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Archive for the ‘Evangelism / Missions’ Category

Thinking “Missional”

Posted by Jon on January 18, 2007

One of the newer buzzphrases these days among believers in Jesus is the term “missional apologetics.” Place that term over against the old apologetics model used by evangelicals, Catholics, and other believers. It used to be that apologetics was about differentiating. That is, “you believe ‘X,’ but Christians believe ‘A.’ Here’s the historical, biblical, logical proof as to why I’m right about this and you and your friends are wrong.”

Well, sure, that’s a fairly gross over-simplification of what apologetics used to be (and still, alas, too often seems to be!). But it does seem to many of us that apologetics has majored on attack and divide rather than on dialogue and mutual learning from one another. Oooo… I can imagine eyebrows being raised at the idea of Jesus followers “learning” from, say, Buddhists!

Missional apologetics, however, does suggest precisely that. The term “missional,” of course, suggests what today’s missionary organizations have increasingly studied and done as they interact with other world cultures. Instead of the old-school approach where western cultural assumptions are “sold” to the culture being missionized, the missionary reaching out goes to learn about and interact with the heart of the culture she is attempting to reach with Jesus’ Good News.

This doesn’t bother too many people when applied to tribal groups. But it bothers a lot of people if applied to, say, Neo-Pagans or even Satanists. The old-school assumption is, though not often stated, that “I know what’s true and you do not know, therefore I will asssert authority over you and your culture.”

Does that sound familiar? The term used by many cultures being so assaulted by the West is “Imperialism.” America comes in and dictates what is “reality” in the culture being overtaken. Missionaries may not have understood their subversive role in the Imperialistic Enterprise (though some did in fact understand it). But those being colonized understood.

The need for a Christianity that is self-aware of its ability to be an unwitting carrier of cultural viruses is obvious. So is the need for Jesus believers who understand that any human conversation is a two-way street. If I talk with a Unificationist (“Moonie”) about Jesus, I should be willing to hear and try to understand his grid of meaning — that is, his way of seeing the world and interpreting it.

God is Truth, but we are not. And thinking missionally, at the very least, means we confess our own faults and blindnesses and exercise great humility as we attempt conversations with others about their beliefs. Christians who write, speak, and teach on other cultures of belief far too often present viciously reductionistic versions of the faiths and peoples they claim to be “experts” about.

For more reading on this, I suggest a few great websites, including Sacred Tribes Journal (which I am a contributor and the current webmaster of), Morehead’s Musings (John Morehead being a leader in Missional Apologetics applied to New Religious Movements and Sacred Tribes participant), John Smulo’s Missional Apologetics (Smulo being another conspirator on the Sacred Tribes site), and writer of the lengthiest Sacred Tribes articles, Phil Johnson, with his emergent / pomo Circle of Pneuma. The eager student of such things will find many more links on these sites, as well as extensive ruminations, interviews (with Neo-pagans among others!), and other food for thought.

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A Desperate Kind of Faithful

Posted by Jon on January 11, 2007

Chris Rice, a friend and co-worker here at Jesus People USA, has posted some things worth reading lately on his A Desperate Kind of Faithful. Not least is his post on a preacher he knows very, very well… a man who has been trying to follow Jesus in serving “the least of these” for decades.

For instance, in “The Preacher Who Would Not Go Away,” Chris writes:

I heard tell about this preacher once. He just wouldn’t go away. He kept talkin about how churches should be noticing the homeless and poor walking the streets. He kept talkin about prisoners and their rights. He knew very well that this wasn’t popular. He knew the folks of this little city would rather see the homeless freeze to death or kill each other than try to help them. He knew that prisons were more popular than shelters, bigger money makers. But he wouldn’t back down. He kept talking about Jesus and what He said to do. He’d walk the streets with the homeless just to talk and get to know them. He ran this little thrift store and just gave away everything inside. He let the homeless sleep over night in the little store even when the little city said shelters had to be 2000 feet apart. Bars on the same street could be 200 feet apart but when you’re drunk you can’t just sleep on the floor of the bar. So the police harassed the little group who dared invite the homeless into their store. The next day the preacher walked the whole crew the five miles down to the police station and offered himself in behalf of the staff. “Don’t arrest them, he said, arrest me!” The police got all nice and helpful and couldn’t understand what he was talking about. Over the next few weeks, as temperatures dropped, the little store got flooded with hopeless cases. “Lets see if they can withstand this!” someone said. “We’ll see how much rendering their good heart can take!”

And things get worse from there when tragedy strikes via a rape, and the media does what media always does best…

Anyway, check Chris’ thoughts out. They’re worth a read, and maybe some silence afterward…

Posted in Evangelism / Missions, Homelessness, Poverty | Leave a Comment »