I am very grateful for Hunter’s friendship and his leadership in our church. He is a trusted friend and co-laborer. Make sure and let Hunter know what you think!
What We Learned On Our Jet Set Trip and What It Means For Our Church:
What did our elders do in Brussels and Dublin, and where are those places even at?
Well, Dublin is in Ireland. Not Northern Ireland (that’s Belfast), but the Republic of Ireland. This is where the dry stout Guinness is from. And Brussels? This is the capital city of Belgium, which is just north of France and just south of Holland. This is a unique and diverse city, filled with its own unique history and home to the European Union, NATO, and Belgian waffles of course.
So, you are still wondering, “Why did our elders even go there, and how does this affect the mission of our church?”
Well let me tell you.
The primary reason we went to Dublin/Brussels was to study missiology (the mission of the Church) and to learn how we can apply this mission in our unique contexts. Another way to look at it would be to say that we went to learn how to think and act like missionaries while living in our regular lives. Our regular jobs, our regular neighborhoods, our regular routines of life.
Let me take you through a brief walkthrough of our trip.
The first thing that happened on the trip was disorientation. The food we ate was different. Our sleeping patterns were different. The new people we were around were different, too. But we also started having thoughts that were more interesting than that. Thoughts like “the Church is different” and “the way the Church goes about mission looks different, too.” These ideas and thoughts came, not only because we were jet-lagged and eating differently, but also because we were outside of our regular context and regular culture. We didn’t know Dublin or Brussels and therefore didn’t know how to act or think.
But as we were disoriented, we couldn’t help but notice that our American spiritual culture seemed to be something like five to ten years behind the religious culture of Europe. “Why?” we ask.
There are many similarities in our cultures, but here are three main ones we noticed:
1. Post-modernism and post-Christianity. Not only are people in America more and more post-modern (i.e. what’s right for you is not necessarily right for me, there are multiple paths to the same destination), but we are also an increasingly post-Christian society, too, where it is no longer the majority culture to abide by Christian principles. (Vanderbilt University is a good example of this.)
2. Big government. Government is now taking care of welfare needs, whereas the church used to see that primarily as their responsibility.
3. Growing influence of Islam and other worldviews. As we see that Europe’s spiritual culture is about five to ten years ahead of us, we now see how important it is to take a minute and think about what we can learn from a religious culture that we expect to mirror and follow in the coming months and years.
After seeing how similar our spiritual cultures are, while in strikingly different contexts, we can ask the question, ”How do we then fulfill our mission in our unique context?”
Well, our mission is to glorify God together by (a) being transformed into the image of Christ, (b) making disciples, and (c) serving the world with compassionate sacrifice. And when we talk about our “missional design” we are more specifically mentioning parts (b) and (c) of our mission. ” Now, how do we each take that and apply that mission to our unique context? Well, one context that we all have in common is that we live in the Nashville area. But beyond that, our contexts look very unique. They’re as different as the jobs, the stages of life, the hobbies, families, and everything different about each individual.
We have one mission with unique contexts. Now, how do we live that out? This is the conversation we want to continue. As a church, we want small group leaders to ask questions that encourage us to think about our different interests and gifts in which we relate to other people. We want pastors and elders to teach on what it means to be a missional church (a great start is right here, if you haven’t already read it). And we also want to encourage Stewards to continue to step up and use their unique gifts, passions, and influences to glorify God in their own individual contexts.
I will follow up with a second post next week to talk about a few tools that we can use to help us in our continuing discussion. I look forward to processing the Truth of the Word together so we can be a community of faith that brings glory to God in our unique contexts.