Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mission...? Bah Humbug...

I used to think that much of mission talk was pretty much subjective; that you could maintain a partisan approach to mission and that was okay; that mission was much a point of opinion. However, I am struggling to stomach that anymore...

Grumpy old man here, 42 this month and I feel some intolerance coming on, not difficult after a day Christmas shopping, people walking too slowly, stopping to look at things in the shops (for goodness sake!!), offering me loyalty cards...! "NO BETHAN I AM NOT STRESSED... I AM SHOPPING.....THAT IS WHAT HAPPENS!"

For another thing .... I used to think that much of mission talk was pretty much subjective; that you could maintain a partisan approach to mission and that was okay; that mission was much a point of opinion, a point of view. However, I am struggling to stomach that anymore – as I see our mission narrative as a point of deep theology and can understand why Martin Kähler, (1908) would describe mission as the mother of all theology.

So I am troubled by a mission narrative that is outside that of:-

  • the Reign of God;

  • the gospel that Jesus 'was and is';

  • our call to be signposts of hope;

  • salvation as shown through Jesus’ life and ministry;

  • the counter cultural message that Jesus is Lord;

  • our unequivocal call as church to signpost that which culminates 'New Creation';

  • Romans 8 and our task to discover how righteousness should be met in us;

  • the demands and opportunities of our post-christian culture;

  • TSA's highly contextual heritage;

When I hear a mission narrative that is born largely of the enlightenment; when I hear a mission narrative that could resemble a subtle form of Gnosticism; when I hear a mission narrative that compels an approach to mission content with throwing answers at people who are not asking the questions - the distraction and lack of theology makes me feel sad.

There you go ..... sorry .... but I am feeling grumpy......!


John said...

Sounds interesting, Grumpy Gordon.

Are you willing to unpack this a little more, because my little brain isn't quite grasping your thoughts here.

Fill me in, mate.

J :-)

Graeme Smith said...

Although for a different reason, I'm with Mr Laird on this one. I'd love to hear/read you unpack this one a little more as I suspect I know where you're coming from!

Anonymous said...

Agree wholeheartedly. Find myself getting frustrated with so much theologically empty mission statements and talk. ‘What must we learn, and unlearn, to be agents of God's mission in the world?’ Our primitive friends seem to think the answer lies in the golden days(?) of the Army’s past and that if we do as they did we will return to our glorious past. However, the framework that shaped the world of the Booth’s and the early Army contained assumptions that have been not only turned upside down, but have in fact disappeared. A restorationist approach which clamours for the past collapse the present into the past tradition tends to turn the tradition into an idol. We cannot be time travellers nor can we undo the intervening years. As we wrestle with our core identity over against a hostile world, ‘How can we be ambassadors for Christ in a world that does not speak our language?’ We need new road maps, new contextualizations of the gospel and new expressions of what it means to be the Army in the 21st century. Much of our learning, and unlearning, will be a rediscovery of the mission theology of the missio Dei and reengagement with Christianity's beginnings as found in the biblical narrative. We need to relearn to indwell the biblical narrative so that our life, witness and worship are shaped by that narrative rather than the myths of the past. This will require some serious theological thinking about how the gospel shapes us as the people of God. This we require serious engagement with the gospel and a willingness to allow the gospel to challenge and change us.
New Road maps. We cannot develop new maps without an appreciation of the maps that have shaped and absorbed Christian life in general and The Army’s in particular for the past several centuries. Hence, the importance of understanding Christendom and Modernity. We cannot jump into the so-called postmodern experience without an honest dialogue that produces a clear picture of what it means to be TSA and hope to avoid merely repackaging either past or the future or enshrining Booth’s framework and ways as normative for today.
New road maps must emerge through an engagement with the biblical narrative. When a world that has shaped us comes to an end, we neither suddenly nor automatically find ourselves transported into some new ‘promised land’ flowing with milk and honey’. Rather, the Holy Spirit invites us to enter the gospel story that must shape our imagination and thereby shape our future. Its when we do this we become participants in the story and we see ourselves in what is recorded in Scripture.
The maps, like mission, are made on the way, they can’t be drawn ahead of time ( strategic planning or organizational change to create a ‘missional’ system). On this journey we’ll need to unlearn and relearn a few things. The implications for mapping a future in TSA are massive. And I cannot predict such a map at this point. But, if we dare re-enter Scripture from the perspective of the edges of exile, to read one’s traditions from this perspective without the need to create solutions and control the maps will emerge.


Gordon said...

Wayne seems to have done a fair bit of unpacking!

Excuse the pun but the post was more of a 'cathartic' post - I just needed to get it out of the system!! For now it'll just get me going again - but I'll probably do a series 'unpacking mission...' in the new year :o)

Graeme Smith said...

Some good stuff in there Wayne! What's more is that it makes uncomfortable reading in places.

Gordon, whilst it may have been a 'cathartic' post, this and the Brueggemann one have certainly got me thinking and I'm doing a little unpacking of my own. May well post about this once I've got the thoughts developed a little more.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to have maybe gone on a bit. As Graeme says it gets one thinking and working through the challenges. Trust the new year will continue to bring its blessings and challenges. Wright is a real challenge - certainly turns one's assumptions upside down - or is that the right way up.


Gordon said...

Wayne when I started blogging I was always hopeful that people would take my thoughts and run with them; taking them further. I'm glad that you do so and would always welcome your input - your thoughts are always a blessing and an encouragment.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the encouragement. I enjoy the site and like you find NT a challenge as well as a great help. Thanky for your contribution to my ongoing theological education. Wayne