do you think much...

Friday, December 01, 2006


The following is a discussion between my friend Jon and others about reaching a post-Christian culture. Conversation flows from top to bottom (first email starts first here) Please join us in the conversation!
We had a great thanksgiving...nice and relaxing. Those blogs are great...file those away...we will be returning to them for ideas.

You need to read a book by a guy named Leslie Newbigin. He was a missionary to India for years...then he returned home to England and realized his country had become quite post-Christian. So he began thinking about how we contextualize the gospel to a post-Christian, post-modern culture. I am currently reading his book called Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture. You need to purchase this and read it with me.

I just got off the phone with a man in our church who raised his family in an evangelical church, taught them the right things, did family devotions with them...and yet, his kids "don't get it". What he means is his kids don't see the world in black and white / right and wrong terms that he does and he can't figure it out. He taught them the "right" things. Unbeknownst to him, he is experiencing a cultural shift right in his own home and he does not know what to do with it. His kids are post-Christian in their view of the world. And this guy has no clue how to reach his own kids.... even though they have been raised in church. Hmm....even in little ol' Carlisle, PA, we are losing our traditional and Christendom worldviews. I don't advocate for a Christendom worldview..I do advocate for a Christian worldview...the two are not the same. So, I am encouraged because I think we stand a real chance at being a church that meets post-Christian people where they are and will walk with them to help them understand Jesus in ways that make sense with their worldview.

Read Newbigin and you will get a better grasp of what I mean. Peace Man....keep praying. Jon
Dudes, Thanks for the note. That book looks totally solid. Harold - let me know if you want a copy and I will just order two of them. There are plenty of other books I can add to the order as well.

Morality is not Christianity. It's self-salvation. The antithesis to salvation through grace alone. Living by the rule book will just fail you time and time again. Without free grace, we will always feel inadequate and unable to live up to the law. Christ's love and sacrifice has set us free from this! In my mind, contextualizing the true gospel of grace alone is what will "attract" people to Christ and the church. Along with a welcoming and open community where we sacrifice for each other and our lives are thickly integrated together.

Happened across Mars Hill Church's website somehow this weekend and noticed their current series - Vintage Jesus. They are basically teaching about Jesus life. I like it. My uncle was talking about the same thing over the weekend. He is teaching a class at his church on the life of Christ. There is a great need for this, not only for insiders but outsiders as well. My Monday morning thoughts...Kyle
Contextualization....look at the way Jesus' life is being taught by Driscoll and compare that to Counts or your uncle....That is what I mean by contextualization....Go peek at Mosaic...and notice the video clip at the bottom of their home page. ... they feature McManus teaching in a sports jersey....i think it's kind of cheesy...but that is what I mean by contextualization.

Traditionally churches have fallen into several camps:
1. your traditional Christian church. these are the people who say...we are not going to water down the gospel by playing cool music and wearing shorts to church. They are totally inward focused. These churches tend to emphasize the need to hear perfectly correct doctrine..and they've got it.

2. slightly up the scale are the conservative evangelicals. These people may have contemporary music, good bible teaching and exposition, great programs for the whole fam...etc. But everything is geared for the insider. They use lots of Christian verbiage. The focus of the sermons is on the Christian and their individual struggles and misconceptions about God. These churches tend to emphasize the need to obey God. So like on Sunday, Shad gave a great talk about worship. But the whole point was made to the Christian. We don't worship God because or when we feel like it. **Great point. But most of the sermons are geared toward the typical Christian problems and struggles with being a Christian.

3. The seeker church--This church is focused on reaching people. They have a heart for outsiders...but they think they have to be very cool to do this. So they try too hard to make the bible "relevant". So they preach sermons on How to have a better marriage. how do deal with stress. how to have a better self-esteem...its an hour of pop psyche with a little scripture tagged on at the end. The thinking is...people will come hear this if they are getting their 'felt needs' met. The focus of the sermons is 'me'. These churches tend to emphasize the need to reach people and be relevant.

4. Now...i am not saying I have this one figured out. But here is a shot. What if we did church...not for seekers, not for believers...but for humans. And not just any humans...the humans who live in our community...we are are trying to connect with. I think we can do this because we are actually one of them. We are who we are trying to reach. I mean, do you feel totally 'at home' in your church? I don't. If I am going to be honest. I don't feel totally at home. And that is ok. We should be mature enough to deal with the differences and be able to worship, engage, and receive from the Word in the way its taught. But what if we tried to organize a church that was completely outward focused from the beginning. What would it look like to organize a church that is not based on Christendom, the Bible is the Word of God, truth as objective and knowable, Christ as the only way to God....etc. What would it look like to be a church that is contextualized to a progressively post-Christian culture??

