towards an incarnational witness

[INCARNATIONAL SERIES part 14]Segregation2_10
I began this series with the reminder of the rawness of the Incarnation despite our tendency to ignore the scandalous implications of the Christmas story.  Following that I introduced a case study revealing the tendency of Christians within my own community to ignore the fusion of a “spiritual” life with their “secular” life.  But then I suggested that a proper listening approach to Scripture reveals that the Incarnation impacts the whole of our everyday identity, not just our church “gathering.”  And next I proposed that the testimony and experience of Augustine confirmed the teaching of Scripture, namely, that our lives are to move from an inwardization of faith towards an incarnational posture and from a privatization of self towards participation in a communal witness.
    This final section, then, proposes that we as followers of Jesus must catalyze a movement of an incarnational witness within our communities expressed in our particular cultural context.  Simply stated, we as individual believers in Jesus Christ must increasingly devote ourselves to God every day of the week and everywhere we find ourselves to be.  As well, we as individual believers are to live in such a way together with other believers as co-witnesses to the Incarnation.  The evidence of an effective incarnational witness within our particular communities will be the degree of our charity towards others stemming from the love of Christ.    
    Throughout history, many Christians have segregated their regular, everyday activities from their “Sunday” church attendance.  This tendency creates an unhealthy fashion of church that becomes dependent upon people coming “to” church- an attendance often equated with entering into impressive building structures (see diagram).  This attractional model of church encourages consumeristic styles of worship, marketing, competition, and congregational memberships resembling social clubs.  This tendency promotes the segregation of faith and life by equating “church” with the “Sunday worship service” in the “sanctuary.”  Said exaggeratedly, following the “church service” people are not able to be “at” church for the rest of the week and must wait seven days until they can go “to” church again. 


  1. I think your questions have not been asked enough throughout church history, Paul. When they are asked, great things happen… though they can often have difficult results. Many people are calling this period in the Western Church the beginning of a “next” reformation or the completion of the Reformation… I’m not so sure we’re that bold as Christians in North America. There are some pockets of believers who are venturing out and organizing their communities differently, but most like me are still in the main-stream of week by week church life. I’m still in it because I want to help get people out of the religious rut and into a whole life…
    There are other cultures that approach community in a more healthy way than we do now in North America. In those settings, unfortunately, the Western Church has tried to impose the weekly attendance model upon them… often breaking their cultural set-up which was probably very fertile ground for true Gospel. One problem we have today is that our N.American idea of “community” and “wholeness” is really weak… so the Church contributes to and struggles with that.

  2. The difficulty comes when the majority of people who attend sunday morning services believe that they just experienced church. What kind of systemic change is necessary for a broader understanding of what church truly is…and isn’t?
    Is this mostly a western mindset? What do other cultures and societies understand church to be and mean? What will the generation younger than us think church to be based on their experience?
    On the one hand peoples’ lives continue to get connected to God regardless of the questionable methods and tactics used, and yet on the other hand we need to consider how the western church reflects the person and heart of Jesus as his bride. Because some argue that because the church will never be perfect that we should just embrace the status quo and not shake the boat, and others who probably go too far with an attitude of defeatism and completely remove themselves from any gathered body of believers.
    I’m personally struggling through this reality right now and have been since the fall; that I attend something each week, and the next and the next, but for what? It’s difficult to not have a consumerist mindset when you only attend once a week. I hope this year brings about some clarification for me/us on this whole matter…thanks for the new years nudge ken!

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