Catholicism vs. The Missional Church

A couple of years ago I walked away from a Lutheran church that was dabbling heavily in evangelicalism in favor of one down the road that is strongly liturgical. The senior pastor of the more contemporary church would preach sermon series from time to time based on books by evangelical authors he liked. One of his favorites was Tim Keller, a Presbyterian minister who is also a prolific writer of books on such topics as how churches should interact with the culture in a western, post-Christian society.

The pastor posted the following Tim Keller essay on the church’s blog last fall entitled, “The Missional Church.” [ATTACH]19227[/ATTACH] I was hoping those of you who are a lot smarter than I am could comment on the attachment from a Catholic perspective. Keller espouses, in a nutshell, that the church must change radically to attract and accommodate new believers. Perhaps the missional church is just a new name for seeker friendly? :shrug:

I really dislike that term. If by “missional” that pastor meant living out the Gospel in our day to day life, I would be all for it. But at least in the Lutheran sense it seems to be closely tied with youth oriented non-liturgical worship.

Tim Keller is not “seeker-sensitive.” I understand him to be quite biblical (even though I’m not Calvinist). He certainly does not “dumb down” the gospel.

But then he also once gave this in some ways correct but in other ways very confusing explanation for why homosexuality is a sin, what is sin, and how should the church handle homosexual. I don’t know it sounded to me like he was trying to sit in the middle between saying God hates homosexuals and God loves homosexuality. However, there wasn’t a lot of clarity and that troubled me. So who knows about the “missional church.” :shrug:

That was the sense I got from it, too. I don’t think that Keller realizes that when churches abandon the Liturgy, the next thing they abandon is the reason for having it in the first place. I think his preference for inclusive “we-speak” over the traditional “thee, thou, hast, etc.” will similarly backfire - this ‘marketing’ isn’t necessarily going to make people more receptive to the message; it may simply convince people that ‘all that church talk’ is no more important than their secular activities.

That said, I think Keller points out a lot of good here, too. I particularly agree with this:

In general, a church must be more deeply and practically committed to deeds of compassion and social justice than traditional liberal churches and more deeply and practically committed to evangelism and conversion than traditional fundamentalist churches. This kind of church is profoundly ‘counter-intuitive’ to American observers. It breaks their ability to categorize (and dismiss) it as liberal or conservative. Only this kind of church has any chance in the non- Christian west.

We can be compassionate seekers of social justice without succumbing to a worldly-focused Gospel Reductionism. I think this is something that Pope Francis understands, and we non-Roman Catholics are happy to see. :slight_smile:

I think his preference for inclusive “we-speak” over the traditional “thee, thou, hast, etc.” will similarly backfire - this ‘marketing’ isn’t necessarily going to make people more receptive to the message; it may simply convince people that ‘all that church talk’ is no more important than their secular activities.

Why? I mean, wasn’t a founding principle of Lutheranism that the prayers and liturgy should be in the language of the people? If you’re going to have it in obscure Elizabethan English which most modern English speakers have to learn like a foreign language, why not just have it in Latin and learn what the Latin means?

I may be being dense here: I absolutely understand the need for liturgy, but why should it be in Elizabethan English? That’s not inherently more “churchy”.

I should be more clear. Certainly speaking in the vernacular is necessary. People can’t hear the Word if they don’t speak the language. At times, this can include use of colloquialisms and idioms native to the language of the local church (particularly in sermons or homilies). I’m also not against ‘modernizing’ archaic words in the Liturgy to remain intelligible to modern ears (“You” for “Thou,” “hast” for “have,” etc.). That’s understandable.

But a respect for the Gottesdienst (God’s Service to Man) must also be shown. Profanity, for instance, would not be appropriate in any Liturgy - even if the audience is a bunch of sailors whose primary language is obscenity. :smiley: Yes, language is fluid - there’s no denying that words and their meanings change over time, but intentionally abandoning the language of the Liturgy for “we-speak” does not qualify, IMHO.

I think Pope Francis is also concerned for reaching out to the people with the message of Christ’s love. Yet we do not need to abandon the liturgy to be evangelical.

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