Don’t uncool people need Jesus too?
Bill Streger, an Acts 29 church planter (“Acts 29” being a parachuch ministry of Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington), recently wrote a blog post that caused quite a blogosphere controversy.
In the post, titled “Uncool People Need Jesus Too,” Streger says that urban, missional, “cultural renewal” ministries are the only kinds of missional outreach that church planters engage in. He says that all the church planting plans he’s come across for Acts 29 sound the same. It seems, he says, that God’s missional vision for young, hip pastors is all the same. Specifically, he puts it like this:
It’s amazing how many young pastors feel that they are distinctly called to reach the upwardly-mobile, young, culture-shaping professionals and artists. Can we just be honest? Young, upper-middle-class urban professionals have become the new “Saddleback Sam”.Seriously, this is literally the only group I see proposals for. I have yet to assess a church planter who wants to move to a declining, smaller city and reach out to blue collar factory workers, mechanics, or construction crews. Not one with an evangelsitic strategy to go after the 50-something administrative assistant who’s been working at the same low-paying insurance firm for three decades now.
Why is that? I can’t offer a definitive answer. It could be that God is legitimately calling an entire generation of young pastors to turn their focus to a small segment of the population that happens to look very much like they do.
Yikes. I think you can see how this can create a controversy. I want to weigh-in on this later, but for now, read his update (and near recantation, actually) here. It seems that he’s taken more than a little slack from missional, Acts 29 folks for his comments. I will say for now that I was pretty surprised when I read it, considering he is an Acts 29 church planter while simultaneously shredding other Acts 29 church planters. Pretty strange.
Nevertheless, I think he makes a really good point — though I think “missional” people like Driscoll and Tim Keller are well aware of it. It’s a problem I’ve noticed in people of my generation, admittedly in a slightly different context: they are passionate about poor, single or divorced, marginalized, urban racial minorities, but they say little about reaching wealthy families, rural communities and white blue collar American workers. Or, like Streger states, my generation will talk about reaching hip, urban, artistic young people, but they never talk about Iowa’s Joe and Bud who meet at Denny’s every morning before dusting their crops.
I’ll say more later, but for now, read Kevin DeYoung’s comments on the matter, along with Timothy Keller’s insightful comments from a couple months ago. (I should mention that Keller’s ministry is entirely urban, but in his post he shows major wisdom in expressing deep concern for other groups also).
Marvin Olasky, editor-in-chief of World magazine and author of The Tragedy of American Compassion, is coming to Cedarville University (my college) on Thursday to debate Jim Wallis, a progressive conservative who wrote God’s Politics.
Simple distinctions are easy here, as Olasky is most definitely conservative, and it’s pretty safe to say that Wallis is politically (though not theologically, to my knowledge) liberal. Wallis would of course deny this, but when you’re buddy-buddy with Barak Obama, your books and articles clearly articulate a poilitical concern for “global poverty, Darfur, HIV/AIDS and global warming” (as he puts it), and you try to argue from Scripture that when the Bible says “justice” it means the same thing as our modern term “social justice” or Washington-initiated “distributive justice,” you’re probably liberal.
The two will discuss poverty and homelessness in three large meetings, with Olasky speaking in the first meeting, Wallis in the second, and a discussion and Q&A for the third. For more information, see the school’s press release on the event.
I hope to interview Marvin Olasky for some material for class and Cedars (our student newspaper here on campus), and you can be sure that if it happens, I will get some content on this blog.