Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Brain Dump 2002, Part 4

Generational Issues to Cultural Issues to Theological Issues
In 1989 I made a last-minute decision to go to Bible College and to enter vocational ministry. As I look back, I made this decision for two reasons: First, because I was so frustrated that my high school friends were hurting and needed Christ, yet I felt ill-equipped to do anything for them. Second, because I was a nominal Christian at a crossroads. I knew it was all or nothing, at that point in my life, there was no middle road for me. I had to go for it completely in the only way I knew how, or I would be a nominal Christian for the rest of my life.

My desire to help my high school friends turned into a passion to reach my generation for Christ. So, by the mid-1990s, my dream was to plant churches that would specifically reach my generation for Christ (the so-called GenXers). I even wrote a miserably bad Master’s Thesis on this.

Even by the time I moved to Vegas in 1999 to pursue this dream full-time, I had already discovered that it was more about a cultural shift than a generational issue. North American culture had changed/was changing. It didn’t fit neatly along generational lines. I met some 70-year-old postmoderns, and (even more frustrating) some 20-year-old moderns. It became about taking the Gospel to this postmodern culture, regardless of their age.

Not much later, though, I began to suspect that the real issue was more one of theology, specifically, our theology of the church. Even though I knew better, I thought of church as a place, a program, a time, an event, an organization. I was always asking how we can make the place, the program, the organization better at reaching a new generation or a new culture. As I examined my theology of church, I began to realize that church is really “community on a mission”, or more simply, God’s people going where God sends them. This changed everything. Church planting no longer required a certain kind of place, a certain kind of program, or even an organization (that is if I can get past my desire to get a clergy housing allowance from the IRS!). Planting churches meant getting people into community who were going on God’s mission. That was quite a difference.

This led me to plant simple churches. Some call them house churches. I am hesitant to say “house church” because some people have run into house churches that were just a bunch of angry people who hate other Christians or a bunch of people who might serve Kool-Aid laced with something. I also am hesitant to use the term “house church” because it really isn’t about the “house” and they don’t have to meet in a “house.”

More recently I have seen the danger in promoting “house church” is much as we have. Some people see it as a program, a gimmick, a fad, or a strategy. If it is any of those, then it is not really what I am talking about when I talk about simple churches.

One friend of mine says its really about disciple making and intimacy with God. It just happens to be that house churches allow us to do those two things without getting tangled up in obstacles and distractions.

So, I am not against church buildings, paid clergy, church programs, church services, strategic plans for ministry, etc. I just feel freed and released from the unnecessary distractions that these things bring, and I don’t feel that any of these things are necessary for church planting.


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