Missional Christianity: Five Biggest Challenges Facing the Church

Jesus healingAccording to Tim Keller, popular writer, speaker, and the pastor of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, the five biggest challenges faces the church today are –

1. The local church has to support culture-making.

2. We need a renewal of apologetics.

3. We need a great variety of church models.

4. We must develop a far better theology of suffering.

5. We need a critical mass of churches in the world’s largest cities.

What do you think?

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19 Responses to Missional Christianity: Five Biggest Challenges Facing the Church

  1. aj says:

    nice. thanks for posting these. i think there are plenty of church models though and we need to move beyond model thinking to something deeper.

  2. alanrouse says:

    I'm not sure what he's trying to say regarding "culture-making." (I guess that means I'm pretty clueless about one of the biggest challenges facing the church — pretty scary!) I'm squarely in the camp of those who believe that the church must be counter-cultural, that we must not love the world nor the things in the world, and that soldiers should not become involved in civilian affairs. OTOH we are called to be wise in the way we act toward outsiders, and we are to let our lights shine. We've got to do that in a distinctive way in order to have the intended effect. And we can't be afraid to stand in stark contrast to the surrounding culture on topics of sin and righteousness. If that's what "culture-making" is about, I'm "all in".

    A strong apologetics ministry is essential in the post-modern world. We've got to get better at this. Questions I hear from kids (especially middle school age) about God, morality, suffering etc cannot be sufficiently answered by turning to a scripture in a book they don't regard as authoritative.

    I'd say the top two challenges for the church are to be vividly counter-cultural, and to provide a solid foundation for faith through apologetics.

  3. Jerry Starling says:

    I read Keller's article, as well as a couple of other things he referenced in it before responding.

    I believe he has some good points.

    Alan, what he means by "making culture" is something like: don't just complain about the movie industry; make good movies. He says that as evangelicals grow in influence in the world, they have 3 options: 1) become like the culture around them. 2) separate their faith and their work so they work like others around them, but keep their faith private. 3) do their work in a Christian way. He says the third option is the only real Christian option.

    On different models of churches, his point is that we need to dress the church in different clothes to reach different audiences. He suggests five historic models of the church, none of which has ever been "pure" (i.e., that and nothing else. These are:

    a) doctrine, teaching, and authority
    b) deep community and life together
    c) worship, sacraments, music, and the arts
    d) evangelism, proclamation, and dynamic preaching
    e) social justice, service, and compassion

  4. Jerry Starling says:

    I read Keller's article, as well as a couple of other things he referenced in it before responding.

    I believe he has some good points.

    Alan, what he means by "making culture" is something like: don't just complain about the movie industry; make good movies. He says that as evangelicals grow in influence in the world, they have 3 options: 1) become like the culture around them. 2) separate their faith and their work so they work like others around them, but keep their faith private. 3) do their work in a Christian way. He says the third option is the only real Christian option.

    On different models of churches, his point is that we need to dress the church in different clothes to reach different audiences. He suggests five historic models of the church, none of which has ever been "pure" (i.e., that and nothing else. These are:

    a) doctrine, teaching, and authority
    b) deep community and life together
    c) worship, sacraments, music, and the arts
    d) evangelism, proclamation, and dynamic preaching
    e) social justice, service, and compassion

    He adds that most evangelical groups stress 1 or 2 of these and ignore the others. He does not believe this is sufficient. As I see it Churches of Christ stress a & d. We generally do not give much attention to b, c, and e – and this is where we are weak.

    Jay, I think this can introduce a fruitful discussion. I hope you plan to follow up with more.

    Jerry CommittedtoTruth.wordpress.com

  5. Chris Guin says:

    I think this all sounds exactly right – especially number 4. Evangelical Christianity sometimes feels awash in feel-good sentimentality, therapeutic deism, and church as stamp-of-approval-on-the-bourgeois-life.

  6. Alan says:

    Jerry, I got some of that from Keller's article although I didn't go to the other links. In your example, I don't think the church ought to get into the movie business at all. And I don't see any point in targeting the movie industry specifically (complaining about them). Why would we expect nonbelievers to act like believers? They're just producing what culture wants to consume. Our job is to call people out of that culture. "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation!" as Peter put it.

