Simply Missional: Leaving the Building

Stetzer and Geiger now get to their challenging third point: 

3. Simple churches offer less at the church building, thus creating opportunities for missional living.

Uh, guys, we just dropped $4 million on this building. Are you saying that it interfere’s with living for Jesus? You should have seen our old building … now that got in the way! We’re not about to give up our building, with the new coffee service and preschool playground and the great new sound system!

And then they wrote —

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us (I Peter 2:11-12).

The first part of Peter’s challenge is critical: Live a holy and pure life. But the second part of Peter’s challenge is equally important: Live a holy and pure life among those who do not know God.

I’ve never heard anyone put the emphasis on “among the pagans”! The emphasis has always been on “holy and pure.” It makes a difference. It’s easier to be holy and pure among fellow Christians. Doing it among the pagans is much, much tougher.

All too often we have discovered that church programming dominates the schedules of members to the point that there is just no time nor energy left in members lives to do the very thing they were created for–live as redemptive agents of the Kingdom of God. This results in both a de-energized body and a gathering of individuals who do not feel fulfilled in their own lives because they are not using their natural, God-given gifts to work in the fields in which the Lord has placed them.

Churches with minimal programming help their people live among the world as missionaries by not asking them to live at the church, but to live as the church.

Or consider 1 Corinthians 5 —

(1 Cor 5:9-13)  I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. … 12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. …

Notice the “not at all” in verse 10. Paul says that Christians who do such things must be expelled from the church — “With such a man do not even eat” — but he seems to actually encourage us to associate with such people outside the church. The only alternative he sees is to “leave this world” — die and go to be with Jesus! He doesn’t even consider the choice of only associating with Christians! 

Churches with minimal programming encourage their members to know their neighbors, coach their kids’ little league teams, attend the PTA meetings, and play in the city recreational leagues. And as Christ stepped into our culture, these church members are living incarnationally in the everyday environments life offers us. As Christ is Immanuel (God with us), these church members live God with us lives within the context of their communities.

Yes! But it’s not quite that simple. You see, while it’s great to get to go to that PTA meeting rather than a church event, you have to figure out how to be Jesus at the PTA — which is not so easy. And you have to be prepared to be treated as Jesus was treated — adored by some, hated by others.

Now notice the contrast they draw. There’s no church-league softball. There’s no private school where only Christians are welcome. Rather, we play in the community leagues, living like Jesus and expecting to be different. And we either go to public schools or invite the world into our private schools (in much more than token numbers) — so we can be Jesus to the community. 

We are to be salt sprinkled on the world, changing all we touch, making it tastier to God — not blocks of salt that kill all life around us while we are comfortably pure among the pure.

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About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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7 Responses to Simply Missional: Leaving the Building

  1. Anonymous says:

    I just don’t think its possible to take the church of Christ and insert Missional ideology.
    I 'm all for this type of things but I have to say it not easy. Having the opportunity to go to a Christian high school and a couple of Christian colleges has created the need for a good “environment.” Even more seeing a couple church building built in my life has brought a sense of security. But too I know things have truly spun the other direction the cost and manpower to maintain a staff and preacher and mortgage and utilities and insurance and taxes is extreme. However what’s our alternative? I am not so sure I like the Stan Grandberg 130,000 for a church plant thats pretty high.

  2. Alan says:

    Jay, you've put your finger on the hard part — being in the world but not of the world. There are certainly boundaries we should not cross and places we should not go. We have to keep ourselves unstained by the world (james 1:27). We are to live good lives among the pagans, but we are also to come out from among them and be separate (2 Cor 6:17). There are two sides to the coin.

    For example, I wrestle with the question of sending children to public schools where they are immersed in a sinful, worldly value system for many hours a week. Particularly in the case of children, I think the priority has to be on keeping them unstained by the world. They can better learn how to interact with ungodly people by watching their parents do it — not by being thrown to the wolves all by themselves. Of course that assumes the parents are setting a godly example.

    BTW, the first church met together daily. That's a busier church calendar than most modern churches keep.

  3. Donna says:

    I loved this book…but I am loving your "making it real" even more. You have in one post summed up my discontentment with church as it now exists….Thanks.

  4. Great thoughts. Thanks for this post. I ran across a clip the other day on bluefish called "bubble creek canyon". It does a great job of pointing out this very concept. Thanks, dell kimberly

  5. Jay Guin says:

    Anonymous wrote, "I just don’t think its possible to take the church of Christ and insert Missional ideology."

    I'm more optimistic. It's very hard to do, but it can be done. Of course, it's easier to start a small church with those already persuaded and leave the rest behind. But I think God's Kingdom is best served if we can change the church rather than abandoning and replacing the church.

    And in my own congregation, we are certainly moving in this direction. We aren't all the way there, but we're on the road.

    Our small groups are involved in community service. We have members — young and old — passionately working among the poor and needy. Of course, to get there we had to teach a more gracious theology. When people understand the grace of God, they are motivated to show grace to others.

    PS — I'm a big fan of Stan Granberg and his Kairos church planting ministry. $130,000 is a bargain compared to the results we normally get from doing missions the old way. In all seriousness, compare the traditional approach with the Kairos approach and see which is the better investment.

  6. Jay Guin says:

    Alan,

    I'm not opposed to private schools per se or against Christian education. I'm opposed to life in a bubble. I think Christian private schools are great opportunities to teach kids to be missional. But if the only kids there are rich, white, Christian kids, they won't learn much about mission.

    On the other hand, if the private school DOES mission by providing education to the poor in the community (not just those who can play basketball) and by going on mission trips and bringing in church planters to teach (and recruit!), well, then it could be a very powerful tool for the Kingdom.

    I mean, I'd love a school where missionaries and community volunteers are heroes and invited to speak, where evangelism is celebrated, and where no one knows whether the teachers are Republicans or Democrats because they are so focused on Kingdom issues.

    But our vision is usually too narrow. We want our kids prepared for college and to win Friday's football game and to be protected from bad people. It's all good but not very scriptural — and not much different from the world.

    I'd love to see a Christian private schools that turn out missionaries and church planters and vocational ministers and preachers as an intentional part of its work — with parents who pray that their kids grow up to be these kinds of leaders.

    I mean, why are we running schools that are indistinguishable from secular private schools other than the daily devotional?

  7. Alan says:

    I'm actually more of a fan of home schooling than private school. Private school might appear to make sense on the surface if the family has become addicted to two incomes. But when you add up all the costs, the second income is often consumed by the associated costs, especially when kids are sent to private school. And there are costs beyond money.

    I think parents have the God-given responsibility to raise their own children, to educate them and to impart values and character. In our culture, we usually delegate much of that to the school system (whether public or private). The results are not impressive.

    Home schooling sometimes gets a bad rap from people who don't really know much about it. But it can be done very very well. And it can produce well rounded, well socialized children — a far better kind of socialization than they usually get in institutional schools.

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