Thursday, May 11, 2006

How to be Missional and Countercultural

Well, I've spent (more than) enough time describing what the Church is not to do under the guise of contextualization, but lest I fall prey to Moody's quip ("I like the way I do evangelism more than the way you don't do it") I will do my best to describe what a missional church would look like under a two kingdoms rubric.

First, I draw a distinction between being missional and being contextual. "Missional" is a mindset that believers should have at all times. The goal of missional churches is to send, not necessarily to attract. "Contextual," on the other hand, seems to describe the tone and ethos of the actual worship service rather than the behavior of the saints Monday through Saturday.

But here's where a two kingdoms paradigm comes into play: During corporate worship on the Lord's day, we are no longer American, Asian, black, white, rich, poor, barbarian, Scythian, bond, or free. In other words, it is our unique folk culture that we are to unabashedly display in public worship, with all its ancient and countercultural glory. Our "context" for worship, therefore, is Mount Zion and the heavenly Jerusalem, and our primary concern is not pleasing the culture, but pleasing Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, whose blood speaks better things than that of Abel (Heb. 12:22-24).

So when God, through his minister, calls the saints heavenward to worship, the purpose of the remainder of the gathering is just that: for the saints to worship. But when the service culminates with God, through his minister, commissioning his people to go forth in his Name and with his blessing, these redeemed people, having just experienced the Lord's calling, cleansing, consecration, and communion, are now to go out into all the world and make disciples of all nations.

So our missional calling does not mean that we adapt divine worship to the presuppositions, trends, and tastes of this passing age. What it does mean, however, is that we cease trying to attract people to church with our pandering and programs and start living our most holy faith before the eyes of a watching world.

This is the kind of mission I am excited about, for it is this, and not cultural mimicry, that will compel postmodern cynics to ask us a reason for the hope that lies within us.