Missing in Missional

A while back my twitter friend Chris Chappotin asked a great question about what is missing from the Missional Conversation. In response to that he asked if I would be willing to be one of many who responded in a blog post, briefly detailing my thoughts.

While their is certainly much room for conversation about what is missing; in my context as both a church planting pastor and a church planter strategist, their are two areas where we could stand to do a bit more thinking. The first is how the missional conversation/movement engages in a rural setting and the second is, what is the place of theological education in the missional conversation/movement. Since each of these warrants their own attention in a separate post, we will begin in reverse order.

The Place of Theological Education

I had the privilege of attending and graduating from Midwestern Seminary here in Kansas City. The professors, by and large, at Midwestern are top notch scholars, each of whom care deeply about their field of study and communicate with a passion and clarity that is second to none. I could spend the next several hundred words waxing eloquent about how each class I took, with very small exception, instilled in me not only a greater understanding of God and His Word, but also a more reverent humility. To be completely honest, of all the classes I completed there were only 1 or 2 I would consider not worth the time or effort. Yet, while my time at Midwestern did many many things for me, both as a follower of Jesus and one who serves the local and regional church in a vocational way, I can say without hesitation that it did not prepare me adequately to be a missionary into culture. Rather, the bulk of my theological education focused on preparing me to be the CEO or manager of a multi-tiered religious organization.

Mission was presented as an arm of the church, rather than its organizing principle. Disciple making was discussed in terms of program and curricula and not apprenticeship in the way of Jesus. Little time, if any, was given to how it is that this Gospel we believe and proclaim should change the communities in which we live, other than in the strictest evangelistic sense of personal conversion.

The remedy for this predicament in my opinion is two fold. First, their needs to be a re-purposing of sorts on behalf of schools of theological education. Too often our Christian culture is prone to reaction rather than pro-action, and our schools are no different. While there are some exceptions to this, namely Northern Seminary and their offerings in Missional Leadership, most of our schools are continuing to offer the same course of study they have for decades. While the doctrines of our faith and the confessions we hold should remain for the most part unchanged, the way we prepare to impact the vast lost-ness into which we are called should always be evolving in response to and anticipation of the culture milieu we encounter on a daily basis. How can we expect the people we shepherd and share life with to live as the sent ones of God if we as their leaders don’t have a framework for this ourselves?

Secondly, their needs to be a realistic expectation on behalf of those choosing to attend a seminary or Bible college of what they are getting themselves in to. Many of the men, and women, I sat beside in class viewed seminary as their meal ticket to an inside job with air conditioningĀ  instead of a trade school meant to provide them with skills and tools to fulfill their calling more effectively.

So in conclusion, what place does theological education have in the missional movement and conversation? My hope is a prominent one! As schools of higher learning commit to devoting more of their required courses towards preparing students to be missionaries into culture; and as more students view the time spent in study as vocational training in the best sense of the word, then another great era of mission sending could be upon us. However, if schools continue on the same path, and students with the same attitude, my fear is we will continue our trend of becoming more and more monolithic and more and more in danger of losing our voice and potential for lasting and meaningful change.

Book Review: Missional Preaching (part 2)

This post is part 2 of a two part review of Al Tizon’s book entitled Missional Preaching. You can read part 1 here.

As I covered in the first post, Missional Preaching is divided into two parts, with part one discussing the essentials of Missional Preaching and the second detailing the goals. While each chapter really merits its own attention, two chapters in particular gripped me. In his chapter entitled ‘Preaching for Inculturation’ Tizon writes,

The proclivity of U.S. Christians to create their own subculture within the larger culture-ie., interacting primarily with one another, making friends primarily among themselves, patronizing only Christian businesses, listening to only Christian music and developing their own ‘Christian-ese’ is its own North American vision of the ‘mission compound.

Tizon uses the word “inculturation”, originally used by Catholic missiologists, to describe the combination of enculturation with incarnation and its impact on how it is we go about this life. The chapter goes on to detail the characteristics of the Inculturated life, namely;

  1. Real Relationships with Real People
  2. Cultural and Political Participation
  3. Knowledge of Community History
  4. Vulnerability
  5. Identification with the Poor and Marginalized
  6. Love for Culture

In this way, ‘Missional Preaching’ reads much more like a handbook on Missional engagement than an homiletical text, and for that I am incredibly great-full.

Similarly, his chapter on ‘Preaching the Scandal of Jesus’ did not disappoint. Acknowledging the tension that exists when we seek to engage graciously with those outside faith while at the same time remaining faithful to the Gospel, Tizon writes;

True ecumenism acknowledges and appreciates the rich diversity of the world’s religions but encourages people of different faiths to be who they are so that genuine dialogue can occur. Far from avoiding differences that may offend, true ecumenism cultivates a sacred space where people of different faiths can intensely, passionately, and respectfully listen to and share their heartfelt convictions with one another. In this light, Christians should bring to the ecumenical round table nothing less than the beliefs and practices of authentic biblical Christianity.

In the conclusion the writer finally comes clean by confessing, “in truth I set forth to write nothing less than a theology of mission, but one with preachers in mind…[for] the study of mission must not be relegated to seminary halls and libraries alone. It must ultimately grab hold of pastors in the trenches who in turn inspire the people of God under their care to engage the world in mission.”

To this end, Tizon has succeeded, by providing a work that is simultaneously educational, engaging and practical. If you are looking for a work that will help you begin or continue to think about how to shape your people in missional thinking and practice, through the work of preaching, do yourself a favor and pick this up!

“God does not call us to a life of self imposed misery and asceticism, any more than He calls us to a life of more successful scrambling. We are called to a life that is much more festive, celebrative and satisfying than anything the rat race can offer. God calls us to a good life that elevates relationships, celebration, worship, family, community and service above the values of acquisition, individualism and materialism.” Tom Sine

In the Chapter entitled ‘Preaching for whole life Stewardship’ in Missional Preaching, by Al Tizon

— The Good Life

Book Review: Missional Preaching (part 1)

This post is part 1 of a two part review of Al Tizon’s book entitled Missional Preaching.

Being someone who cares deeply, not only for the Missional conversation, but also for the necessity of Biblical preaching, I was uniquely interested when my good friend and mentor Brad Brisco asked me to read and respond to a new book by Al Tizon entitled “Missional Preaching”. However, I must admit at first glance the idea of a whole work on Missional Preaching was initially a non-starter.

We don’t have to look very far in the current Christian publishing landscape to see examples of authors or publishing houses slapping the term “missional” on a book or curicculum in someĀ surreptitious hope of selling more copies, without fully understanding, or having much care for, the nuance and weight the term carries.Ā  While the term, missional happens, for some, to be nothing more than the latest buzz word, for Tizon it is clearly much more!

Missional Preaching is divided into two parts with the first discussing in great detail the Essentials of Missional Preaching and the second, the goals of Missional Preaching. If one was looking for nothing more than a good primer on the missional conversation they couldn’t do much better than the introduction and first chapter of the book. Just a taste…

To be Missional means to join God’s mission to transform the world, as the church strives in the Spirit to be authentically relational, intellectually and theologically grounded, culturally and socioeconomically diverse and radically committed to both God and neighbor, especially the poor

The Essentials of Part 1 are devoted to, Missio Dei, Kingdom Hermeneutics, and Worship; Each highlighting how it is the Missionary Nature of God informs and under-girds all we do and preach.

In the next post I hope to elaborate more on some of the themes mentioned above as well as provide some overview of Part 2 of Tizon’s great work.

In short, if you are who cares deeply for the missional conversation and Biblical preaching and have pondered at the interplay between the two, you cannot do better than Tizon’s work

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