Creating fresh vision for mission in the 21st century (Part 2)
Having reviewed and developed a fresh vision for mission in the 21st century, I would like to look at how this could work out in practice in my own church at Parklands Baptist Community Church (PBCC).
Fitch and Holsclaw’s ten signposts would be a helpful guide for the church to work through as it seeks to participate in the mission of God in North-East Christchurch. The signposts highlight the key areas that PBCC should engage with. The first area on the journey is to understand post-Christendom culture. To better engage with the post-Christian culture, there needs to be an entering into their world where they live, work and play. Running programmes does not get the church engaging with people in their own culture. Rather, they bring people into a culture that is neither churched nor non-churched. It is an artificial environment created by the church to engage with others. To truly engage with the culture, the church must be prepared to enter the post-Christian world and engage with people there. It is only by engaging with people where they are that Christians will be able to earn the respect and the right to be heard. When the church is willing to sit in the world of the non-churched and listen, they will then be able to speak into that world. Out of this listening, learning and relating, the church is able to re-teach the redemptive narrative in a culture where the narrative is viewed with suspicion. By understanding this first signpost of post-Christendom will PBCC be able to engage better with the culture.
Secondly, PBCC need to understand how the life of the triune God empowers its journey. They need to understand the concepts of missio Dei, Jesus Christ, the sent one of God to carry out the work of mission in the world, and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the work of mission. If PBCC is to continue the work of the Father that Christ started in the power of the Holy Spirit, there needs to be a major pruning of its activities so that there is a shift from being programme-focused to being a missional community. Major pruning of the programmes will allow PBCC to focus on discipleship where lives are transformed and God’s will and mission lived out through these transformed lives. Discipleship was a key part of the strategic document where the focus was spending time creating disciples who could disciple others. However the church got distracted when the earthquakes hit and focused on programmes rather than intentional missional discipleship. PBCC needs to return to the core of discipleship.
Thirdly, PBCC needs to understand what it means to be a church embracing mission, how it lives in Scripture, and how it embodies the gospel story. As individuals are reconciled with God, they are welcomed into the community of faith where they also reconciled with others and share life together with them as a fellowship healed and restored by the gospel of Christ. Encountering the gospel must challenge PBCC to live under the Lordship of Christ and to be an integral part of God’s Kingdom community in their local context. Lordship of Christ must include being part of Christ’s body. This would mean adopting the way of life PBCC has chosen to follow. PBCC will need to develop spiritual practices and disciplines that enable the church community to live in Scripture and to embody the gospel story. It needs to offer to the world a way of life that can be touched, tasted and tried so that people who come in contact with PBCC are able to taste the goodness of God. By living out the kind of church the apostle Paul presented in his writings, the church becomes a community of atonement in a broken world
Finally, the church needs to engage with the tough issues facing it in the 21st century. These tough issues include sexuality, social justice and pluralism. When PBCC becomes a church that is governed by love and grace, its members living lives embracing justice, mercy and humility, then they will be able to tackle these tough issues in a way that will bring healing and transformation.
In the age of Christendom, the church occupied a central and influential place in society and the Western world considered itself both formally and officially Christian. Now the church finds itself in a strange place where it no longer influence culture and society and where the west no longer regards itself as Christian. It is in this situation that the church needs to rediscover mission in the 21st century. If not it will continue to decline.
Mission can no longer merely be an activity of the church. Mission has to be God’s initiative, and has to be rooted in God’s purpose of reconciling all things to Christ. The church participates in this mission and must be willing to engage society quite differently from the ways they have done in the past. For PBCC, this journey must take them through the signposts identified by Fitch and Holsclaw so that they can see what God is doing in their post-Christian context and to partner with Jesus in the work of atonement in the broken world.