Well, I started out with some prognostication, and then I got distracted, and got back on track regarding my thoughts on The Decade Ahead for the Emerging Church. As I set up my thoughts and predictions (scary word) in that post, I asked three pairs of questions, the last of which was, “where is the world outside the church in all of this? Do they benefit at all, or are they worse off?” And then I pretty much didn’t answer that one, just the other two. This set of questions is fundamentally different because they have to do with the church’s interaction with the world, and are therefore the most important (certainly to the missional crowd, at least). For these reasons, I felt a separate post was warranted.
Born March 9, 1959, Barbie Millicent Roberts turns 50 today… but you’ve probably already heard about that. Oddly enough, she was born an adult, meaning she’s closer to 70 than 50. I think Ms. Roberts (pictured) has had work done… somehow she just has that kind of “plastic” quality about her. That and the fact that by age 50 it seems almost certain that surgery would have been required for chronic back problems. Based on the gravity-defying figure she seemed to hold for the past 50 years, it was determined that if the 11½” doll were 5’6″, her measurements would be 39-21-33. One expert calculated that a woman’s chances of having Barbie’s figure were less than 1 in 100,000, so given the global population, this means there could actually be 50,000 women walking around with her measurements. Oddly enough, I can’t seem to recall having met any of them. No word on what 50-year-old Barbie’s measurements would be, nor what Barbara Segal’s measurements were or are. Ms. Segal is of course the daughter after whom Barbie was named by creator Ruth Handler, who died in 2005 at age 85. Word has it that in the toy world, G.I. Joe thinks that for taking so long to commit to Barbie and then letting her go, Ken is an idiot of Billy Joel proportions. But that’s just a rumour.
After reading Scot McKnight’s The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible, I started into Ed Cyzewski’s Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life. Both books speak of an approach to scripture that attempts to bridge the gap between the culture in which the culture in which each book of the Bible was written and that of today into which it still speaks. As I reflected today on the nature of scripture an how it interacts with itself, I remembered the view of one Rabbi. The Hebrew Bible (what we refer to as the Old Testament) is divided into three parts — the Law (Torah), the Prophets, and the Writings. The Jewish view is basically that the prophets and writings act as commentary on the Law (the Pentateuch), explaining how to understand it.
My comments are interspersed with a long quotation from The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission by Lesslie Newbigin (1978).
Mission is the proclaiming of the kingdom of the Father, and it concerns the rule of God over all that is. We have seen, therefore, that the church has been led by the logic of its own gospel to move beyond preaching into actions of all kinds for the doing of God’s justice in the life of the world.
Implication: a gospel that does not move beyond preaching into actions for justice is somehow deficient, else those who preach it do not understand its logic. Note the connection between mission and the Kingdom of God.
Building on my previous post of A Biographical Profile of Lesslie Newbigin, I wanted to now provide a theological profile to illustrate the nature and significance of Newbigin’s contribution to the theology of mission and most particularly to the present emerging/missional conversation. Newbigin’s work predates the emerging/missional terminology, but particularly as regards the missional conversation, his work is foundational. In 1998, the year he died, The Bible Society published a special issue of The Bible in TransMission as a Tribute to Lesslie Newbigin with contributions from Martin Robinson, Wilbert Shenk, Harold Turner, Dan Beeby, George Hunsberger, and Colin Greene. Wilbert Shenk calls him a missionary theologian, a contextual theologian, and strategic theologian, three of the headings in his article, “Lesslie Newbigin’s Contribution to the Theology of Mission.”
Lesslie Newbigin is one of the most significant figures to the emerging/missional conversation, and is often referenced but less often read. A large number of conversational participants were born in the 1980s around the time his seminal Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture was printed. It was brand-new and required reading for anyone with more than a passing interest in the “missions” track when I entered Bible College. With new books arriving on the emerging/missional scene weekly we can sometimes forget the dusty imprints that have gone before, and in the case of authors like Newbigin who have passed into the beyond, the fact that new books do not appear can push them from our minds as anything more than an endnote in the bibliography of something more “currently relevant.” In Newbigin’s case, he was much before his time, and anyone engaged in this ongoing conversation owes it to themselves to understand something of his work and his contribution. With that in mind, I thought I’d take it upon myself to attempt to provide a sketch.
If anyone’s been counting carefully through the previous eight posts, they’ll notice two things. First, there are more than 50 ways to define missional. At least, there are more than 50 posts on the subject which have appeared in connection with the June 23rd synchroblog which got this whole mess going. Secondly, the astute observer will notice that I’ve skipped summarizing one of the posts — my own. I’ll rectify that today, and then carry on with some kind of synthesis of everything else that’s been said in this little adventure. Oh, and my apologies to anyone who’s getting tired of the Blues Brothers image… I don’t normally reuse my post images, but I thought I’d try a unifying image for this series as a visual tip that they go together.
Last week I I began a series examining the posts from the recent missional synchroblog in which I participated with a total of 50 bloggers (plus a few unofficial entries) in an effort to describe the meaning of the word “missional.” The project was born out of a frustration with the misuse of the term, as expressed by several of us. This was also the impetus for the major series I undertook last summer on the subject. I had left it aside for a while, but am still hoping to revive my work on the topic for eventual publishing.
Duncan McFadzean begins by quoting Mike Frost from Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture: