Missional flattery and selfishness...

(Tim) Yesterday, a friend sent me a satirical piece his son and several friends had written about a bunch of new city church plants with names like Elevation Church, Dust, The Line, Infusion Church, and Austin City Life (see Howard Davis' comment, below). He commented, "What is really amazing is their unique web sites all look alike (and) I bet all their unique worship services are the same. And... they're all about being in the 'city.'"

From reading many city church web sites, it's clear such churches normally aren't missional if missional means faithfulness to Jesus' Great Commission commands. Most indicate no practice of rebuke, preaching God's Law, or calls to repentance. Instead, they prattle on about being "for the city" and they're positively chipper.

It's all about seeking common ground with unbelievers. And if they mention God's perfections, it's only those perfections that would be likely to make unbelievers feel good about themselves and think God might not be so high and mighty and scary after all. Christian faith and the Church are presenting as uniting believers and unbelievers in the same brotherhood and sisterhood of man in and for the city. Convicting the world of sin and righteousness and judgment is out and assuring the world of our goodwill toward them in God's Name is in.

Reading Augustine's City of God earlier today, I came across this excerpt. Augustine knew something about preaching the Gospel in the city and contextualizing the Lordship of Jesus Christ to urbane men and women world-weary in a decadent


For every man, however laudably he lives, yet yields in some points to the lust of the flesh. Though he do not fall into gross enormity of wickedness, and abandoned viciousness, and abominable profanity, yet he slips into some sins, either rarely or so much the more frequently as the sins seem of less account. But not to mention this, where can we readily find a man who holds in fit and just estimation those persons on account of whose revolting pride, luxury, and avarice, and cursed iniquities and impiety, God now smites the earth as His predictions threatened? Where is the man who lives with them in the style in which it becomes us to live with them? For often we wickedly blind ourselves to the occasions of teaching and admonishing them, sometimes even of reprimanding and chiding them, either because we shrink from the labor or are ashamed to offend them, or because we fear to lose good friendships, lest this should stand in the way of our advancement, or injure us in some worldly matter, which either our covetous disposition desires to obtain, or our weakness shrinks from losing....

And although they do not fear them to such an extent as to be drawn to the commission of like iniquities, nay, not by any threats or violence soever; yet those very deeds which they refuse to share in the commission of they often decline to find fault with, when possibly they might by finding fault prevent their commission. They abstain from interference, because they fear that, if it fail of good effect, their own safety or reputation may be damaged or destroyed; not because they see that their preservation and good name are needful, that they may be able to influence those who need their instruction, but rather because they weakly relish the flattery and respect of men, and fear the judgments of the people, and the pain or death of the body; that is to say, their non-intervention is the result of selfishness, and not of love. (emphasis not in original)


I cannot speak for all of the above...but I will say that I know Austin City Life and Jonathan her pastor and both the church and the pastor are deeply Gospel-centered, faithful to the Word and to church discipline, and serious about calling people to whole-hearted discipleship.

I'll second Howard's endorsement of Jonathan Dodson. He takes sin, pastoral care, and the gospel very seriously.

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