In a recent post at his ChurchandCulture.org site, James Emery White talks about the need to help our people become cultural missionaries. He observes:
I think we all know what a good missionary would do if dropped into the darkest recesses of the Amazon basin to reach an unreached people’s group.
They would learn the language. They would try and understand the customs and rituals. They would work to translate Scripture and the message of the gospel into their indigenous language. When it came to worship, they would incorporate the musical styles and instruments of the people. They also might attempt to dress in the traditional style of the people group to whom they’re ministering.
In other words, they would try to build every cultural bridge they could into their world in order to bring Christ to bear. Why is it that what would be so natural (and obvious) to do in that missiological setting is so resisted in our own?
Make no mistake: Wherever you are is your mission field.
However, it’s not just about being a cultural missionary, but understanding what aspect of culture you’re after.
For example, think about all the Christian publishing about the Millennials. The evangelical publishing world is fixated on why Millennials are leaving the church. They get them to write blogs, articles and books about their disaffection, and from this extrapolate what the church has to do and where it has to change in order to reach this generation for Christ.
OK, think about that. Why are we focusing on Christian Millennials who leave the church in order to learn how to reach non-Christian Millennials who are not in the church? That’s misplaced missional energy.
The disaffected Christian Millennials are not abandoning Christ, just the church. OK, so did their parents and their parents before them. They either came back to the church or reinvented it stylistically. That’s not exactly news.
What is news is the rise of the Nones, which are those Millennials (and their parents) who are abandoning religion altogether.
The real story you need to get as a leader isn’t about Christians wanting more of a narrative, wishing their pastors were more like Donald Miller, hating the big-stage production of the ’80s megachurch or anything else.
That’s an evangelical subculture thing. The real issue is much larger.
If we are going to talk to someone, listen to someone and learn from someone, let’s talk, listen and learn from Millennials who have not been Christians, much less churched. After all, they are the true Millennial mission field.
Be a cultural missionary, and make sure you are studying the right part of the culture. (Continue reading.)