If any of you are familiar with the postmodern critique of the Church Growth Movement, than you will probably right in the know. If you aren’t, well, there are many critiques, but for the purpose of brevity and the subject of this blog, the scope will not be comprehensive by any means and I will try to clue you in on the critique. Watch this video first and it will help:
There is a strong critique by postmodern evangelicals concerning the strategy and structure of churches in previous generations, theology is a whole different critique. One critique which will be the focus by postmodern evangelicals is that the Church Growth Movement was all about show (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_Growth). They built big churches with big signs and big steeples (if they even had those) to attract as many people to the church as possible. It’s all about having the right buildings and general image as a church that will attract people.
There is a movement called ‘missional churches’ that is circling about today in postmodern evangelical circles and beyond. It is the concept of sending disciples into communities where the churches are and where they work and where they live in order to bring renewal. Often, there is an urban focus as well. The idea is that the Church Growth Movement had it wrong in that the strategy was to simply be in the church and somehow get people to come to the church by attracting them somehow as opposed to going to the people, the people are to come to the church. The Missional Church Movement is about going to the people and is not about attracting as much as it is about living redemptive lives among the people and as Matt Chandler might say, “speaking life into them.” It is about meeting people where they are as opposed to expecting people to come to the church (More on ‘missional church,’ http://www.friendofmissional.org/).
There is an understanding in the missional movement (not missions movement, very different animal) that at least in Western society, it isn’t about reaching unreached peoples as much as it is reaching a de-churched or post-church culture. Mark Driscoll, founding and lead pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, is one of the greatest supporters of the missional church movement. Young postmodern evangelicals, not surprisingly, have jumped onto the missional church boat and are cruising on the same ship as Driscoll has been steering. The missional church movement is a great thing and there is a lot of great material written on the subject (See Ed Stetzer), but what I find curious is that this new “Hipster Christianity” seems to have pirated that missional cruise ship and it seems that Hipster Christianity (See http://www.hipsterchristianity.com/) has taken charge of many in the missional church movement. That is why it should be no surprise to see stylish haircuts, trendy t-shirts, and a general perfume of ‘cool’ wafting about the missional movement. It is missional, right, so it should not be any issue to wear cool shirts and have cool haircuts, right? Right! So, what’s the issue?
The issue is that it seems that the missional movement has reacted against the Church Growth Movement and has slammed the big church attraction based ministry of old only to jump into cool pants, shirts, haircuts, and have cool bands in order to attract more people. Now, to be fair, it could be argued that the Church Growth Movement was attracting only middle class to upper class evangelical Christians and was designed to do so while the Missional Church Movement is designed to attract predominantly un-churched or de-churched people in Western culture. Yes, though, perhaps true, the problem is avoided here. It could be possible that these new missional churches while being taken captive by this Hipster Christianity is not moving forward in reaching de-churched Westerners, but is merely moving forward in reaching predominantly Hipster Christians or young evangelicals who are not de-churched.
I support the Missional Church Movement and think that there is a LOT of good that can come from it, but am concerned that it is possible that old methods have merely taken on new clothes while hip Christians fill the pews and the de-churched increase. I am passionate about seeing the Church reach the de-churched in Western culture, but are we subtly plugging a new form of church driven consumerism or are we truly seeking to live missional lives? Are manufacturing a sort of Christian ‘coolness’ or are we seeking to live godly lives in the midst of a godless culture?(I am not saying Western culture doesn’t have a god, I am saying that Western culture doesn’t worship God.)
Final thought: If we are manufacturing coolness as opposed to being the aroma of Christ among the nations and our culture no less, than are people being attracted to missional/postmodern churches today because they would say it is a place where the Gospel is preached, lived, and transformative, OR are they singing a different tune that is reminiscent of a strategy that is commonly critiqued by the Missional Church Movement and had a home in the Church Growth Movement?
I realize I could be off-base with this, and admit that I could very well be incorrect with this observation. I would like to emphasize that this is concerning a particular strand of the Missional Church and a dominant type of Church Growth model, and that both do have good things that they have done and are doing. Again, it is not a comprehensive assessment, but merely analyzing a growing part of the missional movement. I welcome critique of this issue I have brought out and pray that your comments be gracious if indeed a rebuke is necessary.