Best Of -- Before and After Us

Quoth iMonk:
Two key bits from Stetzer:

1) Missional refers to the specific activity of the church to be a counter-culture, building the Kingdom in ALL settings where its members find themselves, not just to build the church and its programs, facilities, etc.
I agree. No question -- and we face a terrible problem in this because we live in a post-Christian culture. We are going from a place where the context of Christianity is evident in the culture to a place where Christianity is seen, in the best case, as having jumped the shark, and in the worst case, has been disproven by some quack with a couple of stone ossuaries bearing the most common names of the day.

So given that we need to be kingdom-building, what does that look like? Is it programs and daycare centers and baseball leagues and 10,000 member communities which are aping the external culture -- or is it something else?
2) There can be no doubt that any church that is true to its calling is thoroughly, consistently and unapologetically missional by the above definition.
I think that this is a relatively-new insight. Maybe that's the wrong word: this is a truth about the church which was lost sometime after the third century (paint with wildly-broad and careless strokes).

My widdoo heart went pitty-pat when Dr. Stetzer cited the letter to Diognetus -- because that letter was a foundational document for me to start blogging. When I read it for the first time, I realized that there was something mostly-wrong about how we, the Christians, view our churches. The idea that the people who changed the world for Christ -- who faced down Rome, and then saved the West from becoming a wasteland when it fell -- were people who, in the end, weren't trying to imitate the culture.

In fact, they were really trying to live without the culture yet inside the culture, if that's possible. All the things the culture held dear were wrong in the face of the cross and the Christians described in that letter behaved as if those things were wrong. They didn't picket them, or protest them, or try to stop other people from drinking alcohol: they lived as if Christ died for sin, and that this message was so important that it should change them. Stable marriages, love of children, unquestionable work ethic, kindness to strangers -- think of that: in an age when people couldn't make reservations at the Holiday Inn, and the rule of law was only applicable if you could find the bad guys quickly (meaning the bad guys worked hard to stay mobile and were usually strangers wherever they went), they were kind to strangers.

But in that, they were winning people over to what they believed because it was obvious they believed it.

And in saying that, let me agree and disagree with something you said in your last answer. On the one hand, I agree that the great reformed minds of the last 25 years, um, pass by the issue of missions and missiology in the way we are talking about it in this exchange. But I disagree that they were not missional at all: there's a context for what they did -- and frankly, they were fighting (and are still fighting) against the second or third generation of heresy and evangelical unbelief from the end of the 20th century. The missiology of that age was (and is) overtly polemical -- and frankly, I'm a child of that school. So I have a great degree of respect and sympathy for these men who have spent their lives on that mission field.

But the truth is this: that field, by their work, has changed. They have won some, and the terms of engagement have changed. Man has not changed; the Gospel has not changed; God forbid that we say that Christ has changed. But the people to whom we have to get this message to have changed.

In the same way it is not profitable to use the KJV anymore because people can't read it, it is not profitable anymore to start a fight in order to win a man to Christ. I'm not saying it never works, but I think it rarely works. Christ didn't die to win an argument -- and He didn't die to make us clever debaters who use words of worldly wisdom to win men to an argument. Christ died for sin, and, as Paul noted to the Corinthians, that puts all wisdom to shame, and catches the clever man in his own cleverness, but it also calls us to be saints, and enriches us in all our speaking and all our knowledge.

So to bring this back to your statement, I think we make a mistake when we try to downplay to roll of those who came before us -- even if they only came 5 years ago. They brought us the church we have, and frankly they brought us the Gospel. Now it's our turn to honor them by bringing the Gospel to the world we have, to treat them both like fellow workers and fathers in the faith. That doesn't mean we have to steal their schtick -- but it means that we will bring the Gospel with the same zeal to this world which is dying.
Is it possible to say that THIS aspect of missionalism is one on which we can (indeed, must) thoroughly agree, and whatever disagreement we have must be about methodology and not mission?
I think it cuts both ways, as I have said to some extent, above. It's somewhat stupid of us to demand that Dad allow us to have a beer (one beer, and maybe not finish it) when we are somewhat critical that he's willing to smoke a cigar or have extra gravy on his taters -- that is, if we want missional freedom, we have to agree that there is missional freedom for all the contexts, including the ones where (and it kills me to admit this) the megachurch seems to work, and LifeWay seems to work, and the Pastor-as-CEO seems to work.

But in that, these models don't work everywhere. In fact, there are a lot of places they can't work. And in those places, the Gospel is still needed -- not a satellite church with a Jumbotron to project the Pastor's face on the wall to save on ministerial staff, but the Gospel. The fact of a personal Christ who died for sin to glorify God and make disciples is far more important that whether it's 12 people on folding chairs in the back room of a bar or 30 people in a park or two families who meet in alternating garages and prayerwalk for their neighborhood.

And all of these are missional expressions. The question is if we can bank on only one of them. If we do, we better start reforming the IMB -- because they definitively still use more than one model to reach the lost in the non-English world.