Tips for engaging in post-Christian culture
Mission in the Post-Christian West is really tough but thoroughly worth it! For the last ten years my passion has been to see unchurched Australians introduced to the mind boggling fact that the creator of laughter, the Cheetah and the Orion constellation personally loves them and is going to makeover the world minus all the bad stuff. This reality makes me determined to cut through the antagonism and apathy that arises in unchurched Aussies at the sound of the word “Christian”. I tend to be someone who learns by doing and so I have learnt enough things to fufill a small aircraft hanger. Here are three. I hope, like a good robust massage, they are slightly painful but yet ultimately healing.
1. SHOW COMMITMENT TO YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD
The last 30 years has seen an incredible amount of time, money and resources spent by the church in educating young Christians that when it comes to sex, we are called to be people of covenantal commitment. However the ethic of fidelity that we are called by God to model in all areas of life is quickly forgotten in our day of four car families, budget airlines and myspace addictions. When it comes to sexuality we preach purity and commitment, however when it comes to our own neighbourhoods, Christians show little faithfulness, constantly keeping our eyes open for better opportunities and options.
In an age where people are suspicious of Christians and the church, we cannot expect to see unchurched people coming into contact with a life transforming encounter with Jesus without long term relationships, built upon regular and close geographic contact! I have made it a spiritual discipline over the last five years to spend large, quality amounts of time: shopping, making small talk, sharing, eating, relaxing, engaging, and praying in the downtown of my local area. If you want to revolutionise your church, challenge your congregation to commit long term to the area God has placed them in. Ask people to create accountability groups to keep them on track.
2. GET UP AT 4 AM AND STUDY CULTURE!
Many of us living out our faith in the West have come to understand that we are living in a missional situation. However, we make a crucial mistake when we fool ourselves into believing that we understand the culture we live in. The liquid culture we live in is changing at a rapid rate. Secular newspapers, websites and magazines are constantly filled with comment and speculation as to what we are becoming as a culture. We face a culture that we don’t fully understand.
The good news of the Kingdom of God is unchanging, however the cultural context in which we communicate that good news is evolving. To be good stewards of this news we must try and grasp the time and place God has called us to live out His Word. The great missionaries always spent incredible amounts of time learning culture and language.
The father of modern mission, William Carey, would rise at four am every day to study the culture and language of India. We are called to show the same dedication and passion to comprehend this post-Christian culture in which we are called to serve. A key ingredient of mission today is helping others understand the culture that we are in.
3. REVERSE THE 80% TO 20% RULE
Several years ago I read the statistic that in the United States 80% of an average Church’s time went into preparing for its Sunday service/s. If you want to see your church become missionally effective, try reversing this statistic. Rewire your church to spend 20% of its time preparing for Sunday Worship and 80% of its time engaging in mission, then make sure to strap yourself in.
What I have found is that engaging in such a heavy missional focus not only transforms your community, but it will personally transform those in your church. However the real kicker is that it transforms your own personal focus as a leader. Spending such a large bulk of your time ministering in your community challenges your own vocational priorities; we become more dependent on God and less dependent on the praises of our congregations. If we are to lead our people we must first model to them what it looks like to give ourselves for our communities.
Mark Sayers is the co-director of Uber, a ministry that helps churches and organisations work more effectively with under 25’s. Mark also spends his time doing mission and ministry with the Red Network (www.red.org.au), an innovative network of urban churches in Melbourne. Mark is also the National Ideation director of the Forge Mission Network and is co-producer, with Room3, of “The Trouble with Paris” Young Adult DVD resource (www.thetroublewithparis.com). He is married to Trudi. Prac7.