For the second time I am reading Ed Stetzer’s landmark book Breaking the Missional Code. I agree with most if it. But one thing I am having a hard time with is this statement and the implications that come out of it:
“Our growing cultural diversity requires a church within the reach of every people group, population segment, and cultural environment if we are to be faithful to the Great Commission”.
The implication here is that if you live in an area that has lots of “cowboys” then perhaps a cowboy church would help reach people with the gospel. Or maybe you live around a bunch of skateboarder’s; then you have a skateboarding church. Maybe it’s fried chicken that unites your community; well, then you obviously have the green light to call it Southern Baptist.
I get the principle and it seems to make sense…but…is it biblical? I do see the idea of being missional and contextualizing the message so that people can even hear the gospel. In other words if I go to Korea then I need to either learn to speak Korean or get a translator. Yes, the gospel is powerful and it is the word of God that changes lives—but it needs to be heard in your own language or else it just sounds like babbling. So, I get that. And I get that a cowboy hears the message of the gospel differently than a banker from Vermont. But to me having a cowboy church is contrary to the heavenly scene of people from every tribe, language, people, and nation.
Maybe to cross a cultural boundary I need to speak a little cowboy and maybe learn how to catch a greased pig. But shouldn’t the gospel be the thing that unites people instead of our culture? Isn’t the gospel meant to break culture so that there is no longer slave nor free, Greek nor Scythian, cowboy nor
Here is an example that might make my point more clear. I am a Clevand Browns fan. Now, let’s pretend that I live in a community of Browns fans, all eight of them. If I want to take the gospel to Browns fans then I need to find some common ground. So, I share the gospel with them over an argument about whether we’ll win 3 games this year or 2. Let’s just imagine that a few of them end up coming to know Christ. We decide to plant a Brown’s Church.
I preach with a football helmet on. The fans wear those dog masks and have those crazy dog bones. We even let a few of the extra chunky guys come to church with their shirts off (only the guys though). We are certain to let out our services before the game starts (then we have “fellowship” time where we watch the games together). And the few times when the Browns get a prime time game we hold special services. It is our goal to attract more and more Browns fans to church.
Now, I know this is a silly example…but have I really described church as it should be? Wouldn’t a better example of church be that a Browns fan and a Steeler’s fan link arms, skip out on a football game, and go share the gospel together to a lost Raven’s fan.
Maybe I’m missing something…again…help me understand…
(I originally wrote this in 2009 and I hold basically the same position. In fact I remember Thabiti Anyabwile preaching a sermon similar to what I am saying here at T4G).