Monday, April 03, 2006

"Relevant", "Reconstructionist" and "Loving Each Stone"

*If you haven't yet read my last 2 posts, as well as the article by Mark Driscoll referenced in the last post, what I am going to write now will make less sense. I would also recommend the following article by Ed Stetzer of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board (NAMB), which apparently serves as source material for Driscoll's article: FIRST-PERSON: Understanding the emerging church.

My initial impression (limited by the fact that I am still not all that familiar with Mark Driscoll and his other views) is quite positive of the position taken in his article. I especially identify with the following observation...

If both doctrine and practice are constant, the result is dead orthodoxy, which the Relevants, Reconstructionists, and Revisionists are each reacting to in varying degrees. If both doctrine and practice are constantly changing, the result is living heresy, which is where I fear the Revisionist Emergent tribe of the Emerging church is heading. But, if doctrine is constant and practice is always changing, the result is living orthodoxy which I propose is the faithful third way of the Relevants, which I pray remains the predominant way of the Reconstructionists.
As IMB missionaries working in foreign fields, my read is that a good many of us are engaged in a dialogue marked by a tension between the "relevant" and "reconstructionist" streams. As cross-cultural workers, we cannot escape the need to be continually more relevant to the context in which we minister. In some cultures, this need for relevance is experienced in a different cultural milieu than the postmodern one addressed by the Emergent Church movement. In Western Europe, postmodernism is omnipresent, and, as a result, a whole lot of the Emerging Church discussion is very applicable for us.

With New Directions at the IMB, especially in (but not limited to) Western Europe, there has also been a lot of discussion related to new ecclesiological models, such as the "house church" or "simple church". Some missionaries, it would appear, have either crossed the line or are very close to crossing the line to what (if I understand Driscoll and Stetzer correctly) I would call a more "reconstructionist" approach.

My concern, as I think on the metaphor of "loving each stone" and "rebuilding spiritual Zion" is that this "reconstruction" not be undertaken without due appreciation for the larger context of the "building" which has gone on before, as well as that which is going on at present in other "sections of the wall", as it were. To be more specific, I have heard as part of the "simple church" presentation the encouragement to guard new believers and new churches from exposure to older, more traditional models of church, in order to avoid what is termed "contaminated spiritual DNA".

While it is definitely true that we want the new believers and churches to have good models, and to learn evangelism, discipleship, and multiplication as a way of life from the beginning, I am concerned by a tendency of some in the "reconstructionist" stream towards isolating themselves from the larger Body of Christ around them. Here in Spain, for example, it has struck me as signficant how few Spanish evangelical leaders seem to be ready to "jump on the 'house church' bandwagon".

I am by no means meaning to denigrate "house churches". But what I am implying is that it seems to me that when the Holy Spirit moves, in addition to bringing fresh winds of revival, and, at times, new structures and cultural expressions, He is also very concerned with unity in the Body of Christ at large. And, if we, as God's servants, are truly sensitive to His Spirit, we will have a heart for unity as well.


Anonymous said...

A fellow m who has brought up the same questions in a "western" context and I have to warn you: BE CAREFUL. I asked these questions as gracefully as I could. Eventually, the question posed to me was either I be quiet or, "Did I want the window or aisle?" Abusive behavior at my regional is common ; hopefully, your regional leaders have more grace and openness. Not all of your colleagues are experiencing that.

Anonymous said...

House and Cell terms seem to be the problem elsewhere. In some parts of Asia, people do not invite others into their homes. "Cell" means communism. We seem so wrapped up in CPM (Garrison) terms that the nationals have difficulty identifying with it. Indeed, why not start in a hotel, a Starbucks, a community center. Call them small groups! And, as you so rightly say, we need to look for times "when the Holy Spirit moves, in addition to bringing fresh winds of revival, and, at times, new structures and cultural expressions". It seems to me that the BOT believes the Holy Spirit of God only moves in certain ways....!

"Daniel" said...

I agree with you, David, about the need for unity and that this will be one aspect of an outpouring of the Spirit. Further, I understand your concern with a view that would seek to have new believers avoid "contaminated spiritual DNA". This terminology is harsh and I feel casts a negative light on the intent behind such a view.

As a practitioner just a few countries over from you, I have experienced the need to expose new and future believers to role models that are relevant to culture rather than an individual enmeshed in an undesirable sub-culture that lacks connection with society (this is the man on the street's view in my context). We, as leaders, need to be the ones promoting and personally experiencing unity when possible. At times for me, this is simply rejoicing with others at what has happened.

Perhaps it is like the generational divide one might observe in small-town USA. Imagine that it's THE Friday night high school football game. Every relative of every player goes. The team has some significant result (win or loss does not matter). The retired men will celebrate or grieve the loss in one way; the dads will do so another way; the older and younger brothers in different ways respectively; and finally the players in yet another way. There is something in common for all, but the way the emotions are expressed will vary dramatically in how, when, where, and how often it is done. (The same will be true for all of the grandmothers, moms, etc.) Should the players have to relive the game at the local diner at 6:00 AM the next morning to be unified with the grandfathers? Should the grandfathers have to howl and rough house late into the night to show their respect for their grandson?

I believe there must be a mutual love and respect for those participating in both models from each other. However, the traditional model cannot come into our existing house church to show this love and respect--there simply isn't room for them and the lost persons who are making their way in off the street. Likewise, the ones that are pursuing God in earnest in an environment where they feel safe because of the close Christian community cannot continue this journey while entering with any regularity in a traditional model to show love and respect.

As for the local evangelical leaders jumping on the bandwagon--I stopped holding my breath. We instead are praying for God to raise up new leaders to multiply new house churches....