Missio DeiFred Peatross, from Huntington, West Virginia, is a friend of mine that I’ve never met in person.  Our relationship is facilitated by e-mail.  I live in California.  We became friends because of Jim Henderson who lives in Seattle, Washington.  West Virginia, California, and Washington—this is a great picture of our times.

Fred’s new book, Missio Dei, is an insightful look at what is happening in Western culture, particularly as it relates to disciples of Jesus.  Twenty years ago the e-mail relationship Fred and I have developed would have been unheard of.  Also blogging, Google, My Space, and social networking.

The big question is whether the contemporary church is aware of and equipped to meet these light speed changes. An attendant question is how the culture around us regards the church in general.  Listen to what Fred says.

I take the position that the Christian community no longer lives in a favored position with its host culture and to reach this culture, Christians must be more like leaven than a churchcentric, attractional-Sunday-center.

My experience is that the church is missing in any sort of recognized or formal sense in the marketplace.  Not only that, Christians are often viewed with a jaundiced eye because of the stereotypes which modern televangelism has provided.  The only way to overcome the prejudices about the church is to go to the culture.  Fred quotes Neil Cole on page xviii.

…you have to be willing to sit in the smoking section when your primary stance is missional.

Truly.  The churches that penetrate the market place with the message of Jesus will be those who leave their campuses and start partnering in public life.  Fred illustrates this by telling two stories about the military.  In the first story an Air Force general told military personnel at an entertainment show to “go and invite people to come.”  This is a model of the traditional church.

In the second story he told of the U.S. military in Djibouti that is digging wells, vaccinating livestock, and building school facilities and winning the love and support of a mostly Muslim population.  This is a model of a contemporary or emergent church that does not try to relate to the world by teaching but by living generous lives.

Fred pictures a church that “enters the court of the Gentiles” in order to engage them on their own territory.  So you find these disciples of Jesus at “city council meetings, art museums, or having a glass of wine or a latte with a friend,” page 9.  This has more influence and credibility than calling unchurched and suspicious people out to private campuses.

The margins of my copy of Missio Dei are marked up with comments and exclamation points.  I resonate with what Fred writes and find that my own experience validates what he is saying.  I highly recommend reading this book. Missio Dei is scheduled for release in late July and can be purchased at all online bookstores Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc)