A Tidbit from the Missional Church Consultation

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : December 5, 2005

Friday and Saturday, I participated in the Consultation on Developing a Contextual Missiology.  It was a worthwhile experience, but not in the ways I expected.  Here are some tidbits:

  • It should have been called a Consultation on Developing a Lutheran Contextual Missiology.  I know it was at Luther Seminary, but they wanted it to be opened up to other denominational folks.  This isn’t a bad thing, but it did require me to attempt to reinterpret everything I heard through a more fluid, flexible lense.
  • They seemed to focus alot of energy on the question of how they can get their current systems and churches to be more contextual.  This was a wierd question for me.  Let us imagine together that a school like Bethel were to actually have a thought-out ecclesiology (read Miroslav Volf for a great stab at such a thing) and Craig Van Gelder (one of the missional church gurus) were the head of the congregational leadership and mission department.  In a more evangelical, free-church, world, the question would be more like: "How can we do a good job faithfully engaging new contexts?  How can we be more faithful to our own contexts?"
  • My previous observation shows that Lutheran churches grow out of a Lutheran context and are located in another context, which may or may not shape the congregation.  More evangelical-type churches are often much more contextual, because few structures or systems are assumed.  However, our problem as evangelicals is that our reading of Scripture and our telling of the Gospel are not very contextual.  So Lutherans have difficulty contexualizing their practices, Evangelicals, their message.

for further reading . . .

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4 Responses to “A Tidbit from the Missional Church Consultation”

  1. toddh on December 5th, 2005 4:01 pm

    Mark - I think that’s a fair critique. I did appreciate Mark Lau Branson’s perspective from the Black Pentecostal side of things though.

  2. Van S on December 5th, 2005 5:10 pm

    They did indeed bring in other voices, but there was a focus on Lutheran voices. That isn’t a bad thing, and I expected it, but I wonder how things would be different within different tradtions.

  3. Ryan Torma on December 5th, 2005 9:03 pm

    It was really good to have your voice at the conference. I think you are right on in the Lutheran challenge in adapting practice to suit the context. With help from folks like you we Lutherans may have a chance yet…

  4. blorge on December 6th, 2005 12:20 pm

    This was a good post, the only feedback I’d have is in reguard to your last bulletpoint. I’d argue that the message of Evangelicals is oddly contextual, but it is the wrong context for todays audience. The message of the gospel that is often preached in Evangelical churches makes some sense within Evangelical subculture, but even so, I’d argue that there are ways of articulating the gospel that make more sense within Evangelical subculture, if not within greater American culture(s). The main problem with the preaching of the gospel is that it is being presented in a way that you have to already be an insider in order to “get” and if you’re not, then it either doesn’t make any sense, or is not very attractive, or a mix of both.

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