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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Separatists, Culturalists and Restorers

Gabe Lyons, in The Next Christians describes three types of Christians, the Separatist, the Cultural and the Restorer. Each type can be further subcategorized. Among the Separatists are the Insiders. Most of Insiders time revolves around Christian activities. They only send their children to Christian schools, only listen to Christian music. read Christian books, etc. Their lives revolve around the safety of church. While their motive to live holy lives separated from the degradation seen in the culture around them is pure, they have great difficulty in engaging the culture in which they live without being judgmental. There are also the Cultural Warriors who consider that America and Christianity are deeply intertwined. To their credit, they are passionately concerned about our moral decline as a nation. They seek out politicians who support their positions on abortion, gay rights, etc. But they also have difficulty engaging a society which no longer believes in the value of the Judeo Christian heritage upon which our country was founded. Finally, among the Separatists, are the Evangelizers who believe that the only Christian activity of any value is getting people saved and will go to any means to see that accomplished. They reach out with the best of motives, but many times their technique turns off those they are trying to reach.

Among the Cultural are the Blenders. They attempt to blend so well with society that it becomes very hard to even identify them as Christians. They want to be like everyone else, attempting to be relevant and seeker friendly as a way of reaching their community. There are also the Philanthropists whose focus is upon social concerns and good works. In their zeal they often miss what the essence of the gospel is about – restoring people’s lives to a relationship with God through the grace that Jesus offers.

The Restorers have a different mission than the other two groups. Lyons states that their mission is to “infuse the world with beauty, grace, justice and love.” While acknowledging that our broken world will not be completely healed until Christ’s return, they seek to be a part of Christ’s healing ministry by attempting to assist in healing the broken spiritual and physical lives of the people around them. Instead of separating from or blending in, they engage the culture in which they live. Instead of being offended by what goes on around them they are provoked to become involved in making change. Instead of judging, they love the broken ones around them because they realize that they are just as broken and that it is only the grace of God that has rescued them. They use their talents, gifts and passions to make a difference in their world, affecting their jobs, their neighborhoods, their schools, their community, promoting the common good. As Lyons observes, “They are motivated to bring the love of Christ into every broken system they encounter.”

This is how Christianity grew by 40 percent per decade over its first three centuries. The early Christians were restorers. To the multitudes of homeless and impoverished in the large cities of the Greco-Roman world it gave hope. To the newcomers who migrated from the rural to the urban areas it offered community. To the many widows and orphans it brought family. In place of ethnic strife it yielded total acceptance. During famine, catastrophes and times of plague it brought compassion and care.

As we examine our lives, which of these three categories do we most identify with? Are we Separatists, Culturalists or Restorers? Which do we want to be?

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