WIth the end to Christendom, Missiology must be CENTER of all Ecclesiology. It starts with spiritual mapping
With the end of Christendom (Where the church is the central authority for ethics, morality and society – where there is huge influence in shaping a societal more structure.), it has become obvious to anyone awake and honestly seeing the moral, social, ethical, spiritual decay of the cultures in the post-Christendom reality that our ecclesiology is passé, and yet “the church” continues to operate and think under a world view that assumes Christendom is still alive and ticking.
One side note: It the way we did operate under the Christendom era was so good, then we would not be where we are now…. it was obviously flawed, and yet, we still hold on to it!
Unpacking what I said, I ask that the reader stops and takes a sober look at the complete lack of relevance, influence, esteem the church has in society. Marriages and Funerals, two of the most core institutional practices are less and less being performed in or by the church. As I wrote last week – we are now in a 2d generation pagan culture. Their worldview, framing how they see, understand and navigate our culture, life, society is completely pagan and yet, the church continues to operate in its world view, ecclesiology and missiology as if Christendom was still as endeared to society as it is to many Christians.
I am known as an iconoclast. I reject this – not for its definition. By definition, I am one. I do smash the false, useless icons (little gods, sacred cows) we hold to and charge, indict, exhort people to take an honest look, laying aside their prejudices, presumptions, and former conclusions, to think critically in the reality we face today. What I reject is that cultural definition (baggage) the term brings with it – that I do it to be an irritation, to be agro (a term used in the British Dominions for a person who is predetermined to be aggravating to others).
No, I believe deeply that there are icons, sacred cows, and false thinking that must be smashed – as a severe mercy, not to ruin Christmas. An example of this is a sermon I did once for Christmas Eve – four packed services – THOUSANDS attending. See previous blog.
Here is the point of this blog post – we are in fact well into Post-Christendom, like it or not, offensive or not, hurt or not. It is true – our 2d generation pagan culture doesn’t care that this hurts to even consider, and feels heretical. Yet, like so many cultures before us – it is true. THEREFORE, what are we to do?
About ten years ago, my former seminary dean, who had since become president of the college, seminary and two other arms of the university, and who also taught me a class or two, visited us in New Zealand where we lived as missionaries helping pastors, leaders, missionaries and denominations wrestle ecclesiology and missiology in post-Christendom. They had a blast. While visiting us, he inquired what feedback I’d give him now several years later. My response was quick, very quick: “STOP giving pastor degrees – give only missiological degrees.” He was “gobsmacked”. But I meant every word.
As leaders “sent”, be it domestic (wherever domestic is for you) or sent ones (missionaries – Missio Dei – mission of God…consider all that definition means… where God’s heart is) the reality is that our context now REQUIRES us to be missiologists. We must be centered in our roles, as missionaries who study, understand, relate, earn a voice and speak into our society, culture, community, neighborhood in a manner that they can clearly and accurately understand and experience first hand Christ, God, Grace – the Great News of Hope!
Yet today, I know very few pastors, though they exist, in the US that have a clue how to become a missiologist. Pastor has become synonymous with teacher. Even the role of pastoring has become optional and for a few – pragmatically pastor equals teacher. Why? Because in the industrial age and the professionalization of education, over the apprentice model, the church followed suit with society and institutionalized the formation of it’s clergy… and hence, teachers took center stage and they recreate in kind.
God NEVER recalled the other four roles: pastors, evangelists, apostles and prophets. In fact they are all five mandated to “equip the saints”. This scares the s*** out of most evangelicals so we dismiss them because our idea (misconception) of a prophet or an apostle is some spooky scary wizard type person. I challenge, that if for the equipping of the saints (church) to do the work of the ministry, then maybe we have the wrong idea of prophet, apostle, evangelist, pastor and teacher… The saint living in the market place is probably not going to gather large crowds and aspound a message, but rather dialogue and wrestle in the context of relationship as they see a contrast in the Shalom of the saint in daily life. Hmmm, maybe our 19th century idea of stump revival crusade preaching isn’t the best method then or today?
But, I digress…
To become an missiologist, one must understand one’s context. I challenge you to take this up as a focus of your spiritual formation in 2012. It starts with Spiritual Mapping, which is the foundation.
Spiritual Mapping is the study of a community (neighborhood, area, city, region, even nation of people) to understand the history, the why, the formation of the underlying presumptive mores that make the place what it is, contrasted to other places. It includes the economic, ethnic, social, historical, industrial, spiritual, and goes up to today…
Two examples from here in New Orleans are following:
1. New Orleans, being a French colony was Catholic. The city was over 100 years old before it had an English speaking parish and much older before a protestant congregation was formed. This shaped the city hugely, as the orders came with the earliest colonists as evangelists, medical educational, serving the poor, community development, etc. Even today these orders form the foundational fabric of geriatric, education, medical systems, community development, care for the poor, etc. This shapes how people view faith, the church, etc – even in a 2d generation pagan era.
