the culture with gentle, self-deprecating but joyful irony the gospel creates.
  • The missional church avoids ever talking as if non-believing people are not present. If you speak and discourse as if your whole neighborhood is present (not just scattered Christians), eventually more and more of your neighborhood will find their way in or be invited.

Let the re-orientation continue...

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  • At 6:03 PM , Blogger Missional Jerry said...

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  • At 11:09 PM , Blogger Gecko Girl said...

    Yes! Keller is describing a way of respectful speech that some would frame as a form of political correctness. I have come to realize that many people here view PC language as -- actually, still not sure -- but I know they do not like the term. However, when I read Keller's description of respectful and considerate speech within a missional context, he is describing what my husband and I worked so hard at when we worked overseas. It takes a lot of awareness and discipline (especially a lot from me . . . I confess I can get rather lazy when I am too tired to think through how best to word something or when I am around others who don't realize the issue of careful wording).

    But my point is that our language is the biggest way we either "make room" or "exclude" others. I don't mean we put on a front or pretense by speaking "just so they 'feel' we accept them. I mean we sincerely avoid talking in exclusionary ways so that we show love and inclusion through our words. Unfortunately we often do say rude things without even realizing it! Another aspect of this is the fact that the more we are careful of how we talk, the more our actions and attitudes follow.

    I'd give an example, but it is getting late ... thanks for bringing this up - I appreciate the opening quote too.

  • At 1:35 PM , Blogger Brian Miller said...

    Isn't Keller coming from a different angle than PC language? There are some similarities, but I hear Keller challenging the church to speak and act in a way that is missionally correct. That is, it is not just a valueless--all things are equal--reletavism that he is espousing. Rather, he is saying that the church adopted some bad habits in a Christendom landscape that have created an adversarial relationship with anyone, any group, any agenda, or any system that does not share the same assumptions and worldview. This makes it difficult to present the Gospel (a meta-narrative) with any kind of correlation to the way of Jesus (which ultimately embraces the cross as the way of redemptive love).

    I think Jesus calls us to speak and act in this way because we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves (and that includes our enemies). I think this kind of attitude will produce words and actions that come from a deeper source--the love of God.

    I do think PC language is motivated by a concern for respecting the value, dignity and freedom of all. I think missionally correct language and posture is only possible from a heart being transformed by the Spirit of God.

  • At 9:11 PM , Blogger Gecko Girl said...

    So you label PC language as valueless--all things are equal--reletavism? Why then does Keller say this?
    "There the informal public culture (though not the formal public institutions) still stigmatizes non-Christian beliefs and behavior."
    why does he imply that the public institutions don't stigmatize?

    My real response to you is similar to my reaction to Keller's point:
    "Unless all of the above is the outflow of a truly humble-bold gospel-changed heart, it is all
    just 'marketing' and 'spin.'"

    I would be careful not to label people and assume they are valueless or just promoting a particular "market" or "spin" just because they choose language which is inclusive. Why is it that we think only Christians have the monopoly on kindness and respect? I have encountered an attitude at times from Christians who think that only Christian motivation is pure ... what I call a "holier art thou" attitude. Is it possible to rid ourselves of cynicism and accept the possibility that there are people in this world who are good, sharing love, maybe not specifically to be missional (bringing people to the church and Christ) but to be caring and respectful, intentional not to exclude others by showing prejudices or acting condescending. Am I offending too many people by saying I learned the need for this from non-Christians first and realized that I needed those skills to be a good Christian too??? Keller is right, but it is not something only Christians can know how to do!

    Is it possible that PC and missional languages use the same means to different ends? I really believe that the non-Christians with whom I worked overseas worked hard to use language which shared the love and respect all humans deserve. Their desire was to bring peace and development to people without hope. Your point is well taken that it may not be specifically motivated by a deeper source of God's love. But Keller gives the example of a post-Christendom world where we cannot assume everyone comes from the same point of reference for understanding spiritual motivations. This was certainly the case for Lesslie Newbigin, who Keller mentions went to India. I think Keller's point infers that we need to approach mission in post-Christendom societies just like we need to in countries where Christianity is still a minute presence. Our language either opens or closes the door to further relationships/community and trust, foundational elements for any kind of development, spiritual, social, emotional or physical.

    I am sorry if I took your point down an unattractive and unintended road ... you just happened to lightly bump an issue that's been bugging me.

  • At 9:57 PM , Blogger Brian Miller said...

    I errantly labeled PC language valueless. Thanks for your insightful response. I agree with the points you make--that humans who aren't Christians can be motivated by a desire to treat others with kindness and respect. Also, that Christians don't have a monopoly on expressing through words and deeds goodness, kindness--humaneness toward others.

    I think my main point, underneath the clumsy use of words, was that what Keller is calling Christians to is uniquely motivated by a more careful reading of the Gospel--which should lead us not to a colonial approach to transforming culture. That is, we don't engage those with different beliefs and assumptions in a post-Christendom world with an air of superiority or with an apologetic of attack.

    Political correctness IS an attempt to be inclusive, tolerant and respectful. These certainly are good VALUES. I should have said that the language and posture that Keller is challenging the church to use is one that must take us deeper than the PC paradigm. I am not sure that I hear Keller calling us to adopt PC as a form of being missional. I think he is suggesting that our posture, words (tone), and manner of engagement should reflect a spirit and reality that is present and emerges out of the Gospel (and the Biblical meta-narrative) itself. I hear him calling us to unlearn some of the Christendom habits the church has adopted. Perhaps there will be ways we can learn from the PC paradigm, but I think we come to the same destination from a different starting point--the Biblical narrative.

  • At 8:10 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

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