I enjoy taking mission trips, but I hope that the following statement is not a discouragement to those we will be partnering with in the future. When I am in another country my mind works in reverse. I am concerned with what needs to be done there, but ultimately my mind brings me back to what must be done at home. At this point in my life God has made me decidedly shepherd(ly) in the cultural context of the South. Good ‘ol boy is my people group.
What strikes me most about Montreal especially is that they are a generation ahead of where we are soon to be. Fifty years ago the Quebecois casted off a politically infused version of the gospel. They realized that Paul was correct in Galatians when he said that another gospel is no gospel at all. Our culture’s version of the Silent Revolution may not be as formal as it was in Quebec, but I believe we are witnessing our 20 somethings and below turn away from the church without saying much at all. Their children will grow up in a spiritual climate much like that of Quebec today. What were once our grand cathedrals will be condos. The Bible will be an artifact, and in a land of millions there will be only a remnant of those who have not bowed a knee to the cultural Baal.
It is very difficult to pastor the church in the deep South with its current set of presuppositions. Discipleship comes in a box set with a workbook and is usually scheduled for 12 weeks. Worship is a set of songs and a sermon. Evangelism is an outline to be quoted, you merely need memorization skills and enough guilted boldness to do the Great Commission. When you ask people what would make “our” church more effective the answer will inevitably point to a facilities upgrade. This we call vision. The hypocrisy of it all is that we know this to be true, we confess it, but we refuse to repent of it and walk away. The same people who will agree with me will be the same who strongly criticize when asked by their leadership to blaze a new trail. When pastors try to make corrections their back is exposed and people talk. We then respond by programming peace and in the end we all hope that God will bless. We are a generation that is walking in circles to the death. It is a familiar story. We are more content to die in the wilderness or to return to Egypt than we are to face the cultural wars in the Canaan that lay ahead.
In many ways the church has created a culture of self-preservation rather than sacrifice. Christ has called us to sacrifice, much as a seed dies of itself in the soil (John 12:24). A seed in a bag has potential power. It will have life within it for quite some time, but if it is not planted within the soil it will not grow and it will eventually dry rot. Like the seed, at some point we must enter the soil. Bags preserve the seed but ultimately kill its purpose. The church planters in Quebec study the soil and dig in. As I listened to these men describe the lostness of the Quebecois I questioned whether I had really taken the time to figure out the soil in Alabama. Have I lost myself in the bag (the culture of the church) and failed to plant myself in the soil (the church in the culture)? There is a subtle danger here. We have, for the past 20 years come to believe that the church needs to become more like the soil in order to enter it. Yet Jesus reminded us that salt that has lost its flavor only adds to the soil (Mat. 5:13). This metaphor, I would think, would apply to the seed as well. We are not to be soil, we are to be seed. The seed is distinctly different from the soil, yet the seed is able to take something from the soil and with a little water it eventually brings forth life. This is what I see taking place with the planters in Quebec. If there is only one take away for me from this trip it is that I need to lead our church to get out of the bag and get into the soil.