There are many ways to be church in the world. I was reminded of that on a recent trip to Amish country. On the two-hour drive we passed stately suburban churches, rural white clapboard churches, a store front church on an abandoned main street and, finally, we arrived among Jesus followers who transport church benches from home to home by horse drawn wagons. Each way of being church is an attempt at being God’s salt and light community in a secular society. Each way has strengths and weaknesses. Every church, by intention or default, has a way of being in the world.
Here Are Several Ways Of Being Church In The World
Type 1: The Church Separated From Culture
These are the island churches. They are separated but always on display. Sermons focus on personal purity. The Amish, and many conservative congregations, are good examples. Christian testimony is about being Christ’s set apart people. The challenge is that sin also permeates the body of Christ.
Type 2: The Church Rescuing People From Culture
These are the lifeboat churches. They focus on rowing out into culture to save people from the destruction of culture. Sermons focus on sin, salvation and witnessing. Christian testimony is about soul winning. The challenge is missing God’s passion for the renewal of all things.
Type 3: The Church As Refuge From Culture
These are the oasis churches. They provide a reprieve from culture. People gather to be refreshed, inspired, and instructed. Sermons focus on the positive and practical with self-help mixed in. The challenge is missing the Gospel and avoiding low expectation discipleship.
Type 4: The Church As Agent Of Change In Culture
These are the blacksmith churches. They send members into every corner of life (Jesus is ruler of all!) to hammer out places of God’s shalom. Sermons focus on justice, God’s love for creation and His mission in the world. The challenge is that the iron of culture isn’t easily forged.
Type 5: The Church As Equipper For Cultural Conversations
These are the deep dive churches. They emphasize in-depth disciple-making by teaching a biblical worldview. Sermons focus on the Gospel and the expositional study of Scripture. The challenge is making sure biblical training always remains a means to an end, not an end in itself.
Type 6: The Church As Power Broker In Culture
These are the ballot box churches (both right and left). They focus on the power of believers as a voting bloc. Sermons focus on social ills, the persecuted church, and standing for what’s right. The challenge is tying Christ to flawed politicians and losing the subversive power of love.
Type 7: The Church Present Within Culture
These are the yeast churches. They move into at-risk neighborhoods or other unlikely places and live as Christ’s people connecting and serving. Sermons focus on God’s love for the least and last and living as good neighbors. The challenge is overcoming burn out that often sets in.
Type 8: The Church Joining Culture
These are the ‘go with the flow” churches. They look for good in culture and celebrate God’s grace in every aspect of society and religion. Sermons focus on God’s presence, our goodness, and the beauty of creation. The challenge is ignoring the devastation created by the fall.
Each of these churches has something to contribute towards God’s redeeming work in the world. What type of church is yours? Perhaps you are a combination of more than one of these types or, perhaps, you are type not mentioned here. An important part of every renewal journey is identifying the type of church Christ is calling you to be and creating the culture and strategies that will draw you deeper into a vision of being God’s people in the world.[For further exploration of this topic read Tim Keller’s CENTER CHURCH chapters 16 & 17].