“So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:16
Being cool is a cultural phenomenon that many still try to achieve. Wearing sun glasses inside, toothpick in the mouth, an indifferent glare–blase´, blase´. Cool is usually backed up with statements like, “it is what it is…” I find myself dropping that statement a lot lately. Those who are cool try not to get flustered or bent out of shape about anything. If they do get flustered they at least try not to show it. Their chief aim is to appear in control and unphased–no judgment. The Fonz from the show Happy Days was my earliest memory of what cool looked like, he is followed up by artist like, Kool Moe Dee, KRS One, Eric B or Run DMC. One of my favorite albums is Miles Davis’, Birth of Cool–doesn’t get any cooler than Miles Davis. These individuals personified cool–unflustered and unphased by anything. Although nostalgic, I’m not sure I could hang around with people who don’t care or at least give off the impression that they don’t care. I’m not really sure they would want to hang around me. Sadly, the church can come across this way–too cool for its own good.
In Revelation 3:16, Jesus chastises the Church of Laodicea. He describes them as neither, ‘cold nor hot’. It’s safe to say that He’s dissatisfied with their obvious middle of the road attitude and disposition. To be ‘lukewarm’ is to be tepid, half hearted, unconcerned, apathetic, cold, cool. Seems that their wealth and ongoing indifference was an unfavorable characteristic of the church at Laodicea. This is familiar territory for the contemporary church in the West–self consumed and indifferent about certain things that matter to God. We fill stadiums, purchase television stations and build theme parks all for the purpose of providing a comfortable climate for our lives. This is the stale church that makes a lot of moves, but please don’t mistake it for a movement or a move of God–it is not. This is the cool church–satisfied with itself.
The missional mandate and example of God’s missional heart forces one to be intentional and prophetic. For the truly missional there is no soft spot of ambivalence, no marshmallow middle of indifference about the condition of society as a whole. We can always refer back to God for our directive, there is no doubt that God is missional–He breaks into the life and culture of mankind. He breaks through the barriers of sin without apology bringing the gift of love and the possibility of reconciliation. God is not idle. So much of what we see is a kind of acquiescence to the cool of cultural acceptance. While this kind of silence helps one accumulates FB friends, Retweets and Google plus one vote, it guts the heart of what it means to be on mission in the world. In an article from 2010, third quarter edition of Missio Dei; A Journal of Missional Theology and Praxis, Mark Love writes a poignant description of how the people of God are called beyond themselves and their comfort. He says,
The significance, then, of defining the church in mission in relation to Missio Dei is two-fold. First, it keeps the church from seeing its life as an end in itself. The church does not exist to propagate its own life or a particular cultural expression of Christianity, but to serve the interests of the inbreaking kingdom of God. The church is called always to give its life for the sake of something bigger than itself. Missio Dei, therefore, guards against a triumphalist church possessing an imperialist mission.
As I read more and more about missional theology I’m constantly hearing this word, “inbreaking”. The idea is that the kingdom of God breaks through the conditions that have created and encased the Western styled religion adopted by so many. The triumphalist church that Love describes above is a familiar product that seems to be a different contrast to the missional mandate. We have been conditioned to give up on trying to break through the hard ice that under girds and supports our comfort. The church has become something that we have fashioned as a meeting place for activities and not a place where reconciliation is happening. The church should be this meeting place where the themes of reconciliation are produced and then funneled to homes, communities, cities and society as a whole–it ought to be the breeding ground for gospel centered ambassadors of reconciliation.
The Western church has become the new mall. This new mall is where preferences are met and discipleship is simply a ministry title. People shop for churches and once they get into a church they shop for their preference in preaching, ministry and friendships. What can God do for me? At the end of the day this is what nominal Christianity produces. The ancient church was anything but ambivalent, passive or middle of the road. The ancient church battled false teaching and the aberrant culture recognizing that ambivalence would only serve to weaken the church. They knew that they were God’s elected representative here on earth. Love was credible and tangible. Much of what we pass for loving our neighbor is nothing more than gambling God away for a conversation that ends without conflict. Understanding and an ongoing dialogue around lifestyle has replaced Gospel truth telling.
The church has become an end in itself. Our way of life trumps the kingdom agenda. We have become accustomed to our role as the naked emperor. ‘Inbreaking’ suggest a disruption of all that counters God’s kingdom agenda–we have simply acquiesced. The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy, the young pastor, to “Preach the word…” Fulfilling that missional call will attract attention as the word of God will often times complicate lifestyles. The Holy Spirit’s presence will further disrupt lukewarm living. Missional is not the middle ground of theological indifference–it asks the question, ‘What is God doing in the world and how can I jump in?’. There are many within Christendom who find fulfillment in cranking out rebuttals after rebuttal to ever issue that they disagree with and call it standing for righteousness. They call it standing for truth—I call this entrenchment; a kind of amissional approach. The intentional nature of missional living is exemplified in the prophets of old like Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Micah. These were missional giants who followed God into the world and called into question godless living wherever God sent them. Prophets and persecution doesn’t sound real cool…does it?