I reference the e-mail I sent last night. Christian teenagers, who have been raised in longer get it and don't hold the Christendom assumptions that their own parents have. We aren't talking pagan families...we are talking churched families. If this is happening in the church...God knows its happening outside the church. This gives me hope that our vision is what the Carlisle area needs....and will continue to increasingly need. Because these people aren't connecting with Christendom assumptions and epistemology.

I want to be apart of a church that emphasizes the need to change the world for good by following Jesus. Because God is missional. He is missional in his character. The whole narrative of Scripture is not encompassed in simply 'obey God' or 'reach people' through evangelism. The whole narrative of Scripture is encompassed in God's saving work to renew a broken world. New Heavens and New Earth. That's individuals, that's environment, that's people groups, that's everything. We need to obey God to do this, we need to reach people to do this....we need to have personal relationships with Christ to do this....but it can't stop there. Because God's word does not stop there. So we do this through tightly knit communities, we do this through radical self-sacrifice, we do this through loving our neighbors, we do this through serving the poor and helping the Carlisle area to be a better place to live, we do this through personal and corporate Bible study, we do this through conversations with friends, etc....Sorry for the long e-mail. Peace. Jon
Hey man. I don't mind the long email. Harold is out goofing off, trying to shoot deer & bear this morning.

Try not to get down about your current situation and not feeling at home. Preaching to "Christian problems" is what so many churches do. Preaching should be less about this and more about Christ and His grace (as we've agreed upon previously). Dealing with "life problems" or "Christian" problems should be part of the community and its fellowship. If we are truly engaged with one another, we will challenge, hold accountable and encourage each other in our struggles. We all (insiders and outsiders) deal with the same struggles, they should not be boxed up.

Dude, I actually do feel "at home" at CRPC. This may be attributed to the fact that I've grown up in that church, so there is a comfort level there, however, the congregation has changed so much even since I returned from college. Almost a completely new group. Honestly, for the most part, CRPC is not terribly inward (any church has some of this). There are tendencies to be more closed off but Counts and the eldership will not allow that. Yes, CRPC could do a better job of reaching more outsiders but so can every church. I believe Counts really does have a heart for reaching outsiders and he preaches this way and encourages the insiders to live it in our lives.

I'm troubled slightly but a sentence you typed in your last email. I totally understand it and see your point but it still troubles me some... "But what if we tried to organize a church that was completely outward focused from the beginning. What would it look like to organize a church that is not based on Christendom, the Bible is the Word of God, truth as objective and knowable, Christ as the only way to God....etc."

If the church is not based upon the Bible as the Word of God, truth as knowable through His revelation in Scripture and creation, Christ as the only way...WHAT is the church based upon?! I see what you are getting at but this is a precarious position to be building something upon. Or, maybe I'm mis-reading. Enlighten me.

One last note. I'm going to say this and you can disagree, rip me to shreds, mock or just agree...I'm of the school of thought that reformed theology can,>does and will reach/connect with a post-Christian, non-epistemological culture. The free grace offered through Christ's atonement is what will attract. It has to. Certainly, it needs to be presented in a more culturally contextualized format which might very well mean a football jersey or connecting a TV show or cultural trend or book with our message. Showing that we are within the cultural context and not abhoring it. I've had this thought for quite some time now. That the "emergents" really are just seeking what reformed theology offers. Enjoy. Kyle
You sound like Michael Horton. He precisely made your last point...I do think reformed theology does and can engage with postmoderns. I am learning that much of my understanding of reformed theology is stereotypical. I am not trouncing reformed theology. As long as you don't find yourself serving the statements of faith...but Christ. And as long as your are open minded on the non-essentials.

To my point about post-Christendom assumptions. I am not saying we don't teach that Christ is the only way, or that the Bible is our rule for faith and life. We do...I am just saying we can't assume our audience believes those things coming into the church. That's all. Trust me...we are lost without the Scriptures. We do believe Christ is the only way....We just don't have to go around trying to figure out who is in and who is out...That's God's job...just judge...last time I checked.

Also, I am sorry If I offended you in regard to your church. I am sure it is a great church, so is mine. I have nothing but good to say about them. God is there, God is using them. But I don't think they are equipped to engage many outsiders. That's all. And I am not saying I have it all figured out. But I want to be a part of a church that will give serious attention to how we can reach outsiders with the grace of Christ. And focus on helping Carlisle to be more of the place God wants it to be...Towards the New Heaven / New Earth. Tim Keller stuff. Peace....let's keep talking. Jon
Hey, No, you did not offend me. Rarely does that happen to me. I'm a fairly laid back kind of guy except when it comes to sports. Haha. I was just describing my current experience at CRPC, not defending it. Certainly, CRPC can and should be more engaged in reaching outsiders and I think we are going that direction.

