Sunday, March 18, 2007

I'm going missional/emerging!

I've shared this with a few others in my church recently and two of them asked me to post something on my blog, so here goes...

I'm convinced that there are thousands, if not millions, of hurting Christians out there, not participating members in the body of Christ -- what our pastor has occasionally referred to as the "invisible church." Here are just a couple of generic examples:

A woman who used to belong to a pentacostal church where the elders and senior pastor told her that she is living in sin because she is divorced and remarried. (Nevermind the fact that her first husband was a non-believer when she got saved and that HE divorced her.) She loves Jesus, reads the Bible every day, and has a solid profession of faith, but going to church is just too painful anymore so she stopped.

A single man who has had four major health problems in nine years, including mercury poisoning and muscular distrophy, who literally cannot sit thru a sermon because he has been in the charasmatic church so long that he believes that his healing was supposed to be based on his faith, and so now doubts that he is even saved! -- This is the man who evangelized me and invited me to Bible study 11+ years ago!

Another single man who is a former seminary student and former youth pastor who has struggled with sexual temptation for 10 years - but, because he got wrapped up in a church heavily based in theonomy and legalism, he has suffered alone under a shroud of condemnation and isolation for the last 5 years. (he really believed that he has to conquer his sin in order to deserve going to church, not that he would actually say it that way.) Just trying to go to church these past few weeks is like the absolute hardest thing he has done in 5 years.

A young single college aged woman (who, as an aside, was physically abused by two of her male relatives) believes wholeheartedly in the reformed faith and defends the Bible and the creeds to her professors despite the risk of ridicule from her peers (and the possibility of a bad grade), only to be reprimanded by her misguided church leaders that she must remain silent while in church... and then to further scorch her conscience by telling her she should submit even to those male professors (who teach wickedness). Because of the manipulation and oppression from her church, now she only attends the local campus ministry. After she graduates from college, it is highly unlikely that she will easily trust or fit back into the 'visible' church quickly.

And there are more. So many more...

Some will argue that if someone is truly saved - a true disciple of Christ - they must belong to a church. Certainly, our pastor has exhorted his listeners and those present within the congregation of the extreme importance of church membership and body life. But anyone who has been outside the institutions of religion in this country for more than a few hours can testify that young people (all the way up to 40-somethings) have very mixed opinions of the church. (See Dan Kimball's They Like Jesus But Not the Church)

I don't think that our church falls into any of these categories, and I also have a huge heart for these types of folks. They're hurting. I was one of them myself. The very day I plugged back into the church, we started Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "Life Together" and that has completely changed my outlook toward the church and the importance of fellowship. I want to share that passion with hurting people like those above, people like me.

So one of the areas I'm praying about is our assimilation team. One of the leaders of this group talks about the "postmodern culture" we are dealing with, but he also says that in order to hold out true hope we must hold fast to the primary doctrines of faith - particularly THE GOSPEL, meanwhile avoiding controversial issues and secondary doctrines. That sounds like a very missional approach (maybe not emerging though). Okay, missional.

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