I have to admit I have been very much drawn to want to comment on the healthcare/government shutdown this week but steeled myself against jumping in as little more than one more noisy voice in the din and clatter of 2 seemingly armed camps trying to commit politicide. Nasty business but a very public reminder of our fallen nature and how the draw of the promise of power can cloud good thinking in the area of politics perhaps more visibly than other areas of life. So, I thought I would pick up on Jonathan’s theme of last week, A Moral Majority No More before he moves on next week on being a prophetic minority. Of course, Jonathan used Russell Moore’s speech, A Prophetic Minority: Kingdom, Culture, and Mission in a New Era as a launching pad. The Moral Majority tried to speak to and reshape cultural thinking on social issues and although it seemed to slow the tide of our national turn to paganism it didn’t stop it.
I had my semi-annual visit with my doctor this week and although we began to touch on the issue of Obamacare and the goings on in Washington, DC, we fairly quickly turned to a different question. The role of the pastor in an increasingly pagan culture. It seems odd I know but there really is a connection and it is something that is very near and dear to my heart. I have written on this in the Journal as well as on the blog in the past, one of the articles that comes to mind is An Indistinct Sound . In short, my conversation with my doctor revolved around the mission of the church vs. the ministry of the church and how many well-meaning churches have sacrificed the ministry of the church and replaced it with the mission of the church. This happened in a subtle but important way.
Some came to believe that the call of the church is to figure out ways to get unbelievers inside the church walls in order to sneak up on them with the gospel. Every week became more-or-less, an evangelistic meeting. Oddly, it was rare that unbelievers were present with the gospel invitation being given and the same folks were there week after week, the believers. Under what I would suggest is a misguided idea, a new model was created to bring unbelievers into the church doors. Like a multi-level marketing scheme the pastor became the primary marketer and pitch man and the congregation became the recruiters to hear about the user friendly benefits of the product called, Jesus. On the one hand churches were trying to speak to culture on social issues (the Moral Majority) while other churches were trying to figure out ways to get the culture to come into the church to be evangelized. I do realize some will be irritated or even angry at this picture and I do not mean to say that either of the above are heretical or wrong but I would suggest that they are misguided.
As I explained it to my doc, the ministry of the church is different than the mission of the church. The ministry of the church is to equip, train, encourage, challenge and disciple believers. It is the time when believers gather to worship God together, be refreshed after living in a difficult world. Make sure they are fed physically and spiritually and ready to enter into the mission field. Ah, yes, that is the other part. The mission of the church. The mission of the church is to carry the gospel outside the walls of the local gathering place to where non-believers are living, working, shopping and carrying on their lives. There are 2 passages that bear on this and I think demonstrate the concept. In talking about tongues vs. prophesy the apostle Paul assumes unbelievers are not normally in the church. In other words, the design is not primarily to attract non-believers. Without going through the entire text and being side tracked into the debate over tongues, something be mentions in 1 Corinthians 14:23 and 24 in passing has my attention here. In 14:23 he writes:
Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter
He then follows up in verse 24:
But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an [l]ungifted man enters,
“If an unbeliever enters” assumes they are not normally there. Sure, if they come they should be welcome but it is, after all, a gathering of the family. This is where the ministry of the church is to take place. Sadly, the ministry of the church has for all intents and purposes in many churches, been abandoned and the mission of the church has replaced it. Instead of having trained believers who can articulate their faith, speak in an informed and challenging way to social issues as well as be prepared to help feed the hungry and address other needs. The result has been a sorely weakened church with little influence in culture and is in retreat in many ways.
The pastor today needs to recognize that they are pastoring a missionary movement in a strange and foreign society. Yes, we generally speak the same language and live next door to the mission field, shop at the same stores and even had kids on the same sports leagues in school. But, the thinking and worldview of society today is markedly different than it was 40 years ago when I became a Christian. If we are to become the “prophetic” minority (speaking to culture) the pastor will need to fill their role as missionary pastor or the congregation will have nothing “prophetic” to say.