The mission of the church in the culture is to find what of the gospel speaks to the needs in the culture and be a witness to that light that shines in the darkness. The church must find a way to exist within the culture it serves, yet critique that culture and seek not only individual salvation, but to become a salvific influence within culture.
What this means is difficult because it forces me to ask what the mission of the church is within my own culture. My culture seems to be in the process of change. It is one where worldwide communication is instant, information is free for the taking, and the concept of a virtual community has become important. Distance is no longer a great barrier to forming relationships.
There is a sense that people are no less likely to believe in God, pray, read scripture, and hold religious views than when I was born — however, many who believe find no reason to attend “church”. In what way has culture changed and how does that require a new model?
I grew up exposed to a model of church that was influenced by a model where people expected to learn something from the church. We attended Sunday school classes, and the “sermon” (which was a lecture about Scripture, and how to apply faith to life) was often considered the most important part of the service. In my current culture, there is an abundance of opportunities to hear, or read sermons. There are preachers on TV, on the radio, and every imaginable style and theology can be found on the internet.
The church of the recent past did well at making disciples — or creating an environment for those who would learn, however there are now many off site learning opportunities. I believe that the church should continue to take advantage of these, I have never regretted the increased ability to listen to how people understand their relationship with God.
While the listener can hear a lecture in the comfort of his or her own home, the ability to meet together electronically is limited. The call of the church is to meet together, and with current time constraints this may mean that sermons might move out to the net while the occasion for face to face fellowship may prove to be more valuable to the mission of the church than a lecture.
Whatever means the church finds to operate in the culture, it should provide a community that lives in the presence of Christ here on Earth. As such, the church is a community that exist within the culture that it serves, but it belongs to the culture of heaven.