This is my contribution to the synchroblog coordinated by the Blind Beggar. See all the other contributions here.
What is “Missional”?
This is an intriguing thing; this “synchroblog”. A large part of me is very excited to participate and to read what other people have to say about the latest evangelical buzzword. I’m counting on a wide variety of perspectives and insights.
At the same time there is something strangely egocentric about there being 50 of us who have self-selected in the belief that other people could care at all about our unpolished ideas and commentary. There is something rather odd about it…
But anyway; I am a former pastor who now has no regular outlet for my ranting that used to be encapsulated in 28 minutes every Sunday so here goes:
I am simultaneously excited and skeptical about this missional thing. In so many ways it seems to be what’s really missing in the lives of most Christians and congregations I know. It has the potential to be truly meaningful in the community where I live (a middle (upper-middle) class suburb about 45 minutes west of Toronto); and offers perhaps something more than just a needed corrective program to the current expressions of Christian dullness.
But is it really that big of a deal?
I have my suspicions that to some degree this is a “movement” that is, and will be, almost entirely concentrated on clergy and Christian academics; like so many before. I wonder if what we’re supposedly catching as the lead wave of something special is just the book writers and conference speakers finally lifting their collective heads from their holy books just long enough to catch a whiff of the things the laity have known and lived for years; the faith of the pews simply doesn’t really relate to real life.
I may be having a cynical day, but it’s the pastors and professors who face the most change if this thing takes hold. For the vast majority it will remain the ongoing issue of trying to figure out how a 2000 year old book and a God-man who’s been missing for just as long can have any meaning in the carpool, corporate ladder, cable tv, and nod at your neighbor reality we’re immersed in.
Don’t let that sound like I’m disparaging the common Christian. Exactly the opposite! These are the people who have something to say about “missional”. They spend their days a part of the culture and community where the scholars are only now beginning to pay attention.
Most people aren’t concerned with the theologically dangerous issues raised by Newbigin. They (we?) aren’t all that concerned about coming up with a definition that requires the luxury of so much reading and reflecting. And they have little time or use for the antithetical arrogance that seems to so often colour the pronouncements of the experts.
But for the clergy this is monumental.
-What does it mean to a career pastor to “move into the neighbourhood” (thanks St. Eugene!), where our profession actually creates immediate distance and distrust from our neighbours?
-What happens after 5 years in the same congregation when the familiar bag of tricks have been used up and the system says it’s time to move on?
-How do we retain our spiritual leadership roles if we acknowledge that we are very much the amateurs when it comes to actually engaging the culture?
-What good are all our diligently developed skills in a world where authenticity trumps excellence?
-How do we lead churches when we’ve realized that in many cases the parachurch are the ones who really “get it”?
-How can we be evaluated (or evaluate ourselves!) when sincerity counts for more than performance?
-What happens when the theological trump cards lose their power?
It’s a scary world for the experts when the amateurs are out in front.
(Yeah, this is a skewed view and far from balanced or complete. Isn’t that what blogging is all about?)