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Tuesday, January 19, 2010 

Do We Really Need To Change Maps?

The Lutheran Witness article that was referenced in the last post started out this way:

Imagine trying to drive in Chicago with a street map of San Francisco. You probably can’t. While both cities are edged by water and have lots of tall buildings, they are nothing alike. Though they share names for several streets, trying to drive in the one with the map of the other would prove frustrating. No matter how hard you tried, you simply wouldn’t get anywhere. Confused and exasperated, you’d finally conclude: It’s time to change maps!

As God’s missionary people, we also need to change maps in order to navigate in this present day. Changes in our society and culture, especially regarding the Church, have come fast and furiously. It’s as if we went to bed one night only to wake up the next morning in a vastly different world. Once vibrant and growing churches question whether they will remain open for another year. Many pastors and people feel guilty for not reaching their communities with the Gospel, while well-intentioned mission sermons often leave them discouraged, even defensive. And in their defensiveness, they begin to reason that faithfulness has only to do with preserving the true faith, whether or not that faith is proclaimed to the nations.

Do we really need to change maps to reach the unchurched? Is there any command in the Scriptures to change maps to reach people with the Gospel? I searched on my computer (I use Libronix when I don’t have my TLSB in front of me) and took a look over at Biblegateway.com and I can’t find any reference, in either the Old or New Testement, where we are told to change maps to reach out to the culture.

I find it somewhat amusing that the author has set himself up something of a false dichotomy that asks us to drive in San Francisco with a map of Chicago and in Chicago with a map of San Francisco. What if there is a third option and it involves getting the map for Chicago if you’re in Chicago and picking up a map for San Francisco when in San Francisco.

As a church we know where the heck we are and we have clear maps handed down in Scripture to follow. We have a map laid down in the book of Acts of how Christ’s church was grown from the start. In Acts we have testimonies of eyewitnesses and of people who participated in delivering the Gospel to the whole world. Are we so arrogant that we think we know how to preach and teach better than the apostles that our Lord called? Do we think that the Church’s counter cultural nature is any different now? I don’t think so.

In the Pauline epistles we are given a map for not only what should be taught and proclaimed but how and in what context the faithful should be instructed. Instead of telling his readers to switch maps, Saint Paul explains exactly what we should be bringing to the a corrupt and sinful culture in the 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 :

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures

Did St. Paul tell the church in Corinth that they need new maps or rather did he remind them of the Gospel that he already preached? Isn’t Saint Paul faithfully carrying out Christ’s command to make diciples by baptizing them and “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”? Our Lord does not say to the disiples that they need to go out, get new maps, become permeable to speak with the culture, and don’t get hung up on preserving the true faith by faithfulness.

The the marketing gurus we seem to want to listen to, (and we pay dearly for their advice) tell us that we need to transform our congregations if we are to reach anyone with the Gospel. We are told to play secular songs instead of sacred hymns. We are accused of only wanting a “maintenance ministry” if we think church is the place for the sheep who need to hear both Law and Gospel and refuse to turn Sunday morning into something that looks like a rotory club meeting. We are told that is better to save souls than be Lutheran. We are told preserving the true faith by faithfulness to our confession of faith is passé, uninspiring and only to be left to the theological dodos of the reformation identified as the “museum keepers.” Such thinking has turned evangelism into an idol.

These slick Madison Avenue marketing gurus and the author of the Lutheran Witness article suggest that we just need new ideas for reaching the unchurched. In other words both say that we need new maps. As Scripture does not call or suggest that we become permeable or more like the culture in order to make disciples of all nations; the new map that these folks offer only leads us away from the Gospel and towards abyss of uncatechized non-belief.

Do we really want to try to navigate the church’s missionfield with a map of the culture? How would such a contrivance benefit the church if this is not what we are called to do? It won’t, plain and simple.

No, I’ll trust the map that we have been given and leave the map that wishes to look like the culture it chases on the spinner rack of heterodoxy.

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You noticed too, eh?

Newton, to put it bluntly, didn't impress me all that much. Herb Mueller did a much better job in his article...

"I find it somewhat amusing that the author has set himself up something of a false dichotomy that asks us to drive in San Francisco with a map of Chicago and in Chicago with a map of San Francisco. What if there is a third option and it involves getting the map for Chicago if you’re in Chicago and picking up a map for San Francisco when in San Francisco."

Excellent post, Frank! What is ironic is that Newton wants to use his dichotomy to point out that if maps were switched there would be confusion. We would be lost in the city we're actually driving in. That is precisely the problem. He is advocating a new map where one is not needed. This "new map" simply causes confusion. It disconnects people from the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached in its purity and causes them to drive in what they perceive is "uncharted territory" when in fact a fully detailed map is already provided in the Holy Scriptures.

Me neither.

There are just someplaces that I prefer not go.

The culture is...what it is. But the Church ought not go there.

Let's pull some out of there...and into our churches.

The church should not change. I agree. Of course, there's nothing wrong with understanding the culture you live in so that you can understand where people are coming from. We are called to share the gospel. We are called to go out into the world to do it. There's nothing wrong with using the brain and resources you're given for His glory. I don't think you disagree with that statement.

As is usually the case I do agree with you Roger!
Many of the same folks saying we need to change maps are saying we need to stop playing hymns and looking too much like church. The case that is made is that we can get 'em in the door and THEN teach 'em. But we are so worried that we will offend the seeker that we cling to the culture that the seeker is from and never let the Church show.
We must go out and proclaim Christ; it's what the Church is called to do. I just think we are afraid to point people to something that has never been part of the culture.

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  • From The Haut South
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