Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Prague Challenge



Perhaps the best (and most ironic) thing about the Jet Set Vision trip occurring in Prague is the way that the city is a near perfect illustration for the problem the trip is addressing. The problem that Missional heralds are trying to highlight is that the church has lost the ability to communicate with the world around it. The cultural span between your average church and the average town in which it lives has become so vast that it will take cross-cultural methods similar to those used by “foreign missionaries” to cross it.

As illustrations for Missional living go, Prague is a doozey. There may be harder places to serve as a Christian worker, but not many that are harder in which to be Missional. The first obstacle is the culture itself, or more precisely the language. The joke in the Czech Republic is that no invader has ever been able to hold power long because they could never learn the language.

Making matters worse is the fact that the “cope rather than adapt” quotient in Prague is so high. As much as one sixth of the people in Prague are expats. The international population is so large, the use of the international language—English—is so great, that one could live there for decades and never really engage a Czech person. A huge percentage of the Missional work that occurs in Prague never makes its way into the indigenous population.

It is very nearly a perfect example of the challenge that faces churches. Most churches know that they are responsible with engaging the world, the lost and the unchurched with the message of the Gospel. However, it is so much easier to do work amongst the saved, the “backslidden,” and cultural Christians that many never get around to interacting with most of the community around them.

Issues like contextualization, cultural exegesis, and the thing that Jesus commanded: disciple-making, are all very hard work. But that is exactly the truth that churches need to wake up to these days. We need to be ready to choose the hard work that will accomplish the task we have been given over the easy (read lazy) efforts we have been engaged in for the past several decades.

2 comments:

  1. I'm convinced that churches are up for the challenge presented by Prague, Budapest, and other post-Christian contexts. Unfortunately, the only churches you hear about are either setting up franchises of their empires back home in the U.S. or defer completely to field leaders who don't have any idea what to do with them.

    Great insight on Prague, by the way. I'm curious to see if the vision trip group picks up on the challenges you mention here.

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  2. The sheer size of the international population in Prague is bigger than most cities evangelicals going there to minister have ever lived in. People of all stripes go to live there and can go decades with little to no interaction with Czech people in a Czech context. Often as churches, we can go through much of our history without ever encountering non-Christians in a truly secular context.

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