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!

If you’d like to receive updates via e-newsletter about B100, please fill out this little form.

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You Are My Son, and I Love You

Tim Brister —  February 22, 2015 — 2 Comments

Today was the start of baseball season in Southwest Florida. After opening ceremonies, my two boys played a double header as part of the festivities. It was the first time my 5 yr old son to go head-to-head with the pitching machine. At his first at-bat, he surprised himself with a line drive past the third baseman, and I was super excited and proud of him. The following three at-bats did not fare too well as he struck out all three times.

As someone who has always been highly competitive, I always want my boys to do excel in whatever they do, including playing baseball. The downside to that, and the temptation I have struggled to avoid, is responding to them based on their performance. If they perform well, they see the pleasure of their dad. If they make mistakes and struggle, they hear the disappointment of their dad (“c’mon son!).

As a Christian who believes the gospel should permeate every area of my life, there are more and more blind spots that I’m learning to see more clearly. When it comes to baseball, I realized that my sincere attempts to make them better players was not honoring the gospel. My response to them was based on their performance (good works), and their identity as a baseball player was more dominant in their thinking than being my sons.

Today, I started to make a change and repent of this legalistic approach to coaching my boys. I want my boys to know, more than anything else, that they are my sons, and I love them. And that love is not based on what they do or do not do, but because of who they are. They are mine. So every time they get ready to play the game, I pull them aside and have a talk with them. Before when I stressed a litany of techniques, I am learning to look them eye-to-eye and tell them, “Son, I am so proud of you. No matter what happens, how well you play today does not change how much I love you and delight in being your dad. I just want you to have fun and enjoy the game.” After a kiss on the forehead, I sent them off to do their best, and the smile that begun on my face transferred to a shy grin on theirs.

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“Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah”

As I came across Joshua 7 in my devotional studies, there was something particular that stuck out to me in how God dealt with His people. The story has to do with the sin of Achan who took the items devotion for destruction and made them his own. God made it known to Joshua that there was sin in the camp, but the way it was discovered says something about how God’s people lived in community.

According to Joshua 7:16-18, the people of Israel was addressed on a tribal basis. From within the tribe, the various clans were evaluated. From within the clans, the families were accounted for. And from within the family, the individual (Achan) was discovered to be the one who had sinned.

According to Joshua 7:11, God says “Israel had sinned,” and all the references were in third person plural (they/them). But it was the sin of Achan alone, right? But God saw Achan in the context of His covenant people, Israel. And the way God was going to deal with the individual was through the fabric of Old Testament community. In the Old Testament, it was impossible to be a person without a family, without a clan, without a tribe, and without a nation. People knew you in reference to who you belonged to. You were known by your heritage and tradition, by your roots. Your past was a vivid remembrance and present reality every time they mentioned your name “Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi (family), son of Zerah (clan), of the tribe of Judah (tribe).”

I have reflected on that in the context of Christianity today in the West. It appears that we are living in a culture where that identity in community is just the opposite. Today, you can be a Christian without a family, without a clan, and without a tribe while still claiming to be a part of the nation. Identity is related to the individual alone to the point that little to nothing transcends a unique blend of a la carte spirituality. When someone covets or lies or steals, that individual Christian has no accountability or authority for their lives. Whether they live worthy of the gospel or completely out of step, who knows? It’s their life, and it is lived without mutual submission or any degree of nearness so that blind spots, patterns of disobedience, or idols of the heart can be exposed. And somehow this has not only become acceptable but the norm today. There is sin in the camp, but the Achan’s are without a tribe.

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In the Disciple’s Napkin, I have explained a little about the 5 minutes of Bible intake. Today, I want to share about the four ways to serve.

A disciple of Jesus should have movement in four directions: upward, inward, outward, and forward. These four dynamics shape the four ways and rhythms by which a disciple is to flesh out a life of servanthood. They dynamics should be practiced on a weekly basis as “macro rhythms” in following Jesus.

Upward – Corporate Worship

Every disciple should be regularly and faithfully participating in corporate worship in a local church. The gathering of the saints to sing God’s praises and hear God’s Word is a non-negotiable means of grace as well as a weekly reminder of our identity as persons-in-community. While this may be something easily assumed, the research shows today that more and more professing Christians and church members find faithful participation in weekly corporate worship as optional. The more secular and post-Christian our society becomes, the more it will pressure and push Christians to conform to its mold, especially with its attitude toward the Lord’s Day. We must be careful and intentional to develop godly rhythms that give sacred preeminence to the gathering of the saints above all institutions of human origin (including sports, concerts, hobbies, etc.).

