Live blog 4: Missional Church Planting conference

Communications Staff — May 11, 2009

Speaker: Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research.

Stetzer walked though an article in the Evangelical Missions Quarterly, Volume 34, from 1998:’The C1-C6 Spectrum: A Practical Tool for Defining Six Types of Christ-Centered Communities.’ The article lined out six categories on a continuum of Christ-centered communities:

  • C1: Traditional Western church using non-indigenous language.
  • C2: Traditional Western church in the indigenous language.
  • C3: Indigenous language, seeks to adopt some of the cultural traits of the society, such as music styles.
  • C4: Often called contextualized Christ-centered communities. Adopt many Islamic forms where it is believed the Bible does not forbid the practice. The people are not viewed as Muslims by other Muslims.
  • C5: Highly contextualized. Other Muslims view the people as Muslims, sometimes calling them Christian Muslims.
  • C6: Underground Christian churches.

Stetzer said he is comfortable with C1-C4, which is the same position held by the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board.

Stetzer referenced a presentation by Southern Seminary professor Gregg Allison at the 2006 national Evangelical Theological Society meeting on the C1-C6 spectrum applied to the Emergent church.

Stetzer classified Sojourn Community Church as a C-3 church. He said the members of Sojourn dress similarly to the people in the culture, they have an arts focus in the church, and this marks them as C-3.

A C-4 church might be one that does not preach from behind a pulpit. A C-4 church might not call itself a church, if the word church has connotations in the culture that don’t reflect the biblical idea of a church.

The important thing is to know when you have gone too far in contextualizing the Gospel to the point that you are overcontextualized. If you are overcontextualizing, you are changing your beliefs. You might be more contextualized if you affirm homosexual marriage as valid, but you are less biblical. As you contextualize, you can’t lose the Gospel.

You have to contend for something as you contextualize (Jude 3). You need to have a closed hand on some issues.

There is also 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, ‘Become all things to all people.’ You also have to contextualize.

‘I have to contend and I have to contextualize.’

There are some closed-handed issues and some open-handed issues. In the Southern Baptist Convention, we make a lot of issues closed-handed issues that don’t need to be closed-handed issues.

‘You have believers in churches who are constantly fighting among themselves, instead of fighting to take the Gospel to non-believers.’

Session title: Redeveloping a missional mindset for North America

People mean different things when they say ‘missional.’ It has become an ecclesiological junk drawer: people throw into the definition anything they think is lacking in their church. Whatever they think their church needs to grow in then, they describe as missional and they say their needs to be more missional.

Missional means to live sent. A sent church and a sent Christian. Being missional means to live on mission for God.

‘God is a God who is on mission. He is a God who sends, He is a sender by nature. Isaiah was sent by God and for God. John was sent to bear witness to the One who would come into the world. Sent is used in reference to Jesus more than 40 times. The sending God sent His Son into the world to reconcile the world to Himself.’

God also sent the Holy Spirit and God sends the church — both the corporate church and the individual members of the church.

‘We, the church, are His sign in the world to the world.’

Francis Dubose, ‘God Who Sends’ (1983), and Stetzer when they use missional, talk about the church joining God on His mission and reaching the lost with the Gospel. Dubose focuses on the missionary nature of the church.

Charles Van Engen, ‘God’s Missionary People’ (1991), focuses on the mission of the church. They focus on the church as a mission center. And Darrell Guder, ‘Missional Church (1998)’ focuses on the missio dei. The missio dei focus in the mainline denominations led such denominations down the wrong path. This does not mean the missio dei focus is wrong: it just led to a bad development.

Stetzer’s approach to missional

  • The church is God’s missionary instrument that is a sign of the Kingdom of God.

In the church, people have healthy marriages

  • Instrument of the Kingdom of God.

For some, Kingdom work is accomplished when the world is made more like God wants it to be. I see God’s kingdom as entailing personal salvation — God, sinful man, redemption in Christ, repentance and faith, and salvation — and the redemption of creation. I believe in an ‘already, not yet’ approach. God is recreating the world around us and one day it will all be made new.

We are ambassadors for Christ. We represent a kingdom that is not of this place. When we preach the Gospel, we are doing Kingdom work — we hold the keys to the Kingdom of heaven, which is the Gospel. And when we help the poor in our community we are doing Kingdom work, because anytime we are working to restore the culture to the way God wants it to be we are participating in Kingdom work.

  • Relating to contemporary culture

People do badly engage culture, but this does not mean that engaging the culture is bad.

Missiological challenge and opportunity

Some people try to reach the world by saying shocking things so that people will pay attention. We don’t need to yell shocking things to get people to pay attention to us.

We need to have people who live out the Gospel, who are so different that people notice and want what they have.

Biblical Christianity will stand out from the dying versions of it that aren’t biblical.

How do we answer the challenge and embrace the opportunity?

We must have a scriptural and theological foundation with robust application that is empowered by the Holy Spirit.

There should be an emphasis on Christology: who Jesus is, what He has done and what He has sent us to do.

There should be an emphasis on Ecclesiology: what expression of a New Testament church would be most appropriate in this context? That is the key question missionally on ecclesiology. Some people are strong on Christology, but weak on ecclesiology.

There should be an emphasis on Missiology: what forms and strategies should we use to most effectively expand the Kingdom where we are sent? If you think the form doesn’t change, then you will end up with an American church in Africa.

Sometimes people and movements who are the most effective in one era become ineffective in the next because they aren’t willing to change their forms. Independent fundamental Baptists (effective in the 1970s) and the seeker-sensitive movement (effective in the 1980s) are two examples.

You always need to ask, ‘How do I engage the culture I am in today?’

Missionary church

  • Nature of the Gospel

Evangelicals have really done a good job lately of thinking through what this Gospel is that we are communicating and if we are communicating the message rightly.

‘I think we have engaged in simplism with the Gospel. We have made it more simple than it can be. What we have done is to say, ‘just pray this prayer and you will be a Christian.’ I don’t think that is what the Bible teaches. We made the Gospel transactional without it being transformational.’

‘There is transaction in the Gospel: ‘He who knew no sin became sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.’ But it is not merely transaction. Because of this simplism, this reductionism, we have made the Gospel something that you can get over. The Gospel can’t be something you get over, it has to be something you live in for the rest of your life.’

  • Purpose of the church

’The purpose of the church is to glorify God. First and foremost, the church exists for the glory of God. But the church can become inwardly focused and it should not do this. The church exists to represent God in the world. The purpose of the church is to join in God’s Kingdom mission in the world.’

  • Nature of the Kingdom

You can’t understand the mission if you don’t understand the Kingdom.

  • Communication of the message and the contextualization of the church

Theology and missiology both deeply matter.
To communicate the Gospel and contextualize the church, we must be biblically faithful and culturally relevant. And we must be a counterculture community for the Kingdom of God.
Often times, you have people who say they are different from the world, but their actions are no different. One example is the divorce rate in Baptist churches. People need to be living differently. They need to have healthy marriages and relationships that are characterized by serving others.

Are you ready to become a pastor, counselor, or church leader who is Trusted for Truth?

Apply now for summer or fall studies

Classes begin in June & Aug.