Vineyard Values Series: Culturally Relevant Mission

Over the last month the Payette River Vineyard has been walking through a series about our five core values. These values are as follows:

  1. The Theology and Practice of the Kingdom of God
  2. Experiencing God
  3. Reconciling Community
  4. Culturally Relevant Mission
  5. Compassionate Ministry

The fourth value – Culturally Relevant Mission – was the topic of Sunday’s sermon. Below are my notes from that sermon – granted the audio version is better as I tend to “fill” in the gaps while talking. 🙂

Culturally Relevant Mission

Allow me to read from our value booklet as I think the wording is great:

“The church exists for the sake of those who are exiled from God. We are called to bring the gospel of the kingdom to every nook and cranny of creation, faithfully translating the message of Jesus into language and forms that are relevant to diverse peoples and cultures.”

The “church” – we the believers – does not exists for ourselves. It was once said that the church is the only organization that does not exists for its members.

The church is here simply to bring the gospel of the Kingdom – the Good News of Jesus – into every “nook and cranny.” I love that phrase – nook and cranny. This mean every square inch – every crack or corner of this world.  The church is to go not only to the wide open places of the world – the places where there is fame and glory. But to the places that everyone else is running from.

As the early 1900’s British missionary CT Studd once said,

“Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”

Within a yard of hell…every nook and cranny….

Let us keep reading,

“We seek to plant churches that are culturally relevant in a wide variety of settings locally and internationally. Each Vineyard church is encouraged to reach those in its community not already reached by existing churches. To this end, we promote a creative, entrepreneurial and innovative approach to ministry that is faithful to Jesus and expressive of His heart to reach those who are far away from God.”

The church exists for those outside the church. Our heart is for those who are not currently going to church – to those folks who have never heard about Jesus. They are our primary ‘audience’….

Granted, we are not going to turn away folks who come from other churches – we just don’t want to make that a practice. If you are going to another church – or if your neighbor is plugged into another church – stay there. May God bless the churches of this area.

We are NOT in a competition with them.

Did you hear that? We are not in competition with the other churches in this area. Far from it! We want to bless them – to help them grow – to help them proclaim the Word of God.

We are all working together for God.

Our heart are for those who do not know Jesus – those who have ran to the mountains to hid. Those who were hurt by the church – hurt by life – those who decided that they would be better off without Jesus or His people.

Those are the people we exist for.

That is why we are here.

Being Culturally Sensitive

This heart for the unchurched drives how we “do” church.  For example, I mentioned before how we really don’t care how one is dressed as long as you show up. You can wear shorts, t-shirts, collared shirts, suit and tie, dress, skirt, blue jeans… you can have mud on your boots having just finished feeding the cows…hay in your hair from bailing in the morning…. We want everyone to be welcome.

This lack of a dress code was a choice made early on in the beginning of the PRV as we wanted to be a place where farmers, ranchers, blue collar folks of all kinds would free comfortable.

One of our men shared a story at last week’s Men’s group about going into a Lutheran church back east.  He had on slacks, a collared shirt and a vest – high class in my book… yet the usher directed him upstairs despite leading his wife to an open seat on the main floor…the reason for seating them in two different places:  He didn’t have a tie on.

No tie. No seat on the main floor… needless to say, they did not stay for the service….

We don’t want to be like that…we want folks to come in here and feel comfortable.

This is partly why we put the coffee pot on and serve snacks. It would be easier without them… easier clean up, easier setup…cheaper too.

But we want to be church that fits within the culture of the area. We want to be a place where ranchers and farmers, construction workers and office workers, retired folks and those with kids.  We want to reach those in our community who are not already reached by existing churches.

Every nook and cranny…Within a yard of hell…

The Sanctuary

As I was thinking about this topic this week, I couldn’t help but think of the church sanctuaries I grew up in. They were holy places – places set off from the rest of the church. Drinks and food were not allowed. Voices were to be lowered – until worship time, then it was ok to short, praise and dance around (those were the fun times!).

No matter what church we went to, the preacher always wore a suit – and most had a tie. The worship team was likewise dressed to the hilt….

Those in the congregation… well, you put on our Sunday best. It wasn’t so much a ‘show off’ – granted some folks treated it that way . No. We wanted to honor God. We wanted to show God that we cared so much for Him that we went out of our way to dress up – to do something different than the other six days.

Sunday was a holy day. And the sanctuary was the Holy of Holies. The place were God lived – were you met God.

As a child, I was able to wear blue jeans to church. Grown up…well, they had to wear slacks…  As the years went by and I entered high school, I remember talking to my mother about what to wear to church… I wanted to be a ‘grown up’…but I also wanted to wear blue jeans as I didn’t like slacks…

Two Different Views

So what do we say to these two different views of the sanctuary?

The relaxed coffee and treats, come as you are sanctuary – and the special place of God, must dress up sanctuary… Which one is correct? Is there are right one? Or are they both ok? Both needed?

When God created the world, He used to walk with our first parents, Adam and Eve. He met them where they were, in the garden. Even after Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God continued to pursue humanity – meeting them where they were.

