Chapter 2 takes a core concept of the first chapter and expounds on it in much greater detail. The basic premise is the North America is a "huge" mission field and that is something that we've lost sight of for several reasons.
Some of the interesting things from the start of the chapter that really stood out to me:
- Did you know that there are approximately 1200 churches in the US with over 2,000 attenders on a weekly basis?
- Did you know that 10% of people in the US weren't born here?
- Also, did you know that despite that, based on research (primarily conducted by George Barna) that the church has for the most part had no significant impact on the culture?
Which led to the money quote of the first section of the chapter: "Some religious observers would say that in our desire to attract people to fill our freshly padded seats, something went awry."
Gee, ya think? Couldnt' be. You mean mega-churches haven't been the answer to all of Christianity's problems in the United States. You mean Bill Hybels and Rick Warren really haven't come up with the magic potion to suddenly transform a culture?
Stetzer then proceeds to explain the two extremes that truly inhibit "missional" church planting:
Tradition - To The Extreme
Here we are talking about churches who would rather hold on to the past than look into the future. And I think we all would say that there are plenty of these examples around and they are dying rapidly. Just because something worked in the 70's doesn't mean that it wil work today. Just because you started a ministry in the 80's doesn't mean that in the next 20 years it will work. We have to recognize that, otherwise, we will become stagnant, old, and irrelevant to the culture in which we exist. A great quote in this section:
Yet the church must never become too comfortable with any culture, whether it existed five, fifty, or five hundred years ago. What the church must be comfortable with is becoming missional, always looking for the best way to reach the culture it lives in at that point in time._______________________________________________________
Technique - To The Extreme
On the flip side, we all see plenty of these places as well. Folks who have the "magic bullet" to attracting and evangelizing. You'll see more of these in "community", "emergent", and "purpose driven" churches that have fallen way too far into a "pragmatic" sphere. Read these paragraphs:
Technique may be the more dangerous of the extremes. The church bound by tradition often recognizes its problem. The tradition-bound church may even bemoan its condition, even if it's unable to break out of its negative patterns. On the other hand, the church absorbed in technique is convinced that it is missional--that its techniques are actually expressions of mission, while they are actually methods that replace missional thinking...._________________________________________________________
....As a result, they may be more willing to throw discipleship out the window as a goal if that helps them retain more warm bodies in their services. That's a compromise a biblical church won't make.
Stetzer then goes on to make a plea for a healthy balance between "doctrine" and "contextualization" It's very similar to the plea that Mark Driscoll makes almost every time he talks on the issue. These guys are on the same page. They talk in the same language. It's really encouraging. We have to hold true to the Truth, but we must understand the people that we are speaking the Truth to. That makes sense to me. I don't know why it doesn't make sense to others.
He then goes on for a few pages to really dig into what it means to be a "missional church". He describes breifly why he thinks we lost that. He exhorts the church to always be reforming and changing. He believes we must be more forward looking and futuristic than backward looking and tradition-bound. He then ends the Chapter with a list of questions to ask when entering a culture. I thought they would be a good list to end this post with as well:
- What is the worldview of the target audience?
- What is the culture's decision making pattern?
- What does it cost a person in this culture to become a Christian?
- What redemptive analogy is best for this culture?
- How does this culture view Christianity?
- What does this culture understand about the basic components of the Gospel story?
- Is this culture based on shame or guilt?
- How will this culture understand Christian rituals?
- What is the best delivery system for exposing the people of this culture to the Gospel?