Last week I had a great conversation with another college pastor whom I highly respect. We talked about some really deep stuff and I was both challenged and encouraged by his perspective. One of the things which we talked about, which is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, is whether or not we are doing college ministry in a way that reinforces the structures of western Christianity.
Some might ask: Is that even a problem? My only answer is that I wish it was a simple as yes or no. My friend and I recognized that we are in the western church. We came to Christ in it, we live in it, we even work in it. In many ways it is a part of who we are. So we are not crashing down on the current forms of western Christianity in a typical deconstructionalist manner. Yet this did lead us to a critical distinction: we are committed to the Church, though not intrinsically the western church. This means that if the church really is going to change shape in the hands of the next generation then I must be willing to submit both my paradigms and methods to whatever God is doing through them.
Then, Monday morning I read this in the introduction to David Kinnaman’s new book, You Lost Me:
“We are at a critical point in the life of the North American church; the Christian community must rethink our efforts to make disciples. Many of the assumptions on which we have built our work with young people are rooted in modern, mechanistic, and mass production paradigms. Some (though not all) ministries have taken cues from the assembly line, doing everything possible to streamline the manufacture of shiny new Jesus-followers, fresh from the factory floor. But disciples cannot be mass-produced. Disciples are handmade, one relationship at a time.”
Admittedly, this is a very difficult problem to address and I’m not claiming to have any good answers. However we will eventually have to disentangle the forms, methodologies and traditions from the actual Biblical requirements of what the church should be. This is not an outright condemnation of our current forms , methodologies and traditions (though it is not an outright endorsement of them either) as much as it is only acknowledging that they may not be completely necessary and that new generations of faithful, Biblically literate, Spirit-filled believers may be called to create new ones.
Going back to the distinction that my friend and I drew: if we really are committed to the Church, then we cannot be unswervingly committed to any particular form of it. In many ways, this is what the church has had to deal with time and time again throughout history as it has been forced to recalibrate itself to the Biblical witness in the ever-changing contexts of time and culture.