5 questions the american church must answer

Third Option Men is a men’s discipleship ministry. actually, i hadn’t heard of them before they contacted me, as that’s just not the portion of the ministry world i run in. their blog has been running a series based on interviews with a variety of church and ministry leaders, called Soulutions: 5 questions the American church must answer (here’s the whole series so far). frankly, i’m a little surprised they asked to interview me for this series; but i was very happy to participate.

marko-oestreicher-1here’s their post of my responses, which was based on a phone interview, and not written answers. but in preparation for the phone interview, i’d written out some thinking for myself so i was ready…

In Matthew 5, Jesus commands His disciples to be “salt” and “light”. What does that mean?

Well, salt is metaphorical language about bringing out the natural flavoring. I love this, because it speaks of the good and ongoing redemptive work God is already actively doing in the world – that’s the natural flavoring, in my thinking. For us to be salt, we’re being invited into God’s Kingdom work in the world. This is a very different perspective than one where we – the church, or individual Christ-followers — are introducing God into the world, as if he isn’t already present and active.

And light – man, what a beautiful image. Think of all the great things light does:
It provides clarity
It helps us to see things the way they really are
It dispels darkness
And it often provides warmth

For me, the language of being Salt & Light is winsome and welcoming and invitational.

How is your church/ministry being the “light”?

Since The Youth Cartel is about helping the church (mostly through church youth workers) more effectively engage teenagers with the love of Jesus, I’d like to think we’re being light in a few strategic ways:

  • we’re bringing a humble honesty to the realities of working with teenagers
  • we’re trying to do things in new ways, which – I hope – brings light into new corners
  • and we’re encouraging youth workers along the lines of my answer to the first question – encouraging youth workers to see the work of Jesus already active in the lives of teenagers, and to actively participate in that restorative work.

What is the Church in America doing right?

In the arena of youth ministry, I’m encouraged by quite a few things, including:

  • a big increase in thoughtfulness among youth workers. We’re starting to move beyond the entertainment approach to youth ministry, and that’s a very encouraging sign.
  • I’m seeing an increase in humility, which is wonderful, and very Jesus-y.
  • I’m seeing a move away from copying each other to the idea that the best youth ministry (and the best expressions of church) are those that are collaboratively discerned and contextually unique. If we really believe that God is already active in the world, it’s great to see so many ministries looking to join up with that at a local level, rather than thinking our own brilliance or the best practices of a church on the other side of the country will result in anything but blurred copies, rather than vibrant originals.

What does the Church in America need to change?

Personally, I’m just completely tired of the culture wars. And working with teenagers and young adults as I do, I know that the vast majority of people under 30 have no interest in that fight. We need to wake up to the fact that holding our own beliefs doesn’t mean we should be arrogant jerks to others who don’t believe what we do. For example, I feel like the church in my city of San Diego (the church I am a a part of is a wonderful exception to this) is known primarily for what the church is against. That is ultimately not helpful to the cause of Christ.

I’d love to see the church in America be known, first and foremost, for it’s welcome and embrace of people who don’t believe like we do. It’s time for us to offer unconditional belonging prior to belief. I realize that’s messy; but so was the New Testament church.

Where will the Church in America be in 10 years?

Even if our economy recovers more fully, I think churches will have less and less funding, and will be forced to dramatically rethink things like staffing and expensive facilities. I think this will be a painful process – and will probably take closer to 20 years to really play out. But I’m hopeful that this painful process will produce some beautiful risk and blaze some new trails.

how would you have answered any of these questions?

3 thoughts on “5 questions the american church must answer”

  1. I have something to add to your answer to “What does the Church in America need to change?” It’s a direct quote from your good friend Mike Yaconelli:
    “The religious leaders of the day had written the script for the Messiah. When Jesus announced he was the Messiah, the Pharisees and others screamed at him, “There is no Jesus in the Messiah script. Messiahs do not hang out with losers. Our Messiah does not break all the rules, Our Messiah does not question our leadership or threaten our religion or act so irresponsibly. Our Messiah does not disregard his reputation, befriend riffraff, or frequent the haunts of questionable people.” Jesus’ reply? “This Messiah does”! Do you see why Christianity is called “good news”? Christianity proclaims that it is an equal-opportunity faith, open to all, in spite of the abundance of playwrights in the church who are more than anxious to announce, “There is no place for you in Christianity if you [wear an earring/have a tattoo/drink wine/have too many questions/look weird/smoke/dance/haven't been filled with the Spirit/aren't baptized/swear/have pink hair/are in the wrong ethnic group/have a nose ring/have had an abortion/are gay or lesbian/are too conservative or too liberal].”

Leave a Reply