Post-Christendom Missional AttractionalSo far in this series, I have touched on Posture and Perspectives in Post-Christendom. At the close of the “Perspectives” post, I argued, “I believe there has been a considerable shift over the past decade (or two) toward paganism where the majority of non-Christians today are ignorant, indifferent, and militant.” In this post, I want to elaborate on the two paradigms for engaging non-Christians in Post-Christendom.

The Attractional Paradigm

During the times of Christendom and its decline, the attractional paradigm enjoyed much success. It was a time when the majority of non-Christians in culture found Christianity relevant and were quite conversant from a cultural standpoint. Christianity was looked upon favorably by the many, and churches seemed to engage the “unchurched Harry and Mary“. The attractional paradigm saw the rise of the seeker-sensitive movement, where a large focus of the church’s mission was to get non-Christians to “come and see” through the church event what Christianity was about. Missiologists call this a “centripetal” movement where the draw is toward the center, namely the Sunday morning event/experience.

The attractional paradigm found ways to reach the non-Christians through a focus on relevance and pragmatism. The event focused on “the experience” wherein the message would have relevance to the most pressing issues of the day (sex, happiness, relationships, overcoming fear, etc.). Outside the event, the attractional model produced goods and services that the non-Christian consumer would find practical and beneficial. Relevance and pragmatism became a winning combination for burgeoning megachurches who could exceed consumer expectations on what they could offer them and the experience they could find.

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Perspectives in Post-ChristendomLast week, I brought up the new posture of Christianity in post-Christendom and how we re-enter culture in a subversive way to advance the kingdom of God. Before I jump into the paradigm and practices in post-Christendom, I believe it is important to give a little perspective.

In the little diagram above, I lay out 5 different categories for unbelievers. I contend that, with the shrinking of Christendom, there is an increase in paganism. In other words, when non-Christians are categorized according to their position/stance regarding Christianity, there are far more today in the -3 to -5 categories than there is in the -1 and -2.

To be clear, everyone to the left of the center line is what the Bible calls “lost” and outside Christ. There are no degrees of lostness. Either you are saved or you are lost. The difference is twofold: access and attitude. The further to the left you go, the less access non-Christians have to the gospel and the more likely the attitudes are strongly antithetical to the Christian faith. While the two are not necessarily intrinsic to each other, they are often connected (e.g., someone who could have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and not necessarily be opposed to it, and someone could be strongly opposed to Christianity and had considerable access to the gospel message).

Acknowledging that these descriptions are not exhaustive, they are however an attempt to provide distinctions between non-Christians as I have studied and spent time with them in a post-Christendom America.

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Christendom to Post-ChristendomChristendom is dead. For some, this is a time of lament. For others, it is a time of renewal and revival. I want to offer my reflections on the three different phases of Christianity and culture and the corresponding posture for Christian cultural engagement.

Christendom: Synced with Culture

Syncretism is the blending or assimilation of two belief systems into one. There was a time when Christianity enjoyed cultural approval and widespread recognition. When someone spoke of religion, it was rare that anyone thought of another faith beside Christianity. Monuments to the Ten Commandments were erected in the public square. Prayers were offered by teachers in public schools. God Love for God and country were seen in churches who displayed a Christian flag on one side of the pulpit and an American flag on the other. Christianity was synced with American culture.

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Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Bueller?

Yeah, I realize that I have not been on this here blog in a long time. The days of blogging twice a day have morphed into blogging twice a year, or so it seems. I am not making any predictions about future blogging plans, but I can at least say it is my hope to write more in the weeks and months to come. About that personal update . . .

Seven years ago last week I moved to Southwest Florida to join the pastoral team at Grace Baptist Church (Cape Coral, FL). I cannot begin to tell how you much I have grown and learned during this time. It began as a “baptism by fire” when my fellow pastor Tom Ascol was struck by lightning, and it really did not slow down from there. During this season of ministry, a church planting network was started (2009), a new daughter church was planted (2010), an international collective was started (2012), and a non-profit organization was formed (2014).

My roles and responsibilities seemingly piled up year after year, pressuring me to gain more clarity and direction in my life and service within the local church. In order to bring alignment and focus to my work and support, I formed Gospel Systems, Inc. in the spring of 2014 as a non-profit organization to house both The Haiti Collective and PLNTD Network. In our early stages, it was the consensus of our board as well as elders of Grace for me to transition full-time to leading GSi at the beginning of 2015, completing a six-month transition where I would help lead our elders to find a new pastor to replace my work.

As this transition was completed, I came away with a real sense of gratefulness in what God had done. But at the same time, I went through a period of wrestling that proved to be one of the most profound times of brokenness in my life. God used this time to reveal His faithfulness and my utter dependence on Him in massive ways, and He also made it clear that the transition was not complete. He was calling us onward and forward.

Over the past several months, we prayed for God’s leading and direction with this re-commissioning of sorts. At the beginning of May, we became convinced that we should relocate to the Nashville, TN area, specifically the town of Spring Hill. While we do not have a definite timetable, our plans are to move within the next couple of months and set up a new office for GSi in Tennessee (while keeping the one we have here in FL,) where I will continue to focus on building The Haiti Collective and PLNTD Network.

We are excited about this new chapter in our lives, and we are also very sad to leave our church family, neighborhood, and city that we have called home for the past seven years. Our hearts are heavy, our minds are filled with memories of what God has done, and our lives are marked by so many who have embraced us with open arms.

Brister 100 Logo for MailchimpWe also would ask that you pray for us. We are venturing out in faith to lay hold of all that God has in store for us, and we would humbly ask that you consider joining us for the journey ahead. I have created a website called The Brister 100, which is a network of 100 individuals, families, organizations, or churches who we are asking God for in order to partner with us and support us in this new chapter of our lives.

I have been blogging here at this site for over a decade now, and Lord willing, I intend to continue in the future. Throughout this time, I have chosen not to go the advertising route or charge people for anything I share (documents, articles, or other resources). Having said that, if any of you have benefited from what I’ve attempted to contribute, I would humbly like to ask you to be a part of The Brister 100 and consider supporting us as we move forward with what God has called us to do.

Here are some specific ways you can connect with us:

1.  Sign up for the Brister 100 e-newsletter to stay connected with us.
2.  Commit to support the Brister 100 financially on a monthly basis.
3.  Share with others you know about this opportunity and invite them to learn more.

For those interested, here is a 4-minute summary where I explain more about this transition and re-commissioning season in our lives. Thank you for praying for us!

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