September 26, 2011
Skye Jethani: Recipe for Church-365 (Part 2)
Reaffirming a theology of vocation and cultural flourishing in the church.
Ingredient Two: Cultural Flourishing
As I discussed in my first book, The Divine Commodity, when church institutionalism grows out of control, we come to believe that programs rather than people are the vessels of God’s Spirit and mission in the world. When this occurs we begin to honor people for their involvement in, or service for, the church. But what they do with the remainder of their time gets little attention. When this assumption is reinforced over decades, a hierarchy of importance is established with church leaders (pastors and missionaries) at the top. Others are then only celebrated when they behave like pastors or missionaries, or when they leave their “worldly” professions to devote themselves to “full-time Christian service.”
What I’m describing is the contemporary Western church’s abandonment of a theology of vocation. During the Reformation church leaders began to apply the term “vocation” (Latin for “calling”) to all believers and not simply the clergy. It was understood that all callings were valid before God, and each glorified him and provided a critical service in the world. In other words, the life of the painter, politician, or podiatrist is just as God-honoring as that of the priest when done in communion with Christ and for the benefit of others.
Effort has been underway to recapture this theology for the American church. Andy Crouch’s book Culture Making has helped us re-engage the cultural mandate in Genesis 1, and Gabe Lyons’ has articulated the “7 channels of cultural influence” through the Q Gatherings and website. But what would this look like if embraced by a local church?
It would mean embracing the conviction that the Gospel is about God redeeming all things through Jesus Christ. While the redemption of people is of paramount importance, too often this is all the church values when Scripture reveals a God interested in the entirety of his creation. As John Stott so wonderfully put it in the Lausanne Covenant, it’s about “the whole church, taking the whole gospel, to the whole world.” It’s about revealing the reign of Jesus Christ as a present reality over all parts of the cosmos.
In this spirit, Church365 would honor each person’s calling no matter which sector of the culture he or she is engaged in. And it would reinforce the idea that we are the church 365 days a year in each part of the community. Rather than cajoling people out of the culture to participate more in weekly church activities, and thereby establishing an implicit competition between the church and other sectors of the culture for a person’s time and energy, Church365 would see it’s role as convening people from each cultural sector once a week to share about God’s good work in the world and find encouragement, equipping, and edification.
It would also mean ordaining believers for the good work God has called them to in business, education, government, arts & entertainment, media, the social sector, or the household. And celebrating the good things they produce in each of these areas–not simply when they behave like a pastor or missionary in them. By blessing and equipping the saints to God’s work, (remember God is in the universe business, not just the church business), and affirming his particular calling for each of them, the people of Church365 would be seeking the flourishing of the entire community by deconstructing the clergy-laity hierarchy evangelicalism has rebuilt since the Reformation.
Stay tuned for ingredient three of Skye's recipe for Church365