Intown is a "Missional" Church
Following the transformation of Europe, America is increasingly a post-Christian society. In some places around the country, the day-to-day culture shows distinct signs of its Christian heritage, but this is not true of larger urban centers like Portland. Our city is self-consciously non-Christian. What are churches in areas like this to do? Should we be nostalgic for a previous time where the larger culture reflected and even reinforced Christian ideals, or could we learn to live and do ministry effectively in this new climate?
When the nation of Israel was in ascendency and King David ruled from Jerusalem, it was only natural to assume that cultural institutions and the societal infrastructure would reinforce religious principles. But, when Israel was carried off into exile into Babylon, God’s people had to adopt a radically different posture regarding those outside their tribe. This is the situation that the church finds itself in Portland. We can no longer expect that neighbors share our values, but in most cases they will likely find them odd or narrow-minded. These are the people that Intown has been called to minister to and it will therefore take a sustained, inventive, and winsome effort.
Missionaries in new territories recognize this instinctively, introducing people to Jesus necessitates adapting their approach to the surrounding language and culture, raising up indigenous leaders, and not expecting growth by people transferring from other churches.
While this situation may mean that church growth takes longer and demands more energy than in traditional contexts, it also presents a fantastic opportunity for the inward growth of individual members. When there is no cultural reason to attend church, and many reasons not to, it is only natural that those who do have given much consideration to identifying with Christ and his church. They are apt to be serious about their own spiritual journey and yet able to understand what it means not to believe. It means that on one hand, Christians will be far more dependent upon their church community because they live in a hostile world, yet at the same time will be far more accustomed to having vital relationships with nonbelievers and thus a Christian subculture is less likely to be appealing.
We believe that a gospel-centered church in this context stands the best opportunity to both reach out to the world around it and build up the Christian community at the same time. We are committed to avoid becoming either a “seeker centered” church which only speaks the language of the world or an “information centered” church which becomes simply a delivery system for Bible knowledge. Whether in the pulpit or an adult education class or a community group, we desire that both the “seeker” and the “mature” believer would be able to grasp the gospel and it’s implications at a richer and deeper level.
Some implications of this, coming soon...