I wrote this a few days ago, but forgot to publish. Since it has to do with "Sunday" topics, it's appropriate for Sunday:
First off, let it be known, I'm no expert in the field. These are just a few of the thoughts that have come to my mind lately.
I was talking with Angela this morning over our last breakfast at the Mountainview Guesthouse by the North Gate in Chiang Mai. We were talking about where we would go to church this year, but the conversation shifted to my deeper thoughts (as happens on occasion).
I started thinking about how the primary goal of many missionaries and church-planters has been to establish a system in order to make evangelism more sustainable. To say it in a way that is less "church friendly," to convert and keep converts. I began to wonder how this style could be effective at all when a foreigner comes in with the answers and tells others that what they thought they knew wasn't actually right at all. Especially in a non-western culture where saving face is very important and arguments are not won by reason, it seems that this would be a big turnoff. And, in fact, I think it was for many years here.
But one thing that translates across cultures is when a church truly becomes a church: a body that is measured by its love for one another and for others. A man here in Chiang Mai who was not a Christian but married a Christian woman expected the church to give up when a recent tragedy struck them. It was the support and love that followed that revealed the character of Christ through the church.
Yet I still wonder how it is effective when church gatherings become just more learning rather than living.
Churches out here -- just like in the States -- are focused primarily on evangelism and membership, almost to the exclusion of social concern. Occasionally it will pop-up in the form of a one-time service project. But that's not help; it's making ourselves feel better.
When the church allows itself to become a body of believers that reaches out for justice, the body catches a glimpse of "the age that is to come;" the age where our world will be made right again. We become God's ambassadors for representing that age in this present age.
If we view the purpose of planting churches as evangelism through preaching and logical arguments and the sharing of our spoken "testimony," we deny God's power to reveal himself through the body itself and its function as a community. The body is there to love. People will see that and then follow. The testimony is the community. Like St. Francis wrote, ". . . use words when necessary."
These are just a few more of my rambling thoughts. I'll leave the conclusions to you.