I don’t like discord between my thoughts; I want my thoughts to be organized like the streets in a modern city. And when there is discord, I want to untangle them as fast as possible.
This is true whether I’m researching a product or exploring theology or wrestling with ecclesiology.
Oops. I am in the wrong field . . . and world.
Life is messy; things don’t always line up. Things aren’t as they should be.
Alas, the following is my attempt to at least bring some clarity to the relationship between the following realities:
- The missional church model
- The role of social justice within the church
- The simple church model
THE MISSIONAL CHURCH MODEL
In my internship exit interview last week, my professor was affirming the missional church model. This got me exploring more about what exactly is the missional church model. From what little I know, I affirm much of the missional church model.
I would agree with Kevin DeYoung’s sentiment:
At its best, missional represents everything Christians ought to be. We should be concerned about the lost and compassionate about the hurting. We ought to sacrifice personal preferences for the good of others. We should think critically about our own traditions and creatively about new strategies. We ought to bless people, love God and love neighbor.
In addition, I like the focus on less programs and more empowering and encouraging real relationships [see this creative video
] as well as (related?) the often smaller scale and tone of the missional church paradigm.
THE ROLE OF SOCIAL JUSTICE WITHIN THE CHURCH
However, herein is some push back or at least some nuancing — particularly as related to social justice issues (which seem to be emphasized in the missional paradigm as well as be hip to most Christians): social justice in and of itself is not the mission per se of the church (like all those qualifiers?). The Gospel is of first importance (1 Cor 15:3) and this Gospel must lead to and drive social concerns; the cart must not be put before the horse!
Consider the following quote:
“As an evangelical Christian, my concern is the primacy of the Gospel of Christ – the Gospel that reveals the power of God in the salvation of sinners through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The church’s main message must be that Gospel. The New Testament is stunningly silent on any plan for governmental or social action. The apostles launched no social reform movement. Instead, they preached the Gospel of Christ and planted Gospel churches. Our task is to follow Christ’s command and the example of the apostles.
There is more to that story, however. The church is not to adopt a social reform platform as its message, but the faithful church, wherever it is found, is itself a social reform movement precisely because it is populated by redeemed sinners who are called to faithfulness in following Christ. The Gospel is not a message of social salvation, but it does have social implications.” -Al Mohler
In addition, I appreciate the two sides of the conversation as portrayed by DeYoung here
Thus, here are my current convictions (is that phrase an oxymoron or just a reality of this fallen world?) regarding the church’s relationship to social justice:
- Because proclaiming the Gospel is the unique ministry of the church, nothing must compete with this.
- A faithful Gospel proclamation must drive and be accompanied by social justice actions.
But what is a faithful church and Christian to do? Should they be involved in every social justice related program? Even if this does not hinder a proclamation of the Gospel, what about the limitations of our own finitude?
THE SIMPLE CHURCH MODEL
A cousin to the missional church model would be, IMHO, the simple church model. A paradigm which needs little description, when effectively employed this model would truly free up the church to be the church to one another and in the community as individuals who have been encouraged, empowered, and equipped. Consider this post
by Jared Wilson for some encouragement in under-programming your church. Finally consider this somewhat-lengthy, but highly readable and personal post
by DeYoung on the conflicted calls given by well-meaning church leaders for Christians to deny self and be involved in changing the world.
A salient quote to whet your appetite to read the whole post:
The Bible is a big book and there’s a lot in there. So the Bible says a lot about the poor, about marriage, about children, about evangelism, about missions, about justice; it says a lot about a lot. Almost anyone can make a case that their thing should be the main thing or at least one of the most important things. But what often happens in churches (or church movements) is that the person with the “thing” thinks everyone else should devote their lives to the “thing” too. So churches squabble over limited resources, and people feel an abiding sense of guilt over not caring enough or doing enough about the ten other things that other people in the church care about more than they do.
CONCLUSIONS (for now)
So what is the relationship between the missional, social justice-oriented, and simple church? A biblical church seeks to be missional which includes, first and foremost, the proclamation of the Gospel in word and deed (which would include being social justice oriented). However, this can only happen when a church is simply and strategically aligned.
In conclusion, I desire our church to be biblical, and I’m thankful for those who have emphasized the needed missional, social justice-oriented, and simple church emphases.