  • Enoch – Who walked faithfully with God until he was no more because God took him away (Gen 5:24)
  • Noah – Told by God to build an ark to save humanity and all of animal life
  • Abraham – Met God while a pagan in his homeland; told by God to leave his family as God was going to change the world through him.
  • Isaac, Jacob, Joseph – the list continues….

Finally after hundreds and hundreds of years, God taped an old rebel sheepherder on the shoulder and told him that he was chosen to lead God’s people out of slavery. Moses proceeded to obey God – and the Israelites where set free by hand of God.

For 40 years they wondered the desert lands…. And during these 40 years, God pitched His tent with them. The tabernacle… a holy tent in the middle of the Israelite’s camp…. This was place that God’s presence was to dwell – over the ark of covenant in the center of the tabernacle – the holy of holies.

Having a tent did not mean that God ceased to exist active outside the tent… God is bigger than any physical tent. The tabernacle was a physical sign to the Israelites that He was with them. The God of the universe was walking along with them…every morning when they woke up; there was God’s tent in the center of the camp.

Later on when the Israelites entered the promise land, the tabernacle was sent up at Shiloh… yet, the people of God continued to worship Him throughout the land as seen in Judges.

Years later the Israelites asked for and received a king, Saul. He turned out to be a bad king, so God anointed David to do the job. David looked around and saw that he had a nice house so he decided to build a house for God.

“After the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”

Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you.”

But that night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying:

“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’” -2 Samuel 7:1-7

Note that God did not ask for David to build Him a temple – David wanted to do… God actually turns the tables on David and tells him that He, God, will “establish a house” for him – that his children will always be on the throne of Israel.

David, however, did not listen as he continued to desire and plan for a temple for God. A temple that Solomon, his son, built.

This was an amazing temple – a wonder of the ancient world. It took one’s breath away – so beautiful was it….

It truly was a house of God.

Yet, in having a temple, the Israelites forgot that God was working around them. They began to think that God was only found at the temple. So God sent His prophets to remind them that He was there….but they did not listen….so He destroyed the temple.

And the people rebuilt it.

The cycle continued… then Jesus came on the scene.

God Himself became a human to show us the way to Himself. Jesus walked throughout the roads, the byways and the fields of Israel. He preached the good news that God was near; He healed the sick and casted out demons.

He did most of this outside the synagogue. I don’t know the actually percentage, but close to, if not over, ¾ of the ministry of Jesus happened outside the synagogue and the temple.

Why?

Because He came for those who were lost; the sick and die. He came to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.

Jesus wanted to let the people know that God could be found in every nook and cranny in creation.

Yet, what happened – people build another temple. Only they called them cathedrals – churches.

I have seen some of these cathedrals in South America – they are wonderful. They take way your breath as you enter into them. They go beyond the imagination and take you into a different world…. Gold, marble, precious cloth and metal everywhere….

Outside the walls there sit the dying, the sick, the broke, the poor, the hurting…. Outside the cathedrals – outside of our churches – outside of those holy sanctuaries are folks that will not enter because they don’t have the right clothes. Because they didn’t have a bath that day….

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that these sanctuaries are morally wrong. God used Solomon’s temple – God’s presence entered into the holy of holies and dealt there. He oked the building of the second temple – He foretold of it through His prophets.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of how big God is. Sometimes we can get too comfortable with eating cookies and drinking coffee in the presence of God. Sometimes we need to be reminded of how big God is. Sometimes we can get too comfortable with eating cookies and drinking coffee in the presence of God.

When that happens, we need to go to a cathedral – go to a holy place so that we can be reminded of who God is.

Yet, I am not content to stay there. God has put a burden in my heart to go – to walk the byways, the highways, the lanes and the fields. He has told me to start a rescue mission a yard from hell.

This is why we do church the way we do church.

We want to be relevant to the cultural around us. We want to reach the people who will not go to church anywhere else because of the way they look, smell, act or dress.

How many times have you heard? If I go to church, the roof will fall in.

I want those folks to be comfortable here.

We want to be a people of God who take the presence of God outside these four walls and into the community around us. Those people who are afraid the roof will fall in should not have an excuse because they already met God in the field talking to us! If lighting didn’t strike while in the hay field or on the side of the road – then it is safe for them on come to church.

Invite them in; give them a cup of coffee and a cookie. They are about to meet God a second time in the community of others.

God moves in different ways.

God is always at work around us. We need to listen to Him – to watch Him and do what He is doing.

The mentality goes beyond the sanctuary – it affects everything we do. The way we engage the community – the way we talk to people – the way we act.

You know, I would love to have a church building. I love not having to haul in these speakers every week..setting up and tearing down… but you know something else, I want a bigger food pantry more.

Why? There are enough church buildings in this area. The community doesn’t need another church building – what they need is food. Someone to love them. Someone to clothe them and hug them. To pray with them and invite God into their lives.

That is why we are here.

We are called to go to the people who do not ‘fit’ within the other churches. And guess what, those other churches are called to reach people who do not fit within out church. Yep, there are folks who do not like the way we do things – that’s ok. May they find a community of believers they can call ‘family.’

May the Lord of Host guide us and bless all of you as you go about His work.

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