Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Segregated Church?

Just to show you I do read the comments on this blog, I want to use a comment left today to continue the discussion on church contextualization, the idea that churches tailor themselves to a certain region or culture.

Here's what KC said (edited a bit):

"We would never want, in the name of evangelism, to pursue the following as the ideal: spearate congregations for white over 60, black over 60, middle-aged upper middle class, middle-aged lower middle class, divided again by race, Gen X church, college-educated, less educated, etc. We'd want these groups of (now converted) Christians worshipping and serving together in congregations...right?"

I agree with this statement to a point. As much as possible, we want Christians of diverse types worshiping and communing together. This is a clear New Testament teaching. With that said, I don't think that there's anything wrong with a church having a certain type of focus, because I think that all churches do. You can aim for everyone but you are likely have a certain bent. Teaching-heavy, service-oriented, fresher music, older music, Boomer-magnet, etc, etc. It's fine to have a bent--every church does. What I would say to KC is that it is not right for a church to target one group of people, but it is fine for a church to target a culture. What does this mean? This means that I will not necessarily plant a traditional SBC church of the Deep-South variety in the middle of Harlem. It is likely that I will tailor the Harlem church to the surrounding culture. This does not mean, however, that I will set out to attract only folk of one type or race or dialect. Not so. I will strive to make the church, though tailored, friendly and accessible to as many people as possible.

It is right for a church, and the man who leads it, to have a certain personality, air, and culture. A pastor and the church he leads do not necessarily have to strip themselves of any culture and try to make themselves vanilla to all people. They can do one of two things, as I see it: they can target a culture that they connect well with, as Mark Driscoll has done in Seattle, or they can tailor themselves to a certain culture, as William Carey did in India. We don't have to become vanilla, and neither do our churches, to reach the world. Instead, we should be ourselves, and if we deem it necessary adapt ourselves, to a culture to reach the lost for Christ. Neither way is wrong. Both can be used of God to reach the diverse peoples of this fallen world. Churches that target cultures--not peoples, cultures--are in fact just what we need in an uncontextualized world.


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