The goal of a church is not to be missional or attractional. Then again, MIDDLE GROUND IS NOT THE ANSWER.
If you are just joining this conversation you are in the middle. Check out Lee Coate‘s blog, then visit Jonathan Lee‘s blog. Hopefully Aaron Snow or Dwight Watson will be able to add a blog from their perspective soon.
As Jonathan has so eloquently put it, we have been here before.
My dad (an SBC pastor and denominational exec) told me at that point that he had seen this kind of movement before, in the 60’s, anti-institutional, the young having their day. I, of course, thought my dad was missing it, stuck in his tradition, bound by his denominational ties that bind.
I think this was in response to the church becoming sectarian and exclusive, more worried about preserving it’s culture than reaching the lost one around it. I also believe there were two primary reactions to this: the attractional movement and the para-church movement. There are many avid defenders of both movements and I neither intend to defend or attack these movements here. What was obvious and connected with these movements was this: they sought to fill an obvious deficiency within the church.
For educational purposes, we have moved beyond the attractional/missional, modern/post-modern and emerging/emergent (with the final blow coming with Tony Jones recent jump the Shark moment on GLBT inclusionary post). We now, from an ecclesiological standpoint are dealing with simple/house churches and corporate churches. Now we have to ask ourselves the question: are simple/house churches seeking to fill an obvious deficiency within the church? If so, what is that deficiency?
These are tough questions to answer because of the glocal (Bob Roberts reference) nature of the conversation. Take Alan Hirsch for example: from Australia, uses the house church movement in China as an example for how we should do church in America? Also, take Jaeson Ma as well. How many minorities and people groups we involved in the “how we do church discussions” of the 60’s? This is not your daddy’s ecclesiological discussion.
What we can say is that a unintended side affect of the attractional church is it’s consumer nature. It is also intuitive that consumerism is an opponent of true, authentic community. Now if you work for an attractional church you will say that your church is the exception to the the rule. Note: you all can’t be the exception to the rule. You need to accept the short-coming so that you can most effectively work against it. In this aspect the simple/house church movement is filling a very real void: the need for authenticity and community.
Problems arise within the church when we point to the other side and question their validity. Quotes such as this don’t help anyone:
Im a big fan of Alan Hirsch’s writing (we even exchanged text messages once) but honestly I’m not convinced he actually has done anything missional except write about it. I can’t believe I just wrote that (just being authentic). There has got to be more to this discussion than merely the appearance of the “shop around the corner” bookstore calling the big Barnes and Noble evil because everyone would rather browse books, buy coffee, and shop there. Just being the small, intimate, shop around the corner does not make you more authentic, effective, or true. Get over yourself. Ok, I’m done
Well Lee, you might be done, but that just isn’t helping anything and is quite ignorant of many ways that God is using these movements to both stretch the church and serve as the church for thousands. It would seem that the answer is somewhere in the middle, but see, that demeans all sides of the equation.
Middle Ground is Not the Answer:
Acceptance, Empowering and Partnership are.
I believe that there are three main expressions of the local church: as corporate units, as community units and as family units. When I say I believe a local church exists as a corporate unit, as communal units, and as family units, I give credence to each of those units as actually being church. As the Trinity is each fully God, yet God is one. So are these three modalities each fully the church. Remove a member of the Trinity and God is incomplete. Remove a modality of the local church and it also is incomplete (Churches that start with either a MC model or a large gathering model must be aware of their incomplete nature at the beginning stage of their formation). In every level of teaching the equality of the modalities should be pushed, and it should be considered when time and resources are in question.
I have written extensively of what this Tri-Perspectival View of the Local Church looks like here. And will repost it anew in a few days.
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