Inward – Gospel Community

Christians gather in corporate worship and scatter in gospel communities of light in the world. Whether you call them small groups, life groups, growth groups, or gospel communities, the structure of shared living within a context of deepening relationships are critical to the health of a disciple. Gospel communities are places where we discover the gospel depths, discover our own identity in Christ, and discover others as we press into knowing God and one another. It is an inward movement because God works in us through gospel communities to enable us to love Him and love one another as disciples committed to God and one another.

Outward – Spirit-led Service

The Spirit of God has sovereignty given to each disciple gifts and abilities for the purpose of edifying the church and evangelizing the world. Therefore, it is a matter of stewardship for each disciple to discover, develop, and deploy these gifts and abilities for those very purposes as Spirit-led, Spirit-equipped, and Spirit-empowered followers of Jesus. When each disciple is actively involved in service to others, the ministry of the saints brilliantly displays the beauty of Christ as we function as His hands and feet to one another and to the world.

Forward – Generous Mission

Jesus taught us to pray for His kingdom to come, for His name to be hallowed on earth as it is in heaven. We are commissioned to seek first the kingdom of God, and that seeking to be reflected in every area of our lives, especially in giving ourselves first wholeheartedly and unreservedly to God Himself. Christians are to be generous, but not generous for the sake of being generous, but generous for the sake of mission. God was generous by sending His own Son. What more could He give? What greater cost could have been paid? What greater sacrifice has there been known? As disciples of Jesus, we should joyfully embrace lives of sacrifice. Giving our money should not be a sore spot. Giving our time should not be questioned by our “comfort zones.” Giving our lives to go to hard places and do hard things should not be marginalized but magnified because that is exactly what our Savior did in leaving an example for us.

If disciples are not generous in giving financially for the cause of ministry and mission, then we are not seeking first the kingdom of God. If disciples are not generous with their time and energy for the advancement of the gospel, we are not seeking first the kingdom of God, If disciples are not generous with our lives, holding them out to God with an open hand and blank check, then we are not seeking first the kingdom of God.

Healthy Christians weekly are seeing movement happen upward in worship, inward in gospel community, outward in serve toward others, and forward in generous mission for the sake of kingdom come. These weekly rhythms provide robust dynamics to represent God and put His grace on display in and through our lives.

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When I first kicked around the idea for the The Disciple’s Napkin, the most amount of feedback I received had to do with the 5 minutes of Bible intake that I had proposed. Am I saying 5 minutes just to fit with the template of 5…4…3…2…1? Perhaps.

I chose a short amount of time for the following three reasons.

  1. This may be a starting point for several people.
  2. Bible intake is intended not merely for information but for transformation. There is enough truth to transform your life in five minutes of meaningful Bible intake. The problem is that we take in God’s Word, and sometimes so much, that we forget it and fail to apply it to our lives. I have heard men like John Piper say that often times it is a word or phrase alone in God’s Word that changes a person’s life. I have found that to be true in my own life as well.
  3. Bible intake is not only for our transformation but also transfer. You take what you receive from God’s Word, and as a faithful steward, look for ways to share that with others. Five minutes provides you opportunity to look for one simple truth from God’s Word to share with others in your life.

Of course, you may one to spend 10, 15, 30, or 60 minutes of Bible intake on a daily basis. That is great! I hope the DMN (disciple-making napkin) leads to that and more. But as I expressed in my original post, my goal is to present a vision for disciple-making that is accessible to every single Christian, and I think this approach suits that purpose.

So what do I mean by Bible intake? Here are some examples of 5 minute Bible intakes.

  1. Read one chapter in the Gospels (and make it your goal to read through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John over the course of 6 months).
  2. Read one Psalm and day and make it the substance of your prayers.
  3. Find one verse that ministers to your soul and seek to put it to memory. Make a memory moleskine of daily verses that you take with you to meditate on throughout the day.
  4. Read one paragraph from the letters of the Apostle Paul.

Do you have other suggestions for Bible intake? I would love to hear them!

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