Somewhere between Mark Driscoll, David Fitch, Bill Kinnon and Jared Wilson there’s a discussion about the validity of missional/emerging church claims to know what they are doing/talking about….which I’m not part of, but one of them asks for my thoughts. Big mistake (OK….it was Kinnon.)
First, my own missional cred.
My community has professing converts. About 25 this past year. Several Chinese students. One Muslim at least. We baptized that many; I’d guess there’s several more that didn’t ask for baptism. Ill treat them as Christians until I have a major reason to do otherwise.
My community has been evangelizing students for over a century. We’ve never written an article or book about it. I do know something of how it works…but here’s point 1.
1. I’d really don’t see any value in telling someone else how to be missional with anything other than a lot of humility. Our predecessors at our ministry moved to the mountains of SE Kentucky, built a school and made it possible for lots of kids to go there. We present the Gospel every day and we live out- very, very imperfectly- the values of the Kingdom of God.
Mostly we love those kids and take our time building a relationship where Christ can be seen and the Gospel heard.
It would be arrogant for me to say that the converts are anything other than the work of the Holy Spirit, since nothing we do has any spiritual power apart from God himself.
So having established that I’m kindof missional and have converts, can I talk now?
2. There are three kinds of credibility that evangelicals should examine very closely these days. Those are the credibility that comes from your web presence, your conference presence and your ability to get published.
These three things do not mean you know what you are doing on the ground, that you have any cred when it comes to building missional community or that anyone should listen to you. They don’t mean you are telling the truth or should even be speaking.
They mean you have a platform. That’s it. Beyond that, someone should look deeper.
3. Having a church is another claim that should be taken with a grain of salt. Ken Silva has a “church.” Some gurus have churches so big, multiplying in so many ways that they could claim to be making converts by the kind of toilet paper they are using in their facilities and it would have cred.
Churches are of all kinds, and many are the results of processes over which the gurus only had partial control, if that much.
4. Hundreds and thousands of Christians coming to your church so they get to say they go to the “cool” church should give you no cred at all as being missional. If your church is a fan club, then say so. I could name names here and so could you.
If you don’t know how to tell these kinds of people to go away, see Tim Keller or Matt Chandler, especially Keller.
5. Twenty somethings coming for the music and families coming for the soccer league aren’t converts. They might be in the process, but that remains to be seen.
Do you have a definition for this Jesus-follower we’re talking about? Where I grew up you were a convert if you walked the aisle or prayed the prayer. Some places you a convert if you get baptized. Other places you are a convert if you show up. But that’s another discussion, isn’t it?
6. When a large church pastor starts lecturing small churches about their lack of evangelism, you should change the channel, because the guy is mainly being a jerk toward a lot of faithful ministers and Christians in more difficult situations. This has gone on in the SBC for years. We get thousands of people joining a church so Joe pastor can now talk about his converts. Then when Tom Ascol wants to talk about the thousands of people who have disappeared from the same church, he’s vilified.
I totally respect what Mark Driscoll has done in paying the price to build Mars Hill. But the first 500 is a lot different ball game than the last 500, and we all know it. How many faithful, talented, sacrificial church planters and pastors find they can’t go on? And some places are just hard. Where did we get the idea that every community can have a great church if church planter Bob will just do the right things?
7. Small churches have a tough time seeing converts. So does any church these days. We aren’t in a time when people are joining Christianity. We’re in a time when tens of millions are walking away from it. We’re in a time when thousands of Christians are going from this church to that. The faithful pastor may be seeing converts or not. You’re going to have to look deeper.
But we are in a time that produces a lot of experts, if you buy the spin.
I’d love to go to Conference whatever and ask the audience how many converts each of the speakers had the previous year, and how do they know.
8. It does take time for a church to become a healthy church. It doesn’t take time for Mr. Personality and Mr. Church Program or Mr. Megachurch to get “converts.” But if we are going to assume that Joel Osteen has the most cred in evangelicalism in this matter of missional evangelism, then have it at.
9. I’m prepared to listen to anyone talk about evangelism who’s making a faithful effort to follow Jesus and be church. But God builds the church and God counts the fruit. I’m not buying the idea that every place there’s a sign hung out is the church Jesus is building. Jesus may be at work there, but the “churchiness” of most churches isn’t coterminous with the church as it defines itself. At least not for most evangelical Protestants.
I have no idea how many converts Joe Thorn, Steve McCoy or Tom Ascol have at their churches. I don’t plan to ask. God is the one who counts converts, not us. I’ll listen to what they say because they are faithful men, and whether or not they are in a place or season of conversions is God’s work. I want to know if they make evangelism possible? Do they follow what Jesus did in proclaiming the Kingdom? Do they model the heart that God uses?
10. I understand who Driscoll is talking about. Let’s be honest. On the level of conversion cred, should we listen to Driscoll or Mclaren?
Should we listen to both of them? With how much salt? Or neither? For what reason?
It’s up to you. Just know the game you’re in, and the score may make a bit more sense.