Chris Gensheer quotes Ray Bakke on the subject of urban ministry. Bakke says the following (taken from the book ‘The Urban Face of Mission‘ edited by Harvie Conn and others):
“…far more than two billion of the world’s nonchurched people are no longer geographically distant from the church, they are culturally distant. They live in the largest cities of the world.” (You can read the rest of the quote and Chris’ post here)
How is it that people who live next door to us, go to our shopping malls, play sport at our sports clubs and eat at our restaurants are culturally distant from us – in a missions sense?
I think there’s a simple answer to this question: We, in the church, have completely embraced the ‘sacred/secular’ distinction. Our Christian lives are heavily compartmentalized.
We behave ‘Christian’ or ‘sacred’ for two hours on Sunday and another two hours on Wednesday night at cell group. Some of us even do ministry for the church and so on Friday night we put on the ‘sacred’ hat for three more hours as we teach teenagers. The rest of the week we remove the ‘sacred’ hat and replace it with the ‘secular’ hat and carry on as if we were just one of the crowd.
Its not that we’re culturally distant from everyone else its just that we’ve got ourselves to a stage where we’re unable to merge the two areas and so from a Christian point of view we are culturally distant from everyone else around us.
The missional Christian, on the other hand, doesn’t make that distinction. He/she merges the sacred and secular realizing that all of life is lived in worship to God and so all must, in some sense, be sacred. At the same time he/she recognizes that not all of the secular is antagonistic and opposed to the sacred and so he/she adopts, culturally, as much as possible of the secular, into those times that are set apart, organizationally, for the ‘sacred’. In a sense the church becomes more ‘worldly’ (in a good way) and the Christian becomes more ‘heavenly’ as he/she lives in the world each day.
If we don’t make strides in these two areas we will continue to alienate the people next to us from the church and continue to live with a false dichotomy in our lives between the secular and the sacred. The missional Christian walks a line that is completely culturally savvy and yet at the same time completely counter-cultural as he/she brings the demands of Christ’s lordship to bear on the creation through word and deed.
I realize that there are many dangers in trying to live out this missional Christianity, but just because its dangerous doesn’t mean its wrong. As Christians we don’t just adopt paths because they’re ‘safe’ and free of danger – instead we adopt paths as we become convinced of God’s will from the scriptures danger or no danger.
Are you living in the secular, sacred or both?