I decided to try and pick up where I left off with Missional Church. So I am on chapter 2 which starts with this very rich and thought provoking paragraph:
“The gospel is always conveyed through the medium of culture. It becomes good news to the lost and broken humanity as it is incarnated in the world through God’s sent people, the church. To be faithful to its calling, the church must be contextual, that is, it must be culturally relevant within a specific setting. The church relates constantly and dynamically both to the gospel and to its contextual reality.” (Guder, 18)
Today, when we think of the church being relevant we imagine the megachurch with the incredible graphic arts program and the best band in town. However, I do not believe that is what the author is referring too (although I do not believe that can be completely ruled out either). I believe this goes much deeper than just finding new methodologies. The author goes on to say, “In order to contextualize responsibly, the church must assess its culture critically, discerning and unmasking (deconstructing – my addition) its philosophical foundations and values.” So this issue is much deeper than just using new technology and a great speaker to reach our culture. It requires a very deep understanding of the world around us (and especially within our own Christian culture).
So Chapter 2 is a study of how North American (US and Canada) culture has evolved into its current state. It begins going all the way back to the Enlightenment and analyzing the birth of modern culture. Critically assessing how those ideas have established who we have become, both negatively and positively. The author reminds us at the beginning that this is not something Christians can simply choose to do if we want to truly live out the Gospel in the US, it is something we must do for our own sake as much as for the people we are called to love and reach.
“…because culture is not neutral, this discipline will assist the church to discern how it might be compromising gospel truth as it lives out its obedience to Christ the Lord.”
Looking back, one of the most powerful and enjoyable times on the trip was during the meals. We always ate together, around a table. Not in a living room (except one night because there were so many of us!) but around a table where we passed dishes and poured each other’s drinks, a time usually only reserved for holidays in US culture. I am not saying that is Canadian culture, but Kingdom culture. I know I am not the first one to realize this, obviously Nieucommunities understands how powerful this time can be, but I think this is the first time I have deeply realized it. It reminds me of a book I read that emphasized the importance of meal sharing in the Bible. I can’t remember what book it was, but it was clear that it was the basis of acceptance and building relationships and community with each other. That is certainly what it did in our group in Vancouver. I will admit that when Amber and I arrived at the Vancouver airport we were getting grumpy and frustrated. The bus ride from Seattle had taken much longer than we expected and we did not want to be the last ones to arrive. Everyone knows that on Christian trips if you are the last one to arrive you are already out of the group. It just seems that if you miss out on those very first experiences then you will not form relationships because the cliques have already been formed and the lines drawn. So unfortunately, we were the last to arrive, but fortunately none of that junk happened!
Thinking back on it now I still can’t believe the conversations we had over a table just about every night. Whether that was at the dinner table or a coffee table we listened to each other’s stories and genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. So we are going to do that here in Spring Hill too. After small group tonight we invited all of them over for dinner on Sunday. We are going to invite others too, to build and create relationships and community here. I believe that is what God put in our hearts while we were there. To build community here, in the burbs, where we live far apart and are busy and have a million other commitments. But we need each other (and Chris if you read this, we can’t wait to have you back!).
So thank you to Becca, Jenna, Russ, Jason, Colletta, Kelsey, and Heather. It is amazing what a week can do and I am still frustrated that I cannot articulate the experience very well. But the conversations were full of life and his Holy Spirit is still with us! Thank you to all the staff there as well. You all helped Amber and I grow and hopefully will continue to do so.
“Time spent around the table with each other in time spent with God.” Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis