There’s been something of a general malaise going around lately… people tired with blogging, tired with the emerging church, tired with missional, or tired with “the conversation.” People accuse these conversations of being the “same old, same old” or a number of other things, including being exclusive or exclusionary or being made up of people who only talk and don’t ever do the things they talk about. Perhaps you can call to mind a recent post or two or five that runs along these lines — I know I can. I’m not linking them because I’m not specifically responding to them… I’ve had similar conversations and emails and read comments along these lines as well. And of the posts we can both call to mind, there are some folk who I highly respect and who (ironically?) are an important part of the conversation… even if they tire of it at times. And some of what they say in these posts is correct. On the other hand, one reply in a group email thread this past week discussing this phenomenon said simply:
I’m tired of people being tired of stuff.
And with this, I resonate.
Yes, I’m tired of stuff too, and I don’t want to see the “conversation” stay theoretical with no practical outworkings. This is the reason why a group of us started the Missional Tribe, to be a kind of “whosoever-will may come” kind of place centered around all things missional, primarily for the collection of real-life stories about people’s experience in trying to live missionally. Yes, we labeled it “missional,” despite the varying definitions people continue to apply to the word, and a widespread distaste for labels in general. Of course, I don’t like labels either, but in life, some labels must be functionally accepted just to keep things understandable. If you don’t believe me, answer me this: when you need to use a public restroom and are faced with the option of two doors, each with differing labels…. okay, a bit trite perhaps. But you see my point, which also illustrates the fact that certain labels just don’t function well if they’re too fluid.
At the same time, I’ve seen the damage caused when the show is all run by practitioners who have little regard for theoreticians. Things get up to a frantic pace, at which point the things they hadn’t thought through ahead of time begin to crop up — and due to the frantic pace, when these things start to explode, the damage can be pretty extensive. Theoreticians need practitioners in order to make sure things actually get rolling, but the practitioners need the theoreticians to keep it on the rails. It’s a simple point illustrated by the fact that we all have different giftings, and in this case both of these types need one another. It’s as though the hand cannot say to the eye, “I have no need of thee,” and underscores the need for diversity in order to ensure that a range of giftings is needfully allowed to be expressed, “for if the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?” Yeah, call me radical, but sometimes I feel the need to stand up for us theoreticians… though I fully recognize the need to not stop there, and even to not figure it all out before you get moving down the road.
But what of this general malaise? We’ve all gotten ourselves into a blogging funk at one time or another, and have thought, said, or written things that reflect our feeling at a point in time rather than our view of things overall. I’ve checked my calendar, and have discovered something. It’s early March. Don’t know about the rest of you, but when the days are shorter and the February-March doldrums set in and it’s still too cold out to spend a lot of time outside so you’re cooped up in the house where you’ve been since November and you just wish the snow would melt already and let you get out in the sunshine and warm your toes in the sand and you look longingly out the window only to realize that it’s snowing again and there’s a fairly brisk wind… I find that a little disheartening. And it can make me tire of things I ordinarily love. I’ve been short on blog-fodder — or more accurately, steam to power the conversion of fodder to posts — for a while now, but I generally consider it somewhat cyclical. My experience is that these seasons are the ones when it’s a particularly bad idea to make rash decisions or say rash things fueled by malaise. And to remember the thing that best counters it: hope.
I know full well that spring will come, that theory will become practice, that I’ll get back my blogging mojo, that others will become energized, that we’ll all enjoy the conversation in the blogosphere more than we do today, that living missionally will make a difference, and that good things will happen for the sake of the Kingdom. These things give me hope.
And a little more sunshine won’t hurt, either — so I changed my clock this weekend, and suddenly it’s gotten brighter out.
I’m a newbie blogger who has merely been an eavesdropper on the emerging conversation–thus, I haven’t had time to get really tired of it. But what you say about theory and practice and giftedness really resonates with me.
In my church, there’s a fair but of pressure to be active, to be missional, to have good orthopraxy, but less enthusiasm about having strong Christ-centered orthodoxy to back it up. Both are essential, and to deny the importance of either is to cut off part of the body. The hands-on missioners need our support, encouragement, and prayers–but so do the thinkers. (And perhaps we’re all called to be a little of both from time to time.)
Great thoughts. So let me ask you, which is more of the reality in the missional conversation? More theory than practice or vice versa? Curious as to you perspective.
Good question, Amy. I think if you do a survey of what’s out there, you’d conclude that there’s more theory, but I’m not certain that’s entirely accurate. The theorists are largely the ones doing the talking, while the practitioners may be less geared toward conversation of this type, so simply aren’t reporting. This is one of the reasons why I feel it’s so important to connect the two… the theorists and wordsmiths can be reporting on what the practitioners are doing so as to inspire other practitioners and people who want to jump in but aren’t quite sure how.
A lot of what is missional from a day-to-day standpoint seems very small and insignificant, so it just doesn’t get talked about. The theorists may (well, I would, anyway) suggest that this is the nature of missional engagement… it just isn’t big and flashy, and it takes time to bear fruit. In multiplication terms, it can bear more (and lasting) fruit over the long haul, but the attractional “addition” model looks more fruitful in the short view so it has gotten the press.
Lots there we could unpack further, too. I addressed this a bit last January, and then revisited it (and revisited the revisit) this past December.
Hi BM, how are you!
I don’t know if you read my recent post titled, The Missional Gig = Love ? Here’s an excerpt from that post:
I love that you said this:
A lot of what is missional from a day-to-day standpoint seems very small and insignificant, so it just doesn’t get talked about. The theorists may (well, I would, anyway) suggest that this is the nature of missional engagement… it just isn’t big and flashy, and it takes time to bear fruit. In multiplication terms, it can bear more (and lasting) fruit over the long haul, but the attractional “addition” model looks more fruitful in the short view so it has gotten the press
Totally. The most effective theoreticians are the ones who are also practitioners. Those who live out their message will always be more effective communicators than those who just report. Shane Claiborne comes to mind as well as Ken Loyd of HOMEpdx here in Portland.
As for the flurry of bloggy blahness, yes, it could be weather related, or it could also be that epidemic of spiritual restlessness that keeps people on the prowl for the next fascinating theory to capture their imagination. I don’t know.
I love theological conversations. For real. I do not tire of them. But yes, because of my post-modernish thinking habits, I tend to cringe at labels and being labeled. Which, in an ironic circular way of thinking, is a label in and of itself. :-)
Ok, i need to stop here before I start chasing my tail and get all dizzy.
Pam, I did see that post — it’s actually queued for inclusion in my Saturday linkathon ;^) Good thoughts here too; I think we’re pretty much on the same page, which is always nice.
Spiritual restlessness, eh? Could very well be. How about spiritual cabin fever? Time to get out more…
Thanks for this refreshing perspective. Especially the emphasis on honoring others’ giftedness and honoring the diversity that is necessary to healthy Body life.
I’ve read some general ‘weariness’ posts too. And I can relate to a degree. I’ve kind of stopped posting about anything directly “missional” in topic as a result. And I think the cycle of the seasons is definitely part of it!
One thing that has kind of bothered me though are casual remarks (or statements in posts) that come off as invalidating of others who are also “in the conversation.” I try to give the benefit of the doubt, and I hope I’m just misinterpreting the attitude behind these statements.
Because I think if we start invalidating each other (instead of embracing diversity – or just embracing different stages in the journey), it’s only a display of our own arrogance (or preference for our own gift-mix, or our own stage of the journey). And that’s kind of off-putting rather than inspiring, you know?
Anyway, thanks for this post. :)
Sarah, that is absolutely spot-on.