For our time together I want to be clear that my purpose is not instruction, but rather agitation. My entire goal is to get you to experience the freedom of cursing your monitor. If I fail, ask Bill for a refund.
Second, I want to have some fun. You may not appreciate my humor because it is the traditional postmodern irony and sarcasm that likely makes me a humor fundamentalist. Admittedly, I laugh through Ezekiel and think God can be funny when He’s not jumping on people in the wine press of His wrath. Humor is a completely neglected area of theology, which indicates that we may take ourselves to seriously and our God too lightly.
Our discussions can go wherever you like them, but to help distinguish some basic categories we can probe off the following categories of gospel, culture, and church taken from the great and now metaphysically challenged Abraham of postmodern missiology, Lesslie Newbigin from his book “The Open Secret” that has been further explored by the Gospel and Our Culture Network (www.GOCN.org). Brother Newbigin explains it thus, “I have described the interaction between gospel and culture as a continually developing relationship within a triangular field, of which the three points are the local culture, the ecumenical fellowship representing the witness of Christians from other cultures, and the Scriptures as embodying the given revelation, with its center and focus in the person of Jesus Christ.”
Therefore, it is important to simply begin with our premise that the gospel is of greater importance than the culture and the church and that the gospel alone can redeem, transform, and resurrect both the culture and the church. This is vital since in our day there is a tendency toward a syncretism of the gospel with a co-opting by culture, or a separatism of the gospel with it hidden in the church. As the gospel works it’s way through culture it inevitably results in the forming of communities of believers called the church that then organize with offices and ordinances to manage their growth and health. But, if at any point the work of the gospel ceases in the church and the church fails to undergo a critique of itself from the gospel, it has begun the cycle of death and decline as the church committees forget the mission and begin to turn the church into the idol.
To help with the discussion I’ve also created a small lexicon to help us speak the same language since some of us are from the south and don’t speak English very well. Y’all understand?
Principles & Methods – principles are timeless and given in Scripture (i.e. worship the Lord) and therefore do not change. But, methods (i.e. sing those terrible Christian worship songs/beer jingles for Jehovah they hawk on CCLI) are the implementation of principles that should change to be faithful in every time and place. Therefore, there is not a “way” to do things no matter how many Seeker/Purpose/Postmodern/House Church just ad water kits roll off the assembly line. We can talk about local contexts and circumstances but must admit that the days of franchised Christianity may be in the rear view mirror.
Missiology – is the tenuous reconciling of the ancient text and the present context so that there is a faithful and accessible gospel and church in every time and place.
Apostle – someone gifted by God with the ability to reconcile text and context in a practical and faithful way. A true apostle is probably a skilled leader and hated by a large number of people – particularly those kinds of people who don’t eat enough bran and don’t think that Chris Rock is funny.
Church Growth vs. Church Health – church growth wrongly focused the church on nickels and noses that can be increased through prostitution. But, our goal must be a faithful bride for Christ which means we labor for church health and believe that health will bring growth in due time.
Midrash – is the ancient art of fighting with words and unless we learn to fight Biblically we will be soft and uninspiring like Christian rock music, Richard Simmons, and donuts.
Gospel – salvation is through Christ alone and the power of God is unleashed through the gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not believe everyone is going to be a Christian, but rather that some people will be kindling and so I am not a universalist. The “purpose” of all ministries must be the gospel by the Holy Spirit, through the Son, to the glory of the Father. The gospel is not about the self-esteem, felt needs, or self-actualization of people who always want God to worship them. The gospel is about God.
Culture – the soil that the seed of the gospel is planted in and watered so that fruit can be harvested. There is no such thing as a culturally independent gospel, but rather all gospels exist in a time and place with a people. However, there is only one gospel (i.e. I Corinthians 15), though it may be articulated faithfully in multiple ways (i.e. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). Cultures include elements of God’s common grace, the marred image and likeness of God, and the opposition to God that Scripture calls the world, which is corporate flesh. Culture does not exist as a monolith but varies greatly among people, times, locations, and circumstances which are continually fluid thus the ever morphing nature of culture.
Postmodernity – postmodernity has become the junk drawer of culture and in it people are throwing everything and anything because it’s more respectable than saying “I don’t know what is going on in the world and I’m completely overwhelmed and educated beyond my intelligence.”
Scripture – Christians should really like the Bible and even risk being called the f-word for reading it and believing what it says (btw the f-word is fundamentalist).
Sin – are the many offenses that dishonor God and ruin His good creation. Among these would include but are not limited to murder, stealing, country music, Nascar, wrestling, and mullet haircuts (www.MulletsGalore.com).
Reformed – theologically, this is my underwear. I like beer, sex, rock music, baseball, and the Puritans. Obviously, not in this order. However, each of these things needs to be reformed. For example, we should eliminate light beer, pornography, boy bands, the designated hitter, and the regulative principle of worship.
Elders – are the senior leaders in the church.
Headship – the recognition that in every circumstance someone must be in charge and take responsibility for things that are not their fault like Jesus did for us on the cross. Without this we have a “community” that looks like Genesis 3 with everyone pointing at someone else.
Practical Theology – any teaching that is not theological and practical is only good for hell and seminary.
Church Membership – should be difficult to achieve and include theological instruction, a covenant of expectations, and discipline for sin. A healthy church should have fewer members than attenders.
The Cultural Mandate – God’s command in creation that we are men and women called to marriage and child bearing as we extend God’s reign of grace across the earth.
Multi-Site Congregations – churches like ours that have multiple sites and often multiple preachers but remain one church.
Countering Culture – the goal of God’s people who must resist syncretism and sectarianism which either remove the gospel from the culture, or remove the culture from the gospel.
The Colon – the church is a body with many parts and one of the most vital parts of that body is the colon. Without a colon a church keeps people, programs, facilities, and beliefs that make it very sick and will cause it to die, or at least emit very foul odors.