"When somebody is not a believer, their hand is in the bucket," says Ryan Couch, lead Pastor of Missio Dei Church located in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Ryan and his wife, Andrea moved to Fort Collins from Oregon to plant Missio Dei in August of 2009.
When speaking of the "bucket" he is metaphorically referring to a bucket filled with water - of which, according to Ryan, is representative of culture.
All of our hands are subject to the precincts and jurisdictions of our own respective buckets, or cultures, co-mingled with other hands of the same ilk surrounding our own, brushing, influencing - stimulating.
However, before plunging our hands into foreign waters for the sake of evangelism it is important to understand the climate; to be ready to adjust our own views before demanding change from others.
Although the core tenets of Christianity are immutable many of its denominational beliefs and traditions are unsustainable in terms of cultural importance.
"When [a] person becomes a Christian, the 'Church' seems to do everything it can to pull that person's hand out of [his] bucket; out of [his] culture so that the surface area of [his] life - his hand, is no longer being touched by [his] culture " says Ryan.
The religious path advocated by many among main line denominations leads the life of the convert to a point that it is "absolutely consumed by church activities that, by and large, are doing nothing more than entertaining Christians" he says. "Then we wonder why the church is not drawing unbelievers."
Lutheran theologian Edmund Schlink says the most important thing for Christians to do is "primarily focus on Christ. " To learn the life of Jesus and emulate what He did should be paramount to any professing believer. According to Schlink it's not that we have lost the unity of belief among ourselves. Rather, it is the loss of vision and understanding as many within Christian ecumenism suffer from spiritual myopia.
Could it be that our short-sightedness stems from cultural isolation and intolerance?
Church life and community
The congregation at Missio Dei desires to engage the community of which they are a part within the context of the cultures that are prevalent. According to Ryan, instead of demanding converts to wash themselves from the milieu of cultural distinction, the Church should encourage one's hand to "remain in the bucket, to remain in [their own] culture; influencing it with the message of Christ."
One way to accomplish this is to quit attending church! "I know it sounds funny" he says while addressing visitors on their website.
Ryan challenges all who will listen to forsake the mindset that Christianity is about membership to a congregation. Rather, true Christianity is one whose distinctiveness is authentic, it's message relevant; displayed on platters of servanthood and ingested through societal engagement.
He doesn't want people to "attend" the services at Missio Dei as one would attend a concert or lecture hall. Rather, his vision is for people to engage God (and each other) from within the context of their created distinctiveness and creativity; to penetrate the cultures around them with the message of the gospel.
Part of that penetration will come as we begin dismantling some of the barriers that separate and isolate us. Missio Dei has taken steps to do just that. One of the tools at their disposal is hosting what is termed as "Theology Pub." They meet on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at Mulligan's Pub located at Drake and College in Fort Collins. "It is our goal to discuss relevant topics and see how the truth of Jesus Christ is woven into each one."
Part two of this article will include the subject matter of last months subject "can a Christian smoke pot." For the up and coming topic of discussion or more information about Missio Dei please visit their website, or call Ryan at 970-672-9139.
When it comes to what Jesus did and said . . . may we follow His every move and devour His every word. I believe He got it right. He is God, you know.