Amazing pop culture how sweet the sound
That engaged a pre-Christian like me,
I once was disillusioned but now am stimulated
Was seeking but now am imaginative.
-post-modern hymn (21st century)
Welcome to the new kind of church evangelism. It’s called ‘conversation’ and it often takes place in secular settings, like pubs and bars (thanks to emerging church leaders like Brian McLaren). The following is an example of this new post-modern gospel-lite approach that is now emerging from Mennonite churches all over Canada.
On page 33 of this month’s MB Herald October 2010 issue is an article in Currently in community called Pub chats tackle contemporary issues. Here is an excerpt:
Once a month, Gracepoint pastor Bill Hogg presides at a bar – and he invites anyone to join him. Hogg, several “expert” panellists, and guests meet at Belle’s Restaurant in Surrey, B.C., on the last Monday of the month to feed their bodies, minds, and souls with lively discussion on contemporary issues around faith and culture. The discussion podcasts are then posted on The Kindlings Muse – Canada West website (www.thekindlings.ca).
Kindlings is a Canadian extension of a movement in the U.S. inspired by the famous weekly pub conversations of the Oxford Inklings – C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and others. Founder Dick Staub says Kindlings seeks to ignite “intelligent, imaginative, hospitable exploration of ideas that matter in contemporary life.” Hogg calls it “a forum for hospitable conversation among thoughtful seekers who are Christful.”
It’s neither an outreach to non-Christians, nor a Christian supper club. Kindlings “promotes discipleship of the mind, engagement with arts, discernment about pop culture, and builds bridges to God among pre-Christians,” says Hogg.
If it’s not for reaching the lost, and it’s not for Christian fellowship, then what exactly is Kindlings all about?
Hogg, pastor of Gracepoint [www.gracepoint.ca] church (affiliated with the Mennonite Brethren Conference of Churches), chairs the panel’s comments and Q&A on a predetermined topic. Subjects so far have included things like the New Atheists, the Olympics, movies, and fundamentalism. (One of the panelists happens to be Kevin Miller, a screenwriter and producer who recently worked on the left wing anti-Zionist film about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict called With God on Our Side.)
So far people have found Kindlings ‘stimulating,’ and one person has expressed a wish that church was like this.
But how will pub chats that simply tackle contemporary issues possibly kindle the spark of faith that leads to repentance and belief without using the Word of God (the word of truth), or the gospel of salvation? How can engagement with arts and discernment about pop culture build a bridge to God when Jesus is the only One who has ever done that? There is much emphasis on contemporary issues, but is there an urgency about eternal issues? We’ve an inkling that something is strangely missing from this conversation.
14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise
For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.
~1 Thess. 2:13
Missionary or Missional-lite?