Saturday May 29, 2010 Brian McLaren “Evangelism and Transformation in a Secular Society”

Session II – “Focus on the Church” 9:20 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.

What do spiritual seekers need from us?

Often evangelism is often seen as merely a tool for church growth, to get butts in seats and that is disgusting to most people. We don’t need any more of the practice of consuming people for the religious machinery.

Vincent Donovan – pioneer Catholic missionary who started to see how much of what he thought was Christianity was actually just Western culture. Had to sort out what was actually Christianity and what was just religious barnacles that had grown around the gospel.

Donovan said – Do not leave others where they are but do not try to bring them where you are as beautiful as that place may be. Instead grow them to a place neither you nor they have ever been before.

Earliest followers of Jesus were all Jewish. The first Christians didn’t try to make Gentiles into Jews. Instead they joined Gentiles creating a new space, a new way of being human, a new kind of spirituality “in Christ.”

Two tracks of Christian theology and practice:

1. Conservative – concerned with heaven and hell. Goal = get people out of hell and into heaven. Motivation = church growth. Method = evangelistic outreach. Aggressive outreach. Presently experiencing stalled growth, often decline (apart from immigration) = a tainted “brand” especially among young. 16-29 year olds’ associations with evangelicals: 1 anti-homosexual, 2. Judgmental, 3. hypocritical

2. Liberal – preoccupation = be good people, create a good society. Goal = generational survival. Motivation = church maintenance – let’s keep this thing going. 4+ decades of declining, aging demographic, class segregation. Lack of retention – average age over 55, despite all emphasis on diversity, still middle & upper class.

The modern crisis is that there is an increasing polarization between conservative and liberal. Increasingly define themselves in opposition to the other. We are at a moment where each is equally in danger of being equally irrelevant.

What does a new track look like, a new space where we go with others to a place we have never been before?

There are three major traditions: 1. Roman Catholic, 2. Evangelical, 3. Traditional Protestantism – when you exclude immigration and factor in falling birthrates all are in decline.

When we crate an open spacious place we create space where people are invited to enter a conversation rather than enter an institution that is defending something.

Imagine dividing the church into four quadrants: Liturgical, Social Action, Evangelical, Charismatic – each has something to offer to the other. The goal is to live in the space where the four quadrants can overlap.

The Pentecostals know you open yourself to the Holy Spirit by stepping out of your comfort zone. Step out of normal. When anything becomes just what we do, it is time to move beyond what has become just normal.

Many of us are looking for a centre that welcomes all four quadrants. When we do that we will always find that there are some people who will barricade themselves in their familiar quadrant.

The centre becomes a hospitable space because:

1. it has a sense of humility
2. it is an integrating place
3. there is an openness to and a hunger for change
4. there is a focus on mission and spiritual formation
5. there is serious theological reflection
6. there is a growing sense of crisis, emergence and opportunity

What is our mission? Is it just satisfying the world of religious consumers, of maintaining the institution? Or is it helping recruit, form and deploy Christ-like people in our world.

Matthew 28:18-20 does not say go and make Christians, or church members. It says make disciples and baptize them, that is, immerse them into the experience of the Trinity. Jesus says teach them to do and to practice what I do and what I practice.

Evangelism = to join the Spirit of God in making more Christ-like people.

We must move from the motivation of hell-avoidance/fear to helping people connect with/experience God.

We must shift from looking at the world as a place to save people from to seeing that God’s default position is to love everyone. The problem is not that the world is evil. The problem is that people don’t know that God is a God of love – this brings a totally different approach to people of other religions.

When you love your neighbour as yourself, including your neighbour of another religion, it is hard to see that as anything other than Christ-like.