It Isn’t Your City
If you’re involved in a church plant, probably one of the reasons is that this isn’t Christendom anymore. Christendom is when the church is the cultural and moral authority in society.
And yet, so many pastors act and speak and conduct ministry as if Christianity was still obvious. In established churches, many pastors are simultaneously preaching to 3 different congregations:
- A large congregation of people that indeed assume Christianity, mostly in their mid-60s-80s
- A medium-sized group of BoBos (aging former hippies who are now SUV-driving elites in their 50s-60s) who returned to church hoping that religion would keep their kids from becoming hippies.
- A small group under 40 who are either in church to please their parents or maybe because they have deep faith.
It’s a little bit of an exaggeration. A little bit.
What’s the point? If this is the story in the typical established church, just imagine how little influence the church has in the wider culture.
People of church plants: it isn’t your city. You are no longer the host, responsible for welcoming and assimilating newcomers from outside cultures into “the way things are around here”. You are the guest. The fundamentally non-Christian society is the host. And for the time being, they’re graciously allowing you to be their guest.
So be careful of your assumptions. Definitely get off your cultural high horse if you’re still mounted atop it. And take great care in the words you chose and the postures you adopt as you are engaging with your host community. And plant a church that seeks the flourishing of your city, not one that seeks to collect holy entitlements from your city.
It Most Certainly IS Your City
On the other hand, we have too easily let the disestablishment of Christianity discourage our would-be missional words and deeds.
We are right to quit making assumptions that our Christian way has cultural hegemony. We are right in realizing that we must become anthropologists and sociologists in order to reach cities that once seemed very Bible Belty. We are right to take the posture of a guest subculture seeking the favor, asylum, and tolerance of our hosts.
But we are wrong to think that our city does not belong to Jesus, and thus, to us.
For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. (1 Cor 3)
Because Jesus is Lord of your city, and because he is reconciling all things to himself in order to hand it over to his Father, you are ‘right at home’ as a kingdom agent.
And this means that you mustn’t be so anthropologically sophisticated as to never speak plainly of the fall of man and the rise of the God-man. It means that you mustn’t be so sociologically subtle that you fail to establish an outpost of the new society on the hilltop of your city, in plain view.
It’s going to sound and look foolish to many. Eh. So be it. Paul was sophisticated and cultured. But he was determined to graciously assert the crown rights of King Jesus over every pagan city in the Roman Empire, even if his speech and action reeked of weakness and foolishness to the cultural powers and sophists.
This isn’t your city.
This is your city.
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