Every church is different because churches are comprised of people and people are themselves varied, dissimilar, and diverse. Every church is called to be an agency of healing, but that doesn’t mean each church operates in the same way. Nor should it. The sickness of the world is so great, and the need for redemption so persistent and so wide-ranging, that God requires each church to fulfill its unique role within the larger scope of his kingdom vision to heal the world.
Every church has a role to play.
What’s ours? We have a fancy way of saying it—one that rarely, if ever, travels beyond our staff and elders. We say our church is called to be a voice of prophetic reorientation.
Let me break it down for you.
In the First Testament, God called prophets to remind his people how to live. The primary task of those prophets was critique. They pointed out error and helped turn things around to make God glad. That’s what we mean by “prophetic reorientation”–critique and turnaround. This prophetic orientation plays out both corporately and individually.
Corporately, we feel like Westwinds has been called by God to critique Western evangelicalism. Notice we say “critique” not “criticize.” We’re not interested in negativity, but we think God’s people have forgotten much of what he wants. This isn’t the place to get into these issues in depth, but know that the things that make Westwinds a little weird are also the things we believe God has called us to emphasize. For example, we put a lot of stock in artistry because we believe God authors beauty and enjoys it when his people create. One component of this artistry is theology. We believe a fully emancipated mind is a healthy reflection of our intelligent Creator, and work to cultivate a mental richness that liberates us from narrow-minded behavior. This is why we use a lot of weird words at Westwinds, since many church words—like “pastor”, for example—have come to mean something totally different to our culture than they did to the people of the Second Testament.
Similarly, we put a lot of effort into community outreach because we believe the local church is the hope of the world. Our task is to get off our property and bring healing to the people. Too many churches are satisfied with the humdrum ho hum existence of mid-week programs and adult Sunday School classes. There’s nothing wrong with those activities—far from it!—but we run the risk of becoming so busy with “church stuff” that we neglect God’s mission to heal the world.
Our final corporate reorientation concerns reconciliation. In the same way that God wants to heal the world through his people—socially, economically, politically, developmentally, ecologically, etc.—God wants to reconcile people to himself, to themselves as his shadows, to one another, and to Creation. Those four relationships—God, self, others, world—are central to the biblical imagination, and God is working to bring those quadrants of our lives back into one undifferentiated whole.
Like I mentioned earlier, our mandate for prophetic orientation isn’t merely corporate. There’s also an individual application and it concerns our need for repentance. For Christians, repentance isn’t a one-time deal. It’s a lifestyle. Every day there’s a million little decisions we make that could either lead us closer to God or take us further away. We celebrate the correct decisions we make, but when we make poor choices we’ve got to stop in our tracks, turn around, and repent. Those little repentances might be as silly as grumpy thoughts or muttered curses while golfing, or they may be as catastrophic as larceny or adultery. Regardless, Christian people understand that when we sin we repent. Since we often forget to do so, our church is there to remind us of the need to turn things around in order to make God glad.
Dr. David McDonald is the teaching pastor at Westwinds Community Church in Jackson, MI. The church, widely considered among the most innovative in America, has been featured on CNN.com and in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Time Magazine. David weaves deep theological truths with sharp social analysis and peculiar observations on pop culture. He lives in Jackson with his wife, Carmel, and their two kids. Follow him on twitter (@fossores) or online at fossores.com