Saturday, October 03, 2009

being mindful of reverse mission

thanks to the wisdom of my wife,* i have started dedicating my mandatory furlough days to sermon preparation instead of betting on the ponies at suffolk downs.

since i was studying in the bowels of s.h.i.t. yesterday i decided to attend a free forum on re-seeding the mainline denominations in new england town centers by strategically placing evangelical pastors in u.c.c., a.b.c. and other alphabet soup pulpits.

i think that this approach is shrewd in that it aims to revitalize local churches that already have deep connections to the community and an established footprint in the public square. in addition, since several of these churches - such as the disciples of christ and the u.c.c. - have congregational government systems a candidate could conceivably pursue this strategy without getting too entangled in denominational politics.

however, while i think the strategy has merit and i respect the missional intentions of the gentlement who started overseed in order to support evangelical pastors who pursue this path, i was a little put off by the oversimplifications and apparent judgments of our mainline brothers and sisters that were sprinkled throughout the presentation, such as:

* these churches have not grown because the pastors have not preached Jesus
* the mainline parishoners are committed to loving the people in their community, but their love has no redemptive intention
* many mainline pastors are lazy and undedicated to their ministry. for this reason they have set the expectations quite low for evangelicals who are interested in their pulpits

in his book gracias henri nouwen talks about the idea of reverse mission. in it's simplest form, reverse mission suggests that a christian who pours herself/himself out in service to others will usually end up being more of a beneficiary than she/he will be a benefactor. because of that idea, i wanted to ask the overseed leaders - "what do evangelicals have to learn from the mainline pastors and churches?" - but for once i chose to set my contrarian hat aside.

i think that the reality of reverse mission raises some interesting questions about the missiology of evangelicals who have entered mainline denominations such as the episcopal church, u.s.a., but that's another post for another day.

* which i could write books about.

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