Sunday, June 7, 2015

Church 101: Reclaiming the Whole Story

Most of us are familiar with John Godfrey Saxe' poem, "The Blind Men and the Elephant." It tells how 6 blind men came to have very differing opinions about what an Elephant was because they had each only experienced part of the animal and took that as the whole of it. Often our experience of church follows the same inadequacies. We often connect with only a part of the Story, and therefore our understanding of church, is going to be limited.

Gabe Lyons in his book, The Next Christians describes 5 ways that Christians connect to only a part of the story in the way we interact with our current culture.

Insiders are driven by a desire to maintain personal purity and faith, and we do that by withdrawing and separating from the broader culture around us.  Our primary interactions are with other Christians.

Culture Warriors are driven by a desire to protect and maintain cultural expressions that reflect Judea-Christian values, and are very concerned by the 'secularization' of society.

Evangelizers are motivated to 'win souls for Jesus'.  The world needs the message of the Gospel in order to be saved.  Everything else is a distant second.

These first 3 perspectives, Lyons groups under the Separatist heading.  They connect with culture, but from the safety of the church as if it were an outpost - separate from the culture at large.  Separatists see ourselves as "a countercultural movement that uses [doctrine] as a means of defining cultural boundaries... intended as much to alienate secular culture as to give [separatists] a sense of identity and purpose."

But there are two more.  These Lyons groups under the larger heading, "Culturalists".

Blenders are driven by a desire to create an atmosphere of acceptance.  We tend to adopt cultural expressions and ways of thinking, and adapt our churches to blend with them.  Toleration is a very high value for Blenders.

Philanthropists are driven by a desire to make the world a better place.  We are very 'ministry' oriented and those ministries are almost exclusively in the arena of social needs; poverty, housing, clean water, medicine, etc.

I'm sure that with a little thought we might find one of these to be more dominant in our understanding of what the church is supposed to be.  And we can certainly find Biblical rational for each of these perspectives.  The problem is, that like the blind men 'seeing' an elephant, it is only a part of the elephant.  If we are only/primarily experiencing a part of the story, the reality is, we are missing the story.  We need to be living the whole story.

Gabe Lyons suggests a third way, not a balance of all 5 perspectives way, but an entirely different way of being Church.

Restorers are engaged in the mission of God in the church.  What does God intend the church to be from Pentecost to the Last Trumpet?  That is the question we will explore next week.

To listen to the full sermon go to:

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