A Church Built to Last? Part Two

<Part 2>

Part One of this topic pointed out that a major problem where regional churches have died (such as in North Africa and Central Asia) was due to a lack of enculturation. The church remained as a church of outsiders. In North Africa, the church was Roman, rather than North African. In Central Asia, the church was more a faith of the multicultural urbanites of the Silk Road, along with the traders along the route… but not the people of the land. On the other hand, the Thomasite church of India, the Abyssinian church of Ethiopia, and the Coptic church of Egypt survived, and even prospered in a hostile environment.

But there is more than simply making cultural aspects of bringing the church into a region with language, rites, and theology that is resonant with the people.  There is also the concern as to how far faith works itself into the hearts of individuals (and the people as a whole) in a region.

Consider levels of learning in the Affective Domain (as developed by Benjamin Bloom and others).  These levels are as follows:

Level 1.      Receiving

Level 2.      Responding

Level 3.       Valuing

Level 4.       Organizing

Level 5.       Internalizing

In faith development, there is a tendency to seek a low level of affective response.  Perhaps level 2 (responding) or level 3 (valuing) is good enough. Others may see the need for level 4. At level 4, people organize their lives around their faith. While that may be strong enough to enduring steady state conditions, it is not until one internalizes one’s faith (not just “I value Christianity” or “I behave like a Christian”) and says “A Christian is who I am… I can be no other” is one prepared for oppression.

<This is not a discussion of salvation… but rather a question of standing up to persecution.>

Christianity needs to translate itself, enculturate itself, into a form that a cultural group can understand and recognize as their own. They also need to be trained and helped to internalize their faith… their lives being the outworking of that faith.

Why is this not done?  Probably several reasons.  Here are a few.

A.  It is easier to reach out to those that are like ourselves. Homogeneous groups has always been tempting for the church, because it tends to give recognizable short-term results.

B.  We tend to confuse our faith with our sub-culture. Christians are easier to recognize and appreciate if they act like us. Therefore, we tend to bring faith to new cultures and sub-cultures by diffusing (seeking to change their culture to our own) rather than translation (or enculturizing) faith.  <An interesting example is when we “do church”. Many Christians feel that church must be on Sunday mornings. Those who say that they are available at other times but not on Sunday mornings are often told that they are not “being sacrificial”… giving of their best (their time) to God.  However, many of us live in cultures where Sunday mornings have been set aside by the society around us for rest or religious worship. Therefore, we who worship on Sunday morning are sacrificing little to nothing at that time. If our church said we needed to worship on Wednesdays at 10 am… would we risk our jobs? If not, perhaps we should work with people in other cultures to discover the appropriate schedule for churches in that culture.>

C.  We often practice missions with an “apocalyptic” mindset. That is, we believe that Christ’s return is not only inevitable (a very sound belief) but is coming very soon (a very uncertain belief). The problem with this attitude is that it creates sloppy outreach. We end up focusing on “saying the sinner’s prayer”, baptism, or church membership, rather than on developing individuals, churches, and communities that are deeply internalized in their faith and calling to serve God.

We need churches that are built to last.