    As for the different models of churches, that seems completely uncontroversial to me. Of course we need to be doing all those things, and different congregations may excel at different parts. We don't all have to come from the same cookie cutter.

  7. Rose Marie says:

    I probably won't answer your question in the way you might be expecting but here is what is on my mind this morning in regards to what the challenges of the church are. I had dinner with my daughter last night, whose daughter (my granddaughter) is in Jr. High school in a small city in the Midwest. The granddaugher and the daughter are both overcome with godly sorrow in the face of the mounting promiscuity in even middle schoolers and high school children. Folks, I think the Christian world should quit arguing over the song books and the proper administrative makeup of churches, and properly dissecting bible verses, and start worrying about how to help our young parents guide their children into a healthy and successful adulthood. The future is bleak for them no matter what our economy does if we don't help.

  8. K. Rex Butts says:

    I agree with him except for #2. I am not sure what he means by a renewal of apologetics. If he means a revival of the old philosophical arguments for God (ontology, teleology, and cosmology) and for the resurrection proofs…well, I am not sure.

    I understand the need for such arguments when people are having a intellectual faith struggle but I believe the best and most needed apologetic is radical faith that lives in obedient loyalty to Jesus Christ without the patriotic compromise that claims Jesus is King in one breath but then trusts in the Government's economic and military power to protect life. Isn't it funny how Judas (not Iscariot) in John 14 questioned Jesus about not revealing himself to the world and Jesus, instead of giving him a list of apologetic arguments to off, called his disciples back to the way of obedience.

    The world will never believe Jesus is Lord if the followers of Jesus do not live in obedience to his Lordship.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  9. Jerry Starling says:

    Alan,
    I don't believe the church should get into the movie business either, but that Baptist Church that wrote, produced, directed, and did the acting in Facing the Giants and later did Fireproof did a good job. I do not know about Facing the Giants, but Fireproof had a decent run in the theaters.

    Those movies became evangelistic tools – without being "preachy." What Keller was suggesting was that Christians in places of influence can exercise that influence in a way that lifts culture instead of dragging it further down – as I am sure you will agree that Hollywood and Madison Avenue consistently do. They are doing more than "producing what culture wants to consume." They are creating the appetite for what they produce.

    Jerry

  10. I'd sooner phrase my thoughts this way:

    1. Believers need to be helping create the culture we're in.

    2. We need a renewal of gospel.

    3. We need a great variety of believers.

    4. We must recognize the biblical theology of suffering.

    5. We need a critical mass of believers in the world’s largest cities, smaller town, and on-the-edge-of-existence communities.

  11. Guy says:

    If you follow the link and read the article, it's clear what he means by each one (he especially clarifies the point about apologetics). i think it's very close, but maybe not spot on. His church model point seems debatable. Perhaps each congregation has its particular niche or emphasis, but i don't see what some balance of all the emphases he lists isn't the most desirable route. The suffering point is very well spotted i think.

    –Guy

  12. mark says:

    I can identify with all 5 challenges. The church has a muddled view of culture (the process of teaching what we believe) we have lost the value of art and music and and language ,dating , marrying, career and work ethics and family concepts of raising children. What we have accepted in the church is a neutrality to what side of the tracks you were brought up on and rarely challenge other cultural views. Here is a good example we have to admit with medical marijuana comes a whole culture of thinking. In the church the questions of such thinking either needs to be taken on or we risk the results of members who so participate in such activities. Likewise it is with hot button issues of abortion and divorce and bankruptcy physician assisted suicide. Ironically it is our para church organizations the schools, institutions, companies, clubs, personal ministries that drive our christian culture. As for the coC the theology is mainly the church has a limited say in the lives of its membership. Autonomy it not just in the leadership organization it also granted to it memberships.

    The renewal of apologetics I think is very much in need of change. I'm not to a opposed to scientific models of logic and reasoning as long as we merge with a broader Christian perspective. But as far a the Spirit goes (the driving factors of our walk with God) we need a in-depth view. Salvation has taken backseat to personal needs. It seems to me more people are seeing the Bible as a workbook of how to get what you want and keep it. This is instead of a short earthly journey to eternity. This of course fits in with the “theology of suffering”.

