Chuck Taylors and the Missional Church
It rained for three straight days in Denver. That almost never happens. Trying to do my part in the great Pacific Northwest experiment God decided to spring on the Colorado Front Range, I spent some time in a coffee shop doing something else that almost never happens; talking with other pastors about church movements and our desire to reach people. Now, the fact that pastors were getting together to talk was not unusual (pastors love to talk at coffee shops, its a spiritual gift), it was the kind of pastors that I found myself with. Different theologies, different ecclesiologies (fancy word for what you think about church), and different ideas about pastoral ministry. By the way, I was easily the least cool person in the coffee shop, I wasn’t wearing Chuck Taylors (3 other pastors were), my business cards are fairly plain (I got two cards from other pastors and they looked like someone from Pixar designed them), and I don’t pastor a church with an artsy name like “ancient in.version communion” (the lower case letters and period in the middle of inversion are on purpose). Ok, I made the church name up, but some of these guys have really cool names for their churches.
Driving to this coffee shop, I wasn’t sure what to expect, in fact, I considered not going at all. I didn’t really know what I could contribute. I’m not what most pastors would describe as missional, I prefer old books by dead guys, and I think two primary emphasis of pastoral ministry are expositional preaching (reading a passage of Scripture and drawing the content of the sermon from the message of that Scripture, as opposed to finding Scriptures based on a predetermined topic – I should be fair here, I think there is great value and merit in topical preaching, I just prefer expositional preaching as a default) and leading and cultivating a weekly worship service. Often, these are not values of the missional church, which tends to put its emphasis on incarnational living, practical service, and communicating the gospel to people outside of the conventional means of sermons and planned “church” services.
In spite of my apprehensions about whether or not I belonged there, I went and was greatly blessed by the time. Not the least of the reasons was that everybody there was a rock star in some area of ministry. I was able to reconnect with a few old seminary friends and hear great stories about what Christ was doing in their lives and through their ministries. Maybe most importantly, I learned a lot. The theological diversity was fairly great, but it was refreshing to overcome some of those typical lines and glean valuable wisdom from friends that would never join me for a discussion on why John Calvin is the greatest Biblical scholar ever.
I was challenged to think about how our ministry at Calvary Church can become more “missional” and how the missional endeavors we are already engaged in can be examined and stretched to, hopefully, have a greater impact for the glory of God. If you know me, you will be surprised to know that I didn’t say a whole lot during the discussion, mostly I just listened to the hearts of these pastors for their people and the people who live around them. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the value of mutli-generational ministry and its sad decline in the past two decades. I was encouraged to hear several young, missional pastors talk about their desire to reach old and young people alike and help them discover a way of living that glorifies God and seeks to make Jesus Christ’s name known around the earth.
Honestly, there are points of difference that I may never understand about newer (or rekindled – rarely is something new in the church, usually anything we think of as new is just a recycled idea that happened long enough ago for most people to forget about it) or missional churches. I believe, along with Jonathan Edwards, the puritans, and most reformed theologians that our primary task as pastors and Christians is to help people see and savor the glory of God. Honestly, I can’t help but see some aspects of rising church movements as an afront to that task, but I am grateful for the opportunity to know more about them, to see them for the many merits they do have, and to glean wisdom from them in the many areas where I lack it. Sitting with those kinds of people, I couldn’t help but realize that God is at work in more areas and ways than I can possibly comprehend and I am priviliged to be given a small glimpse of who He is and what He is doing.
And maybe I will get a pair of Chuck Taylors, they’re pretty cool.