Please welcome my friend Craig Whitney to the blog. Craig is the Executive Director of Emerging Leadership Initiative (ELI), where he oversees ELI’s collaborative strategy for mobilizing leaders to start and multiply new churches out of the culture. Craig spent over 20 years in church ministry in roles that ranged from youth guy to church planter. He lives in Sacramento with the cutest girl in his 4th Grade Sunday School class and their two teenage children. You can learn more about Craig’s life and work at www.elichurchplanting.com, and follow him on Twitter @craiglwhitney.
At Emerging Leadership Initiative, our mission is to mobilize leaders who will raise the church up out of the culture – which causes people to ask, “What do you mean by raising the church up out of the culture?” I’m glad you asked…
Out of the culture is an idea introduced by John Burke in his book, No Perfect People Allowed,
“This is…not a church for a post-Christian culture, where Christians huddle up behind the fortress walls and make forays outside into the messy culture, but a church molded out of a post-Christian people ~ an indigenous church, rising up out of the surrounding culture to form the Body of Christ!”
In the simplest of terms raising up a church out of the culture is what happens when ordinary people are introduced to Jesus and begin to follow him together. In biblical terms, think Corinth. In modern terms, think missionary. In post-modern terms, think messy ~ as unreserved grace is expressed in a community of radical transformation.
As we have worked with leaders in the North America, Europe and Australia, we have discovered these 10 keys to raising the church up out of the culture.
Leaders must create a culture that:
- Is keenly sensitive to the perceptions of those who don’t yet belong. They know how big the gap between Christ and culture is and do everything they can to bridge it.
- Openly extends grace. They know how messy people’s lives are and relentlessly communicate that no matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, you’re one of us.
- Is committed to humbly presenting the truth. They know that Jesus came to proclaim freedom, but the message won’t ring true unless it’s delivered with humility.
- Cultivates authentic relationships through community. They know that unless people can openly be who they are they will never become anything more.
- Is focused on transformation. They know that every person is a masterpiece waiting to be revealed and see anything less as a cheap substitute.
In order to do this well, leaders must be people who:
- Live authentic, representative lives. Jesus was the word made flesh. He didn’t talk about grace and truth; he was grace and truth. As much as spiritually possible, out of the culture leaders are too.
- Are zealous for people far from Christ. Jesus was described by the Pharisees as a “friend of sinners.” He never corrected them. It was a label he wore proudly. Out of the culture leaders do too.
- Do life and work in relationship. Jesus was never out of relationship. Even when he was alone it was to be with his Father. He always put people first. Out of the culture leaders will too.
- Joyously embrace the mess. Jesus hung out with corrupt businessmen and let prostitutes wash his feet. He was okay with the mud because he was in love with the masterpiece. Out of the culture leaders are too.
- Communicate with excellence. Jesus drew crowds and kept their attention long enough for them to forget to eat. His words brought life. Out of the culture leaders will too.
How are you and your faith community effectively bridging the gap to raise up the Church out of the culture? Where are you stretching out of your comfort zone for the sake of those who are far from Christ?