  13. mark says:

    I should add that the word “culture” is kind of a dirty word in the conservative church. It is similar to the phrase “doctrines of men”. But culture is a word we really need to embrace. I think the differences is to understand there is a social norm to how we should behave in our communities. Isolationism is not normal and is often what ultra conservative teach as method to culture its members. Sadly they don't see it that way.

  14. My strongest reactions are in agreement regarding the need for better witness in the midst of the cities. I'm not sure that we've really recognized our weakness here, and it's harder because of the scope of what it means to taget a major city.

    Beyond that, I am perhaps in agreement in terms of the need for better models of churches that are particular to the communities in which they live. I am quite hesitant to the idea of christian culture making as an explicit ministry of local churches. It seems like sometimes these films are marketed to churches with a pitch that sounds like, "support this movie and show Hollywood this is the kind of stuff we want.". That kind of gives me the willies.

  15. Royce Ogle says:

    # 2 is rather important I'd say.

    But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord. Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully. (1 Peter 3:15 Amplified Bible)

    A "logical defense", or some translations say "answer" or better "reason". A "logical defense" is simply an apologitic. We believers should be able to give a reasoned, factual, apology for why we believe what we believe. I wonder how many of our chruch folks can come close?

    # 4 logically follows. Theology as is foreign to many church members as astronomy is to a pig. Teaching people theology prepares them to give a reasonable answer when someone asks, "Why are you a Christian? How do you know its real?"

    Royce

  16. Jay Guin says:

    aj a/ka/ Tall Skinny Kiwi,

    What do you have in mind as something deeper?

    Readers,

    Andrew is among the most popular Christian bloggers in the world. I'm giddy having him comment here (even better than when Paris Hilton posted a comment!)

  17. Jay Guin says:

    There are some really good thoughts here. I may well have to post a series. (So much to write, so little time …)

    I think you have to put a restoration of a Christian theology and practice of marriage and parenting on the list. Modern Americans have largely forgotten how to be married and how to raise children — and if we can't raise our own children, the church is doomed.

    I agree on culture making, but not really as a top 5 consideration. I think. I need to study on it. Christianity isn't about making movies, but then Christians who make movies should reflect their worldview and values in their art.

    I agree with those who see the most important apologetic as faithful living — even sacrificial living. We need better apologetics than what a lot of churches teach, but top 5? I'm not so sure.

    I certainly agree that it's time to stop arguing about the best church model and plant more churches of all kinds. There are enough lost people to fill all sorts of churches.

    A theology of suffering — NOW we're talking! That's surely much the same thought as we considered in the Michael Gorman series recently. And it's maybe number 1 on my list, but I don't have a list and maybe I need one.

    More churches in the big cities is essential! I mean, it's not only how the early church did it, it's how it has to be done. And Tim Keller obviously has figured something out by building a megachurch in Manhattan — not the exurbs or suburbs.

    So it's some good stuff to think about. And I'm still thinking.

  18. JMF says:

    Okay, I have a question I've been wanting to ask and I suppose this thread is as good as any other.

    What does "POST MODERN" even mean?!

    To my understanding, defining it is a book unto itself. So when YOU GUYS use the term, what is meant by it? I see it a lot, and there must be some agreed upon understanding that I'm simply not privy to. Any help?

  19. Alan says:

    Well, when I used the term "Post Modern", I was referring to the world view that reacts against the Modern mindset. Post-moderns don't think we can know all the answers… maybe even we can't be sure we know any of the answers. The Modern philosophy (Enlightenment / Age of Reason) held that we can solve all our problems through logical analysis of facts. That's where the Restoration plea came from, which tried to get all the denominations to agree to simply follow the Bible and come to agreement. Of course that didn't quite work out as planned.

    In the pure form, Post-Moderns reject the idea of the authority of the scriptures. They reject the idea that you can know there is a God, or that the Bible is his Word. They reject an absolute moral standard. It's a tough starting point for bringing someone to faith in Jesus.

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