Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Contrast Society

In Roxburgh and Boren’s Introducing the Missional Church, they talk about the need for the church to become a contrast society. The church is called to be a sign, witness, and foretaste of God’s dream (p103) for the redemption of all creation. To be this foretaste we must become a people shaped by an alternative story, living by a set of distinctly Christian practices. (103) How each individual church does this will reflect its local community. In other words there is no one size fits all plan, but a pattern of principles that Roxburgh and Boren divide into three sets of missional practices–presence, love and engaging the neighbourhood.

It’s interesting to me that one of the things they pick up on is the practice of hospitality, something that’s recently caught my attention because I was asked to preach about it!
One of the interesting questions then is to ask ourselves what would a contrast society or community look like in my neighbourhood. Before Christmas, sometime in October now I think about it, we did a little experiment in hospitality. We invited our neighbours three either side and five or six opposite to come and meet us. We’d only been in the house for a month or so, and just wanted to get to know them.

Some came, more didn’t. Why was that? Maybe they thought we were the religious nuts that had just moved in and it wasn’t worth the risk of not being able to escape. Maybe they were actually as busy as they said they were. Bt at least we asked, and we will ask again. This is part of being a contrast society in our neck of the woods.

The more I think about being a contrast society, the more it seems to call me to live faith out in full view of others. Not preaching at every opportunity, but of sharing a different life, shaped by a different story, the story of God’s redemptive plan at work in my life.

In the warmer weather I hope we can begin to extend our hospitality through being outside more often than we’re inside. Spending time in the park simply doing life with others, playing games, sharing picnics, hearing stories.

There’s bound to be more to being a contrast society than this, but at least it’s a place to start.


Ricky said...

Paul (in his letters) writes about faith, hope and love remaining, (i.e. we take these into eternity with Him). I wonder if this might also be something of a key to a contrast society, where we show friendship without expecting it returned; where we speak words of love and encouragement as given us through faith; and where we have a certainty that our words are not spoken without a purpose through the presence of His Spirit.

However, such an ideal is something that I for one dare not inhabit. It is OK while we just love, but when we bring God’s presence into this love, then it is the unexpected that we begin to uncover, and this is quite uncomfortable to us all – don’t you think?

Richard Pool said...

It's an interesting point. It got me wondering what a contrast society would like when it's defined by faith, hope and love. Would it worry less about purity of doctrine? Would it fret less over issues of style and forms of worship?

And then there is the question of the presence of God. We can't experience the kingdom without the presence, at least not fully. So whilst it might be uncomfortable it must surely be worth the risk.