I just got back from speaking at a weekend retreat at a camp in New Hampshire with Fire, the young adults ministry of Grace Chapel in the suburbs of Boston. Despite some drippy weather, it was an excellent weekend, a hundred twentysomethings and thirtysomethings gathering to worship and experience God and grow in Christian community. I talked on some of my suburbs stuff as well as some of my singles stuff. And what struck me was that this group is already living out the things I was talking about, being a healthy community that is intentional about ministry and helping people get to know Jesus. The highlight of the weekend was witnessing eight baptisms (in a cold lake!) and celebrating the testimonies of lives that have been changed and transformed by the grace and power of God. It was a privilege to be part of this community for the weekend and see what God is doing among them. Here are some of my thoughts from my intro talk:
The theme for the weekend is “Being Faithful, Being Missional.” Here’s where I’m going with this. It’s hard to be Christians in today’s culture, for lots of reasons. We’re going to look at how culture shapes us and affects us in various ways. The challenge is not only how can we be faithful Christians in our culture, but how we can be missional Christians to our culture. Being faithful means that we live out the Christian faith in the midst of our culture, that we’re true to what Jesus has called us to be. Being missional means that it’s not just about us, but that we’re intentional about looking outward, influencing others and society.
Being faithful and being missional are two sides of the same coin. We need to be both. Being faithful is an internal thing; it’s about our personal faith and discipleship. Being missional is an external thing; it’s about how we can impact others and transform society. We need both.
Some Christians are faithful but not missional. They might be afraid of being affected by culture, tainted by culture, so they withdraw. They live godly Christian lives but keep to themselves and don’t influence the culture.
Other Christians are missional but not faithful. They want to change the world, and they throw themselves into mission and ministry. But in their zeal, they lose some aspects of faithfulness. Maybe they compromise personal integrity or active faith, or they don't do things in Christian ways. They get caught up in doing and lose track of being.
So we’re going to look at how our culture affects us, especially suburban culture, for good and for bad, and how we can live faithfully and missionally in light of our culture. Some Christians complain about how bad culture is, but they don’t do anything about it. It’s not just that culture shapes us. It’s also that we can shape our culture. We can influence our culture by creating a vibrant Christian community that is a distinct counterculture.