Over programming a subculture? Underprogramming Incarnational Ministry? Or somewhere in Between….
My co-pastor Brad and I have had numerous conversations about how we want to make sure we don’t over program the church so that people would be able to live missional lives. Our thought has been that in our past experiences, being part of the church meant going to so many “church” things that one was left with little time to share his/her faith. For example, when I was in high school in youth group my schedule was like this:
Monday – AWANA leader
Tuesday – Youth Group
Wednesday – Bible Study
Thursday – nothing…
Friday – Either a “youth event” or “out with my youth group friends.”
Saturday – nothing
Sunday – Church in morning and church at night.
So, the only nights that I had free were Thursday night and Saturday night. The other nights were all spent in church activities. (Don’t get me wrong, these were worthwhile activities. Serving kids, learning the Bible, youth group, Christian fellowship, etc. are ALL GOOD THINGS!).
But, notice something. For the most part, these were things that were focused inward toward the Christian. (Yes, there was a definite push for me to invite my friends to church, but there was not too many examples being encouraged to go to my friends).
Take this typical Christian life, lots of Church related activities and you don’t get a lot of time to incarnationally live the out the message of Jesus. As I just said, all of the time was either taking care of my spiritual self through bible study (which again, IS NOT A BAD THING!) or asking my friends to come to church (again, not a bad thing!). The problem lies in that there is very little time for me to go live incarnationally, with and among my friends in their worlds and lives outside of my time at school.
Like I said earlier, Brad and I have said often that we need to be sure not over program the church so people can live incarnationally with their neighbors.
I realized in the shower yesterday (where I do my best thinking) that there is a significant problem with this thought. Why are “church things” automatically not vied as incarnational?! Why does being part of a church event mean we have to remove ourselves from the world?
I think the problem lies not so much in HOW MUCH we program, but WHAT we program. If all of our “ministries” are focused inwardly we definitely do have to be careful not to program too much, because then we create little subcultures of Christians. BUT, if more of our church programs were focused on relating to the world and being Christ in it, than maybe we wouldn’t have to worry about over programming.
What do you think? Make sense?
Perhaps we our problem lies in the fact that we view the church things as “spiritual” and the non-church things as “secular.” Perhaps, we distinguish too strong a line between times of “spiritual growth” and times of “outreach.”
In “A Spirituality for the Road” Bosch writes that we should not see our role as
“not fleeing the city, but being sent by God into the heart of the city and its turmoil…the two are absolutely indivisible (secular and spiritual). The involvement in this world should lead to a deepening of our relationship with and dependence on God, and the deepening of this relationship should lead to increasing involvement in the world.”
The church at the same time is called out of the world and sent into the world. these are not two separate movements but one. The idea therefore is not of balance but of tension. it is not a case of establishment of an equilibrium. Rather, the church’s being called out of the world sends her into the world; her being sent into the world calls her out of the world.”
If we don’t live in this tension, we risk the gospel becoming either totally secular or completely isolated. Either way is equally bad. That is why he writes that we don’t try and balance, we live in the tension. In programming a church, we must keep this tension in mind else we either totally isolate ourselves from the rest of the world or we get so “in the world” that the gospel looses its power…