One of the books in my seminary Church Planting course was titled, A Church for Every Context, by Mike Moynaugh. In it, the author states that:
“Church no longer has the option, if it ever had, of relating to people as if they were all the same…Contextualizing the church is the attempt to be church in ways that are both faithful to Jesus and appropriate to the people the church serves….”
Overall, this has been very challenging for our denomination as we have tended to separate groups and oftentimes support exclusion when it comes to who is welcomed in a church.
My last article referenced the Multiplication Dynamics strategic paper written by Path1/Discipleship Ministries. I highlighted three characteristics of churches with a “culture of multiplication.” Today, I want to share three more characteristics that speak to Moynaugh’s concept of contextualizing the church.
Multiplication Church: Theology is indigenous to the church’s culture so that laity can easily jump onboard.
Non-Multiplication Church: Theology is the job of the clergy leader and it is above the heads of laity.
Too often, we tend to be overly cautious about deploying laity to share the gospel outside of the church building. The gospel is about helping us live into the story that God has already prepared for us. Living into God’s story means being bold enough to share our witness with others, without feeling restricted because we do not have “all” the answers.
Second: The Bible
Multiplication Church: The Bible is used easily and freely in every type of gathering, and laity are trusted with it.
Non-Multiplication: The Bible is problematic and tricky. Most do not understand it, only clergy can interpret it and laity treat it with hostility and fear.
Laity should be trusted in their ability to lead devotions, Bible Studies, and to preach. Training is important; however, sharing and leading are, too. Provide laity the opportunity to lead.
Multiplication Church: Within the church, the pastor’s major role is to teach Bible in large venue worship times and to pastor other leaders.
Non-Multiplication: The pastor is the CEO and theologian in residence and has to lead all of the people without allowing others to lead. In other words, the pastor does too much.
The pastor in the multiplication church is one who deploys laity to lead as ministers of the Word. Often, leading is more about management than about transformation.
Indigenous leadership can be the best way to contextualize your church so that it can reach more diverse people effectively – including young people. The Barna Group recently released a report titled The State of Discipleship which found that only four percent of eighteen-to twenty-five-year-olds listed “becoming more spiritual” as their most important goal in life. The report said it is “not so much that U.S Christianity is being secularized. Rather more subtly, Christianity is either degenerating or being displaced.”
As I read these sentences anew, I was reminded how important it is for the church to begin to vastly increase the percentage of time spent in ministry outside the four walls of the church. And this is where empowering laity to lead becomes a vital part of every church’s approach. By being present where people are, the church cannot be displaced because it becomes part of the cultural fabric of the community.