Ok, so I was mis-understanding your earlier statement. I totally agree with "we can't assume our audience believes those things coming into the church" because they don't! You are right, we shouldn't be going around trying to figure out who is in and who is out. I feel churches that preach more of "moral Christianity" are the ones who concern themselves more with what I call the "Church Club" and looking down upon those who aren't in the club as terribly evil. Such hypocrisy! We are all sinners in need of a saving grace. A club membership doesn't save you. Yes, I can't serve the "statements of faith" as you termed it, in reformed thinking. In its core, reformed theology teaches Christ alone; serving His kingdom here, in all of life; helping the poor, etc. Some can become "stuck" on their belief system or a "higher understanding" and this is wrong. Yet, I feel this is rare and more of a stereotype as you mentioned.

Towards the New Heaven/New Earth...yes, serving His kingdom in the here and now. KD
I spent the whole day (11 Hours) in my tree stand seeing no deer. I did a lot of praying though. I saw my buddy Sam in Bedford this weekend. He and I went flying over altoona and talked a lot about the church plant. I think he wants to do it but can't leave his contract right now. God's will? Afterwards, I had lunch with his mom and older brother. His brother, Steve, works for CCO and was asking a lot of good questions. I decided I was going to email a bunch of my friends and ask them to pray for us and Join us if they like, but also ask a lot of questions because I want to pray about the things that I am unsure, what makes us any different than any other church, how will we reach people who are post-christian. - Harold
Hey man,
I totally resonate with your question. "what makes us any different than any other church" "how will we reach post-Christian people" I am with you on those questions. And if "I" as the church planter am suppose to have those answers in full...then it might be a crappy church planter without even being a church planter yet.

Here is the thing...our humanity and or our modern Western senses crave answers before action. Like..I want to know the plan before I commit to something. Right? But I think God sometimes rearranges the vision / plan part with the action. Sometimes he tells us....go. We say where? God says trust me...go! This is what I see God doing with me. He tells us to stay in school. We do. That means quitting my job. We did. That means we have to trust God to work out the future. He is. I encourage you guys to consider if this is a calling from God. Or is it just a cool idea of doing church our way with cool people? Maybe it's both? But for me this is a calling. I didn't seek this out. I didn't ask BIC to pay my salary and throw money at me to plant a church with. All I know is God is doing something. Most times I am pumped...sometimes I am overwhelmed and feel totally inadequate. But maybe that is part of the process God has for this whole deal.

I know what will make this plant different from other churches..Reaching people. Trust me, I don't want to be negative. I have the utmost respect for e-free, Carlisle BIC, and CRP. But we have a real chance to begin a church that can be completely outward focused on helping people come to faith in Christ and live in the way of Jesus. I speak for E-free and Carlisle BIC. Both of these churches are ministering to already religious people. They are helping nominal Christians find deeper faith and meaning in Christ. That is great!! A high calling. Its just not my calling. So back to calling. Is God calling you guys to this. If so. The answers and clarity of vision will come in time. And we have some time. But it is a bit frustrating when your trying to tell people what this could be and how it could be different.

But I believe that God will / could / if He sees fit to use this plant to reach an unreached population in this region. A population that is growing increasing post-Christian in number and worldview. So please...take time to consider...Is God calling you to this. If He is then you will be able to put in the blood sweat and tears. Handle the disappoints and failures. Make the sacrifices. And pour your hearts, souls, and time into this gig. If not..that is ok...Really. This is God's deal and He can do what He wants. If that means He wants you in...awesome. If that means He wants you out. Great. God will use us regardless of where we minister.

We have 18 months to figure out how...and then who knows how long after the launch to figure out that it is going to be different than what we expected and planned for. But that is how it goes.

I appreciate you guys. You're good friends. I love this kind of conversation.
See ya. Jon
"How will we reach post-Christian people?" In my mind, that's the most crucial thing that we are debating now. We aren't the only people debating it either. There certainly is no set way to do this (reach outsiders) and I think its an evolving approach. It hast o be, as this demographic we are trying to connect with is evolving daily (hourly really).

It's good that we are not trying to launch anything right away because we need more time to think, discuss and pray about ideas. Maybe a good way to see ideas in action is to visit other churches (when possible). Not sure when Jon will ever have time to do this! I think we should make a conscious effort to visit some other churches. I will be in Pittsburgh over the weekend, so it will be cool to see the church there where my friends worship. I've had the opportunity to visit different churches and I have a small idea of what I like but that doesn't mean everyone else feels that same as me.

In reality, I think we (our group discussing these things) is good at connecting with the culture (knowing what's going on). We also are good at building relationships with people (insiders or outsiders). This is where it all begins. Right where we are now. Continue to build those relationships, connecting people (Harold you are very good at this), inviting them to pray with us, to hang out, offering to help them with anything, etc. As we continue to find ways to connect this to a "worship time" that is attractive to these folks. Thoughts? Fire away boys. Kyle

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