Hello there. I’m Jim Doepken. Nice to meet you. I’m the husband of an awesome wife, the father of five awesome kids, the son of some awesome parents (my mom might read this), the owner of an awesome dog, the pastor of a couple of awesome churches up in Alaska, and I’m on a mission from God. Or, perhaps, I’m trying to follow God’s mission in the world. Or, maybe I’m a missionary…but not in the sense going off to the wilds of some country to convert everyone. Whatever the case, this is my place to highlight some missional thought that is shaping what I do, who I am, and how I see God acting in the world.
As a new year has begun and I’ve expanded the blog to a Facebook presence, I thought it would be appropriate to share with folks WHY I have this thing called “Missional Field Notes.” It’s a long story, really.
You see, I’ve always been a community-minded person. From my childhood, community involvement, community improvement, gathering together with others was always a priority for myself and for my family. And, when it came to church, one of things that fascinated me was the connection between the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Kingdom work in the world. Yes, at times, I was one of those who seemed like a “do-gooder” for the church—a person who could lose sight of the theological reasons for our work for the sake of just doing good things in the world. There are lots of organizations doing good things in the world and who have nothing to do with Jesus. That’s not what I want to be. Forgive me.
In the second church I served in Alaska, at Girdwood Chapel United Methodist Church, I started thinking about church in a different way. Our church was, by default, “the community chapel.” And, kind of by default again, I was the community pastor. We talked about blurring the lines between church and community. We were striving to find ways to welcome the community into our space. But, because of our VERY limited space for much of my time there we were also striving to find ways to get the church out into the world. And we did this in many wonderful ways.
It’s around this time, starting around 2006 or so, that I discovered some of this new (yet ancient) missional terminology. I had studied a little bit of Lesslie Newbigin in seminary, years ago and was familiar with some of his work about church and world. I started picking up some new terminology that gave me some of the Scriptural and theological language to describe, with integrity, what our church had been up to. We talked about INCARNATION and embodying Christ in this world. We talked of the SENDING NATURE of God and how he sends the Christ and then sends the church. We talked of the MISSIO DEI, the mission of God to restore all things. We started focussing on Eugene Peterson’s wonderful translation of John 1:14 where, instead of “the word” becoming “flesh and dwelling among us,” Christ “moves into the neighborhood.” We stressed Genesis 12 and Abraham’s calling where he is “blessed to be a blessing.” We looked more seriously at the early church.
Some authors and bloggers became more and more of a priority for me. David Fitch, Alan Hirsh, and Michael Frost are probably primary here. But, along the way, I’m indebted to the tweets of Dan White Jr., the down-to-earth movement towards a post-evangelicalism in Rachel Held Evans, and the wonderful Academy for Missional Wisdom with the leadership of Elaine Heath.
Along the way I collected blog posts and quotes and snippets and real-live examples of missional churches doing missional things. I followed the work of The Missio Alliance, even attending their conference. I watched Fresh Expressions, Mike Breen and 3DM, and The Verge Network. I payed attention to Austin Stone and the Sentralized Conferences. I even applied and was accepted at a Doctor of Ministry program on missional theology (which I dropped out of before even starting due to a change in their format).
When all was said and done, I had a huge Evernote collection of stuff I found important and wanted this to shape my theology and my practice in the United Methodist Churches that I serve.
This blog was a way for me to keep up that practice. It was a way for me to share some of the stuff I had found and the stuff I continue to find and the stuff that was shaping my present ministry…my own little missional frontier.
I need to confess that I’m not much of a “missional practitioner” at this point. I’ve earned no stripes. After a big push to a missional community last spring I was blindsided by the Seward, Alaska summer and the move of some of our key people. While we do have a church that is trying to get out of their four walls and engage their community in new ways, it would be untrue to call ourselves a “missional church.” Yet all of this continues to shape the congregations I serve because it continues to shape me. I still get passionate when I talk about it. I get passionate when I read the latest cool missional idea from some church far away. I get passionate when I’m able to connect the theological dots from the helping of a neighbor in need to the grand sweep of salvation history found in an understanding of the missio Dei. And all of the things you’ll read on this blog speak to me and the shaping of ministry in this place.
This is not a “long-form” blog. I, frankly, don’t write a whole lot personal reflection after pulling ideas and videos and tweets and examples from others. But I want to get them down. And I want to share them. And I encourage any readers of this site to follow the links back to the original sources. I make no claim to be as smart or “missionally minded” as any of them. But I do want to share the ideas of the original authors…in the hopes that others will get passionate about this stuff as well and, perhaps, there will be folks in my local congregations that will catch onto that same vision.
So, if you’re still reading, feel free to “LIKE” this on Facebook. Feel free to check out my personal blog at JimDoepken.com. Feel free to make a comment or two. And feel free to see how all of this relates to your own “MISSIONAL FRONTIER.”
Thanks for reading.
I look forward to another year of “Missional Field Notes: Quotes, Examples, and Ideas from My Missional Frontier.”