“Merely transferring spiritual information can inoculate us to on-the-ground practice. Practice is being formed and informed by the bumps, bruises and baptism of application… this is being a Jesus follower.”
True learning doesn’t take place until we learn experientially. And experiential learning often starts with someone modeling what we are to do.
The book of Acts provides insight for us in strategy development. Certainly the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in AD 70 at the hands of Roman soldiers seemed a potential threat to Judaism and the fledgling Jesus movement. Yet, led by the Holy Spirit, Paul and his team connected their strengths to this opportunity and developed strategies that changed the world.
Devised in their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas, and later Paul and other members of the team, traveled to significant cities where the Jewish diaspora lived. Their strategic pattern in each city was the same: proclaim the good news first in the synagogue. If and when the opposition became too great, they moved to homes or marketplace gatherings to continue proclaiming. Once a faith community was established, they appointed elders to shepherd the new churches, and as directed by the Holy Spirit or when persecution intensified, moved on to other cities to continue the same strategy (see Acts 13:13-52 and Acts 14:1-25).
Paul’s strengths, gifts, and experiences included a bicultural, multilingual, cosmopolitan upbringing with a Pharisaical education perfectly intersected with the contexts of exiled Jews in Greek/Roman cities. Paul’s teammates were similar but also contributed other gifts and experiences.
J.R. Woodward and Mark Lau Branson Discuss Misconceptions of “Missional”
JRW—Alan Roxbourgh has said, “The word ‘missional’ seems to have traveled the remarkable path of going from obscurity to banality in only one decade.” I would agree, which is why I appreciate how you take an informed understanding of the missional conversation to bring fresh imagination for church planting.
What would you say are the biggest misconceptions about the “missional” church?
MLB—The term is used to describe sending more missionaries, or restocking the food pantry, or participating in civic activities, or fostering the arts. Some of these activities are good. But overwhelmingly, churches and planters embody the late modern practices of strategic planning, cultural hegemony, commodification, and consumer marketing.
So, when I hear or read stories and strategies that include those elements, I know they have not been shaped in the new habits that Newbigin and others have advanced. The theological praxis of discerning and participating in the always-already initiatives of God in a particular place is profoundly different than the common attempts to deliver religious goods, services, and concepts to what we assume are generic neighbors.
God is more contextually engaged than we can imagine! Craig Brown and AJ Swoboda note how they were awakened by neighbors. That needs to center missional life.