Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Revvin' Reverend

Did you hear about the Harley-ridin' holy-rollers in southern California? They became bikers to reach the Hell's Angels (and others). Only, when the real Hell's Angels showed up, the Christians forgot to turn the other cheek and a Bible-packin' biker-brawl broke out! Two Hell's Angels ended up getting stabbed.
(BTW, you have to love a church where the Hell's Angels pick a fight...and lose!)

The question I have is this:
Where does the church draw the line in accommodating cultural norms (contextualizing Christianity) in order to reach out to the lost?

We've done this poorly in the past, often by being too strict (think missionary position, or our deracination efforts on the American Indian). We've also been too accomodating to the culture - especially as early Christians reached into pagan Europe.

Apparently, we're not done yet.


Thoughts?

9 comments:

Bill Crawford said...

That missional pot shot is way off the mark. Missional is not about accomodation its about getting off your tail and out of the pew and actually doing something in God's name.

Now that you've got my dander up:

Do we really want to explore how the early apostles afforded silk stoles and fancy vestments on a fisherman's salary? There is absolutely no indication that the early church used robes, stoles, etc - those were cultural accomodations to the norms in the culture of the day.

(now I've done it - I know I'm going to get nailed by the church geeks ;)

Red_Cleric said...

Yeah, at least today you can afford handguns and brass knuckles. I love the demotivator stuff but it's easy to just focus on the outrageous and miss the rest.

Jesus engaged the culture. He ate with the unclean. He touched the unclean and was considered unclean. He didn't sin. Daddy Jack Sparks who was with the Christian Counterfeit group which worked against cults in the 1980's wore a suit and tie.

In the 1970's during the Jesus movement he was in hippy garb and ran Christian World Liberation Front in Berkeley. He never compromised the message of Jesus, he simply lived, dressed and hung with people whom he was trying to reach. The street people of Berkley and the establishment of school boards.

He was missional before missional was missional... Does that make sense?

Alan

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

Bill,

With George Whitefield, I'd be glad to preach in my shirt-sleeves! However, I would like to point out that Eusebius preserves an otherwise lost written record from Hegesippus that indicates James the Just dressed himself in the linen robes of a Levite Priest and prayed in the temple for the reconciliation of the Jews. (See HE 2.23.4ƒƒ) There's plenty more evidence where that came from. But I don't want to miss your point.

What I'm criticizing as things called missional, but not really missional, is exactly what you see in that poster picture.

"Hey...let's have a poker night to reach out to the neighborhood!"

"Hey...let's have a bridge club as part of our outreach!"

"Hey...let's go to the pub and talk about the Bible for five minutes and call it 'Theology on Tap'!!!"

That kind of crap is not mission and it's not evangelism. It's capitulation and time-wasting.

Missional is going where they are, and speaking in terms they can understand. The INCARNATION is the missional activity of God. I bow during the Nicene Creed at Christ's humiliation...that's how seriously I take this mystery.

Playing cards, drinking booze while yuckin' it up at the pub, brewing beer as a covenant community group... that stuff deserves to be dethroned.

Viola said...

I love this posting it opens so many doors and windows too for conversation.

Alan I know about Christian World Liberation Front in Berkeley and Jack Sparks. But did you know Sparks became a bit of a cult figure himself and there was eventually a split in the World Liberation Front.

One of those people came on staff at the Church I use to belong to and is still there and a friend although I haven't seen him for a while, Steve Scott

I should write about those days sometimes because I think it would capture what missional really means, which is reaching the lost with a "transforming" gospel of Jesus Christ. That means you allow those around you to hear the gospel in ways and words they can understand, but you don't conform your ethics to their ethics.

What were those Christian bikers doing with knifes anyway?

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

Viola,

Rightly dividing the Word of Truth, I suppose....

For the word of God is quick, and sharper than any two-edged sword.

But a sharp tongue and a switchblade are pretty good back-ups.

backwoodspresbyterian said...

"Missional" along with "evangelical" and "reformed" and any number of "in" "movements" has fallen prey to the post-modern "definition" process where words can mean whatever I want them to mean.

Being "missional" in a Biblical sense means calling sin, SIN, as Christ did with the woman at the well. He did not beat around the bush and try and "understand her situation". Just as Peter in Acts 2 and Christ to the woman caught in adultery, Christ called her to "repent and believe". The Gospel means nothing without the Law and the Law means nothing without the Gospel. "Sitting with sinners" is often in my PTS circles a cop out for doing what you did when you were not a believer. Like the students who smoke Pot and drink to excess tell me, "Just trying to reach my unbelieving friends".

Shall we sin so that Grace may abound?

May it Never Be!

Benjamin P. Glaser

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

Ben,

The same was the situation at LPTS. I imagine it's that way at many mainline cemetaries...er, seminaries.

Bill Crawford said...

Ok all vestment history bits aside (knew that would get me in trouble).


Just because there are folks out there who want to water down the gospel doesn't mean we throw the term "missional" under the bus.

Most - and I mean by a very large factor, most folks who espouse being missional are evangelical. I can't help it that some weirdos got ahold of the term.

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

Bill:

I agree one hundred percent. I'm not advocating throwing out the terms at all. Incarnational, contextual, missional, etc. all have solid place in orthodox Christian witness in the new millenium.

And believe me...I feel your pain about a perfectly good word being taken by folks and ruined.

I can't say that I'm a catholic without people hearing "Roman"... ;)