There is a three pronged impact on Christianity evident in today’s society. They are distinct and yet overlapping. They have to do with structure and form, purpose, and theology.
House Church/ Un-Church
If any of you reading this have followed any of my notes, you will know that this is a hot topic. The Barna research group have said that we are in a time of migration out of the institutional church into a more organic form of Christianity.
1) Leadership Hierarchy is flattening out; the clergy/ laity split is dissolving.
2) Believer gatherings are becoming smaller, and though some house churches are mere duplications of the institutional church, many others are taking open participation to a new level.
Un-Churched people, on the other hand, believe that community just happens. It does not need human organization, rather God is responsible for guiding the believer into relationships that He wants the believers to develop – be it with other believers or non-believers. The emphasis for these people is to remain in Christ and to be obedient to His daily leading.
Of course there is the possibility of losing contact with some Christian fellowship, but the fellowship that does occur is claimed to be deeper and have more meaning then the average Christian fellowship within the institution. My caveat is that in the new testament, the letters were written to the whole body and individual believers were addresses through the body. My caveat is not just to the un-churched believer but the the institution. Communication has been greatly enhanced in the information age so the un-churched believer will know what God is doing in the greater community. But the greater community may not include house churches or the un-churched in their mindset of the Body.
Missional vs Attractional Movement
Missional vs Attractional is far more than just ministry emphasis. They are ways of being.
Attractional: the goal of attractional is to get the un-believers into christian community. It is a ‘come to us’ mentality.
Missional: living an incarnational life. Our Christianity is lived out in the world.
Scenario 1: Coffee Shop Ministry
An attractional church will create a coffee shop, either in the church building or in another facility, in order to minister to unbelievers. Even if they have a coffee shop in a public facility, for the period of time that they are doing the coffee shop ministry, they convert the public space into a sacred space. Even in the most benign environment, they are still either excepting the people to come to them to be ministered, or they enter the unbelievers space to strike up conversations in order to get the person to come back to the believers space.
Missional believers would not have their own coffee shop, they would attend an unbeliever’s coffee shop. They do not go with the agenda of planting seeds to get the nonbeliever to come back to the Christian’s space but to bless and serve. They are witnesses. As such they live Christ and let the Holy Spirit work His purpose in the lives of the non-believer. This in no way means that there is no talk about God stuff, but it comes through relationship and by the invitation of the unbeliever and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Scenario 2: Soup Kitchen
The attractional model of the soup kitchen is to build one yourself, or to have your church take over serving at a local one. The missional response would be to only work at one that already exists, preferably one not run by a Christian organization, and only go in small numbers. This spreads out the influence – instead of a team of ten taking over once a week, teams of two go out and therefore there is the influence there five days a week.
The idea of being missional is like a virus that spreads throughout the community rather than being like a caner that is more noticeable because the cells stick together.
Here are two of the best videos on missional teaching that I have heard:
The idea here is that theology is worked out in every generation and is formed for that generation according the their context.
-Paul’s theology was the result of working out the Jewish message in a gentile context.
– Augustine’s theology is a result of his struggle to balance Neo-Platonism with his conversion to Christianity.
– Since the time of Augustine, theologians have taken the greco-roman god of Christianity and reinterpreted this in their context. So Calvin and Luther took Augistinian theology and translated it for their context.
As a result of Augustine’s struggle and the resultant struggle in the middle ages to marry greco-roman philosophies with Christianity, our current theologies are heavily reliant on a non Hebraic philosophical system. The emerging theologians today are wrestling with what this means for our understanding about God. This is not to say that Augustine’s theology should be nonchalantly discarded, but it needs to be understood within the context of the neo-Platonism that is was formed.
The Greek philosophy of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates viewed God as an abstract force that lived apart from humanity in a state of divine purity. The Hebrews viewed God as One who got his hands dirty. He is a creator God very much tied to His creation and His creation tied to him. He was an active and present God not a god removed from the concerns of humanity. This God lived in the midst of his people not out there somewhere.
There is a large number of theologians, and if you have any thought about God you can consider yourself a theologian, that hold to the idea that theology is not static by dynamic. We can only understand God through our own human wisdom and understanding. And so, as human wisdom and understanding changes, our understanding about God must change. Some truths are not universal but cultural. Other truths are grounded firmly in God, but as God is so big, from our human perspective those truths seem to move and we have to wrestle what it means to us today.
There are other grand approaches to theology, that to our greco-roman saturated understanding deems to be heretical:
God is not omnipotent in the sense of being coercive. The divine has a power of persuasion rather than coercion.
The universe is characterized by process and change carried out by the agents of free will.
Because God interacts with the changing universe, God is changeable (that is to say, God is affected by the actions that take place in the universe) over the course of time. However, the abstract elements of God (goodness, wisdom, etc.) remain eternally solid.
Openness is based on God as the Living God. The five most fundamental attributes of God are that He is Living, Personal, Relational, Good, and Loving. These faithfully represent God the way that Scripture presents Him, and starkly contrast with the Greek and Roman philosophical construction of God.
All that I can honestly say about such theologies is that they may be closer to the ancient Hebraic concepts of God. I have not studied these ideas much and what I have read have challenged my current beliefs.
My theology has changed greatly in the last year or so. The change that has had the greatest effect on my life is that of the atonement. I no longer hold to the idea of substitution atonement. My views on ‘original sin’ [a neo-Platonism ‘doctrine’ incorporated into Christian doctrine by Augustine], nature of man, work of atonement came to a more harmonious view with in the love of God after many months of wrestling and inner turmoil. I realize that this puts me outside of the ‘orthodox’ of the evangelical and charismatic flavours of Christendom, but my views are in no way un-orthodox with much of church history.
I leave you with a quote from one last video that I feel sums up the attitude of much of the desire of wrestling with God in regards to theology.
“You don’t experience birth, birth is what allows you to experience.
I don’t experience life, its life that allows me to experience.
I don’t see the light in this room, it is the light that allows me to see.
in the same way
Christianity is not something that you can grasp, its what changes how you grasp everything.
So God doesn’t enter the world as an object that I can talk about, God is what changes how I interact with all objects,
God is that which transforms my experience, so that I become like Christ.
So that mean that I can not talk about God and pin him down absolutely, I can use some words, But God is somebody who makes me look like Christ and act like Christ”