The Church Community in Contemporary Culture: Evangelism & Engagement -- By: Kieran Beville

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 03:2 (Jul 2011)
Article: The Church Community in Contemporary Culture: Evangelism & Engagement
Author: Kieran Beville

The Church Community in Contemporary
Culture: Evangelism & Engagement

Kieran Beville

He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intention may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

— Deitrich Bonhoeffer1

There is a movement within the church that is disillusioned with the existing model and methods of traditional church practice. I am not just referring to a restless few who dislike conservative mainstream denominational churches. I am not just referring to people who want to move away from church buildings with pews, elevated pulpits, and stained-glass windows. The same attitude is adopted with regard to churches with more modern buildings and more contemporary styles of worship. I am referring to what is known as the missional church.

What is the church? What is its nature and purpose? What is its role in this world? What is its relationship to the wider community? What are its sacred and secular responsibilities? What is a Christian? What is the gospel? What is mission? What is evangelism? In our eagerness to engage with contemporary culture these questions tend to be neglected. But they come into focus if we try to unite in inter-church collaboration on evangelism. Without broad consensus, any such endeavor will be problematic. But we also need a clear understanding of the answers to these questions within our own church community.

Church communities are being drawn into the vortex of unhelpful and unhealthy alliances ostensibly for the sake of evangelism and

engagement. These problematic partnerships lead to confusion and compromise. I am concerned that people with evangelistic antennae are picking up this signal on their radar and embarking on a route to nowhere. We need to rethink the mission paradigm in the light of emerging challenges. We need to keep mission central to church life. We need to be in tune with the rhythm of God’s heartbeat. But we need biblical perspectives on mission theology as a prerequisite to identifying the way forward. Why? Because there are new directions in mission and it is important to examine these new departures. I want to take the missional church (the most significant new direction in evangelism and engagement) as a case study and offer a critique of this emerging phenomenon by asking whether it is a menace or a catalyst.

My article will be more philosophical than methodological and I hope this will not disappoint. I cannot apologize for my approach because I believe good principles provide a foundation for f...

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