I have heard the critique of ‘the emerging church’ that it is theologically shallow and pragmatically driven – that is the decision to do church in various forms is driven by the culture and not the Bible.

I have no doubt that this is a fair criticism of some in the emerging church. But I want to turn that around on some of those in the ‘conservative evangelical’ world that prides itself on being theologically rigorous.

It has recently been said a few times that house-hold church won’t work because people don’t go to each other’s houses – that’s not the culture.

When seeking to reach people with the gospel we need to be culturally sensitive so as not to put barriers in the way of people hearing and witnessing the gospel. This is a method clearly espoused by Paul. However, the gospel also clearly critiques areas of our culture. When a culture prides itself on its earthly citizenship, the gospel challenges that with a new citizenship (Ephesians). When the culture is that husbands dominate their wives, masters rule their servants with an iron fist, the gospel challenges that culture and calls husbands to love their wives and for masters to treat their servants well.

Individualism and self-centredness is one of the most prevalent marks of our western culture. Adverts are constantly calling on people to indulge themselves, to live lives of ease, to look out for number one. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog we build garden fences so high that we cannot see our neighbours. We want our private space.

Another outworking of this individualism (which sometimes of course extends to familial individualism) is that we don’t welcome people into our houses or we don’t go around to other’s houses (they tend to effect each other!).

But surely the gospel critiques this individualism. John in his first letter is very clear that loving God means loving each other. We are to be people in community. Ephesians 2 shows us that we are now a people who are a new nation, a new family, a new household. A very clear expression of the love for others is that we are to be hospitable, caring, giving. We’re to invite, not just our friends to dinner (just a potential extension of our individualism), but the poor, the blind, the crippled, the down-and-outs.

So what happens when people argue that ‘house-hold church won’t work because people don’t go to each others houses’? Pragmatism is taking precedence over the gospel – which is the very critique levelled at some in the emerging church.

The gospel challenges our individualistic culture. As a result churches that are living authentic gospel lives will challenge our individualistic culture. Interestingly Jesus and Paul never seemed to be concerned that challenging culture would hinder the advance of the gospel. In fact it is as the gospel advances that it will challenge culture.

So let’s be counter-cultural. Let’s first go out to where our friends and neighbours are, even if that’s the highways and the byways, let’s build relationships with them, and then let’s invite them into our homes – let’s expose to them to a community, a different community, a loving, hospitable, caring community – God’s new, cross-shaped community.

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