Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Caution: Ghettos Can Suck (Missional Vision Right Out of You.)

In a conversation with an aspiring church planter the other day, the question came up: “Do you find this thing we are trying to do hard?” The church planter in question was a German, so he was not referring to cross-cultural work; just the idea of starting new churches in Germany. We addressed all the issues that always come up in these conversations: the difficulty of reaching people who are “immunized” against the Gospel, the challenge of getting Germans to shift a social circle’s reason for being, etc. However, a truly interesting statement was made once he found out that our approach is single-minded.

“Ah yes. I can see how you would find the work hard if all you are doing is trying to start new churches. It is easier if you have something else to do in the church. Then you don’t feel like you are getting no results.”

What I didn’t tell him is that this is actually a common problem for us cross-cultural church planters. Countless numbers of missionaries I have known over the years are quickly absorbed into the traditional church’s sphere and never heard of again, at least in the lost culture. It is very easy to see how it happens. Don’t have any new church plants on the horizon? Go ahead and fill your time preaching a sermon here or teaching a Bible study there. Your expertise is there for a reason isn’t it? Plus, the churches are so grateful to have you work with them. You aren’t just spinning your wheels that way.

That does not mean churches should be avoided, but the Missional goal of the task should remain the drive behind everything that is done. Nothing should be done that does not contribute to the end goal of starting new work, new ways of doing church. After all, if you are just going to fill a need in a traditional church, why leave the home you came from? Traditional churches are always short of workers. It is a part of what traditional church is all about. Programs need workers and the Ghetto will suck you in—be it in the Bible Belt or halfway around the world.

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