I have been having several conversations about mission as the church on the edge project has been discussed wider. My encounters with Flow recently have challenged many of my preconceptions and helped me question. Many conversations have been about how do we build a mission movement with enough velocity to break out of the current pull of historical Christendom shaped faith we encounter. Chris Neal from CMS speaks about how we have double wrapped faith, in culture and in structures and this was where i first heard the velocity question. He uses the analogy that in order to break the gravitational pull the earth a rocket needs to travel at something like 28000 mph and it should reach the moon in a few days but due to the pull it takes much longer. (I cant remember the exact science and speeds but you get the idea).
The are few key themes that seem to be emerging for me as I reflect on mission in what is essentially an in-between time as the grip of Christendom loosens, but we continue to live where much remains as it so mixed in with culture. So what is it to be missional today?
Firstly we need to engage in MISSION FROM BELOW – many approaches to mission (either in the emerging church or elsewhere) seem to be responses to the cultural conditions we find ourselves in and are often more a response to what the grand ideas of the time seem to be saying about the current culture (ie shaped by a post modern deconstructionist view) rather than a response to the local culture as encountered on the ground. It is great that we are informed of these larger (often academically shaped) questions/concepts so we can raise our own awareness and understand motivators within ourselves, but questionable of their value on the ground. Paul raises some interesting issues with postmodernity The Replacements move
I am aware this raises issues why do we need to break out the gravitational pull mentioned, have we diagnosed wrongly, is it present etc, but I would argue that as I seek to live in a missional way locally and encounter people locally and nationally the pull is manifested and an ever present reality which brings me onto my second point.
FINDING A NEW LANGUAGE – Our current christian language is pretty much bankrupt and unhelpful as we encounter people on the ground, not least because the multiculturalism present. On occasion they have not heard any of the jargon but in the majority of cases it still carries massive preconceptions shaped by a corrupted version of Christianity either encountered or perceived. Tied up in these first two ideas is also the idea of BEING AND VOICING THE CHANGE you want to see. Using the new language, and speaking with and up for the communities you serve.
BECOMING POWERLESS -what does it mean to engage in mission from a powerless position. Obviously we always have different aspects of power, but taking Christ as an example may mean something different if we reflect on the powerless approach. The power issue is central to the process of finding a new language and mission from below and will raise the issue of the need to engage in a kind herectical imperative as part of the process of encountering the God who is present in our partial understanding and beyond our comprehension. It raises a myriad of questions eg Is our concept that we carry (a) truth a position of power? If we have a name or language for God that is only partial but we take it as a whole are we exerting a form of ideological power or other power position? It begins to question our current interpretations of what it means to be incarnational but as we work from this position it fuels us in the process of finding language and provides a reference point as we seek to engage with God mission from below. We allow those from below to interpret the scriptures and value the insights and processes, we may offer the historic interpretations but carefully and with the permission of those we serve.
Thirdly DEVELOP MISSIONAL SPIRITUALITY where we move beyond the ideas that either we are the bringers of good news or that we simply find God in dark places but rather a process that integrates mission and the ongoing search/journey and sees mission as way of going deeper into the life that God has called us. This is not about being more engrossed in doing mission but becoming more fully human through pursuing the missional God who is always beyond and always close. Mission may be what it means to live your life as one of worship or enables you begin the journey to learn what it means to pray constantly.
REFLEXIVE JUSTIFICATION – I wrote as part of the series about a redefinition of church on Do-Be-Do and this is a continuation of that process. When you are not sure what to do get and do something and reflect as you go (hattip to Pete Rollins). It is reflexive justification rather thank reflective because as we DEVELOP MISSION SPIRITUALITY we find our spiritual/mission reflexes are developed, we engage in the dance of God with creation.
Finally for me there is something about FINDING AND TELLING STORIES THAT BREAK THE NARRATIVE. This is mainly in relation to other Christians, telling stories that are out of the box, sourced from those engaged in MISSION FROM BELOW, and embedded with MISSIONAL SPIRITUALITY, stories from those who are learning a NEW LANGUAGE and finding strength in BECOMING POWERLESS. As we live and tell these stories and find others we create fissures in the current narrative and pathways for others to go beyond us.