8 Oct 2007

Missional Pt. 1: The Christian Ghetto

Submitted by Paul Brown

I am starting a series of posts pondering what it might mean to be a missional Christian. "Missional" is one of those buzzwords that has cropped up recently in evangelical Christianity. What exactly it means is something that I'll be researching and fleshing out for myself and sharing here on my site. This won't be a mostly theological exercise for me. There are others who have developed and articulated these concepts before me. Mostly this is about me working through these ideas in my own life. It is my hope that it will be an encouragement for you to think about the things of God and your interaction with the larger culture as well—and hold me accountable in my musings.

Before jumping into missional ideas proper, I want to look at what this missional movement is a reaction against, at least in part: the "Christian ghetto". Historically, a ghetto was the part of many Eastern European cities where Jews were confined to live. I am using the term as a metaphor for the isolation of Christians from the world where we wall ourselves in our isolated sub-culture. This is usually not physical separation, though in some cases it is taken to this extreme. Rather it is a cultural phenomenon. We have Christian books. Christian radio. Christian music. Christian coffeehouses. We go to church. And Bible study. And Men's Group or Women's Group. We organize movie night to meet up with other Christians from our church and go see a movie with some Christian tie-in. We form Christian bowling leagues. I could go on and on--and anything we haven't yet managed to get a Christian brand of, we baptize it with Christianity by sticking an ichthys on it!

It is entirely possible to live in this Christian ghetto and not interact with the culture in general in any meaningful way at all. I know because I've been there. If I'm really honest, I am there! The only real friendships with non-Christians that I have are with either a few old friends from high school or with a couple of Turkish guys I met in college through the exchange program I went on. I work with some guys that are not even culturally Christian and surely live near some unbelievers (though I barely know their names, let alone anything about their lives and beliefs). I don't like the situation, and I never set out to live like this, I'm not quite sure how I got here, but this is where I am at.

Unless we are intentional to organize our lives so that this does not happen, I think that this is the tendency of most people. We feel pressure from within as well as from the church to "be a good Christian" and involve ourselves more and more with these various church activities until we reach the limit of what we can handle. Thus, in this kind of Christian sub-culture, the longer one is a Christian, the fewer non-Christian friends one generally has—and this is the result of isolation on the part of people like me, not of conversion on the part of those around us.

This is not a good thing. We have to change. I have to change!



I'm so glad you brought this up! This is an issue that I have struggled with personally for years. Where is the line between isolating yourself strictly with Christians and making yourself readily available to the lost? On the one hand, I am encouraged and uplifted by my Christian brothers and sisters. That's something that I yearn for on a daily basis. On the other, I need to be a light to the world. Jesus Himself spent his days and evenings with people who were considered the scum of the city, tax collectors, prostitutes, and he was vehemently criticized for it. It's so difficult to find a balance between the two at least for myself. I have more to say but it'll have to wait until this evening! :0) on to class...

You hit the nail on the head, Paul. I've been processing through my involvement with the unchurched lately, as well. Interestingly, as I've been conversing with God on this subject, people with whom have Providentially been walking into my world. Neighbors, strangers, and even my old roommate who was a stripper has returned to my world after about 3 (maybe 4?) years. It's all been a little too convenient to not be suspicious of God stirring the pot... which He has every right to do. Of course, as you state, intentionality is of primary importance in these relationships.

Two questions:

1) Do you feel like you are hitting your limit on involvement in church? I ask both because of what you had to say here and also because you do seem to be spread out a lot in the things you do for BVC.

2) What's with linking the Women's Group to Muscle & Integrity?

1) I am near my limit on involvement in church. I don't feel like I need to cut back at this point since I really don't know what I would do with more free time. That is what I need to figure out and work on.

2) That was a mistake; thanks for catching it!

Christian bubble. That's what I had in college, as I went to a Christian arts college, I knew only Christians, and even when I tried to find work, all I could find was a cafe across the street owned by an awesome Christian lady and all my friends ended up working there. So I really had no contact with non-believers. It was so weird. I hated it. I felt useless and trapped.
I know quite a few non-believers now, and I feel I have the perfect little "mission field" because of Spankin' Whitey. But I don't think I have been as intentional as I need to be. I haven't been doing enough. I need to change too!!!