Certain biblical phrases have always intrigued me, such as; “Jesus wept” or “Jesus…the friend of sinners” and “be holy even as I am holy.” The irony of these last two phrases stirs a great deal of controversy in many Christian circles. I noticed this paradox unfold in the presentations of two different conference speakers this week. While at a Church Planters conference, Joe Parnell, our Serve Pastor, responsible for Missions Ministries at Mobberly, and I have been learning how we, as a large growing, yet established church can become even more successful at planting churches that plant churches. After all, it is all about His Kingdom growing and not ours!
Through the following, God has helped me discover why these last two biblical phrases conjure up such heated debate. To understand this quote, however, you must take it within the context which it was given today at the confrence. Churches are called to be indigenous. For many, this term may cause more confusion than enlightenment, even before the term “missionional” was popular, the International Missionary Council of 1938 defined the indigenous church as “a church which, rooted in obedience to Christ, spontaneously uses forms of thought and modes of action natural and familiar in its own environment. Such a church arises in response to Christ’s own call. The younger churches will not be unmindful of the experiences and teachings which the older churches have recorded in their confessions and liturgy. But every younger church will seek further to bear witness to the same Gospel with new tongues.” (From “The Growing Church: The Madras Series,” Papers Based upon the Meeting of the International Missionary Council, at Tambaram, Madras, India, December 12–29, 1938. Vol. 2, (New York, International Missionary Council), 276.) The “similarity to the environment” obviously conveys that a missionary identifies with his surroundings (i.e Lottie Moon learned the Chinese language, ate Chinese food, wore Chinese clothes to relate to her surrounding Chinese culture).
So what is this life-altering quote? To borrow the exact words from a friend of mine, Dr. Ed Stetzer: “Christians are supposed to look similar but live radically different, but the problem is that most Christians look radically different but live similar” lives to their culture.
Desiring to live a radically different life,