Also important in this religious reality is that the church was the keeper, not a civil government of all records (birth, marriage, death), and the French saw slaves as people. The result was a) a large free people of color population in French Lousianne, and b) black people being people had souls… they were included in the life of the church – married, buried, baptized and given dignity as people of God. This reality carries forward today and shapes the cultural interaction, respect, interplay and embracing of the music, food, cultural celebrations, rites of life passage (funerals) for all people in the unique microcosm culture. A friend of ours died of cancer… he was white in every way… until you saw him eat, heard his music, and attended his funeral…complete with jazz funeral band – dirge to the plot, celebration departing.
Note the Basilica Cathedral, St. Louis at the center of the city’s square. The two buildings on the shoulders of the first church here are the Cabildo (offices of the colonial governor & his magistrates) and the Presbytere (Colonial Legislature). The government of the colony was subcentered to the church – the center of society at the time. This pictures speaks loudly of how one must even today understand how the institution yet is involved in the life and governance of the city.
2. New Orleans has seceded three times in its history. 1762, 18010 and 1861… When the Spanish took the colony, following the French-Indian War, it did not consult or do any diligence to win the affection of this French colony and city. The Royal Spanish Colonial Governor arrived to announce this new rule, and then refused to present his royal assignment papers to validate his authority. The people here chose to be free and dismissed him giving him no authority to do anything. They chose to remain French and sent a petition to Napoleon to speak to the situation. Spain dispatched a new governor – a thug in Cuba sent to get order there, an Irish mercenary, who landed with force and established a barracks (the site stands today) of Spanish troops to “put down the rebellion”. He promised amnesty, but did his spying to get the know who were the power brokers. As the city relaxed under this forced rule and life returned to normal, he had the five rebels (patriots) arrested and put in wet dire dungeons. They were not given process of law – The French highly esteem the process of law) and tried in their cells late at night, never given opportunity to meet their accusers or cross examine them. They were convicted to death. They were lined up and shot outside the city walls on October 25, 1769. In 1810, the scene was repeated – but this time by a thuggish American commander, that history rewrote as a hero – Andrew Jackson. Kids are taught how he saved New Orleans – never being told his return to “save the city” was akin to having the Crips and Bloods show up to save the neighborhood. He executed the “rebels” without trial also. In 1861, the “state” seceded with hopes of remaining free FINALLY. Political horse trading by its first American governor (American as in English…not born here) saw the French state enter the fray, its regiments reinforcing an already weakened Confederate Army and extending the war. Instead of going free at the war’s end, it was annexed back into a country it considered foreign and as war mongers. Finally, after the political debacle that occurred in the partisan pissing match of post-Katrina federal and state governments, people in New Orleans’ deep myth of distrust for rule beyond our shores crept to the top again. Today, you find citizens here far removed and cynical about rule from Washington…. some say cynical while people here say sober and honest about the reality.
The 1st flag is flag the New Orleans residents flew when they declared themselves a Free French state when they heard Spain had gained authority here. The pelican is still used (same one) in the present flag, the star used in pattern of the West Florida Republic, a short lived free state during the time of the British owning Florida (making two colonies, east and west) and the US purchase of the French Colony (40 years later). The present flag of New Orleans (below) directly reflects a) the Royal French Standard that flew over the city as a French Colony, and the French Republic flag used today. The stripes were added in the early 20th century because the US federal government felt the city wasn’t embracing being American – a century later – where 1/2 the households still spoke French. They were satisfied because it was red-white and blue… they missed the irony in what the city chose as its flag.
You see, the reality is that myths or real history shape how a people see themselves, decide over time and reinforced by the past, to operate, relate and what they value. You must understand a people before you can speak into them, be accepted so you have credibility and share life amongst them, not removed into 21st century virtual Christian ghettos. The church in the US has NO idea how to do this. It requires a mentor, not a book, not a class, but the ole fashioned apprenticing model, not by a teacher, but by an anamchara (soul friend). It takes missionaries – domestic to their own landscape and mission field – to interpret and help pastors begin to grasp that the ole Christendom methodology, and world view is over… Remaining on life support isn’t working.
I mentored a pastor when we first returned to New Orleans right after Hurricane Katrina. He made huge strides and became one who fueled fresh expressions of church throughout the city… but the demons, the tisking from other pastors got too loud. He broke and ran back to what he already knew how to do. He moved in 2 weeks notice and took a mega-church in another state… today ONE of over a dozen initiatives he fueled exists. Millions of dollars were lost because of the fear of inadequacy because he ran back to Egypt, too scared to learn anew, afresh and join God in these new wine skin days.
So, pastor, leader in an old wine skin you know isn’t working – but you’ve been at a loss as to how to get into a new wine skin, which wine skin, how, where, what, who, huh? …what are you going to do? Start with learning your people – your city – don’t be a God person sent to “those people” but become one of those people – go native. You know, I crack up and snarl simultaneously at the imports who come to “save New Orleans” but turn up their nose to the Mardi Gras season, only knowing the CNN representation (where would TV cameras go to get rating up?) and disbelieving those who live here about the cultural vortex that the season is – how there is sooooo much great, healthy, central cultural life celebrated, expressed and experienced in Mardi Gras. I know a family who boycotts everything Mardi Gras and everything culturally New Orleans – arrogantly seeing their protestant puritan world view as superior… six years later – NO locals reached – only other imports who look like them. Why are they even here? They are not sent to New Orleans, but their own kind. They’ve yet to become a New Orleanian. Shame.