Missional Monday: Wright Sings, Chan Chastised, Breen Brings It

Here’s a quick recap of the major highlights from the missional conversation last week:

  • N.T. Wright performed at The Rabbit Room (not to be confused with The Bunny Ranch), singing an original song he co-wrote with Francis Collins called “Genesis” (sung to the tune of The Beatles “Yesterday”), as well as an interesting cover of Bob Dylan’s “When The Ship Comes In.” (Don’t quit your day job, Tom!) Wright was making other headlines around his views on Heaven. Money quote: “What we are doing at the moment is building for the Kingdom.”
  • Francis ChanFrancis Chan got chastised by Chaplain Mike over at The Internet Monk, for a comment he made at the 2012 Verge conference during a talk on missional fellowship. The offending quote: “If I just read the Scriptures, I wouldn’t even think so much about the gathering. You know, like, my first thought wouldn’t be, ‘Let’s have a gathering.’” Chaplain Mike argues that this one singular statement (from one talk at one conference) disregards “the ecclesial nature of salvation.” Alternatively, he points to Acts 2:42-47 to suggest that “if this passage is any indication, their ‘mission’ grew out of their ‘fellowship,’ not vice versa.” This whole debate points to the very real tension in the missional conversation around the nature and purpose and structure of gatherings in relation to God’s mission.
  • Mike Breen brought it on church leadership in a blog post promoting the launch of his new book Making Missional Leaders. Breen writes, “At the end of the day, what most pastors want (and have been trained to want!) is minions to execute the most important vision of all. Their own. In doing this, they effectively kill people’s ability to get a vision of their own.” And this (which relates to the whole Chan controversy): “I don’t think we’d know what to do with missional leaders if a bunch of them were given to us. Our vision for church has been so captured by the place and space of the four walls of Sunday mornings that we’ve bought into the belief that it’s the only place where leadership lies.” Go read the whole thing. Breen nails it.

  • http://www.umcworship.org Taylor BurtonEdwards (@twbe)

    So, it looks to me like Chaplain Mike may not quite have the same idea for “gathering” as Francis Chan does.

    When Francis Chan spoke of gathering, at least the way I hear him use that term, he was referring to a mass assembly for worship. When he says he wouldn’t think of doing that first– well, show one example in the gospels where that is what Jesus is up to with his disciples or the crowds. I’ll wait while you look that up.

    It’s not that worship is unimportant for Christian life and discipleship, or for helping to instantiate us a body of Christ. It’s critically important for all of that.

    But if we’re looking at missional strategy through the lenses of Jesus and much of the early church, as revealed both in scripture and in other documents, “the worship service” (the gathering) wasn’t the first thing Christians focused on for evangelism, discipling, or sending people into mission. Instead, Jesus and later his disciples announced and incarnated the good news of the arrival of God’s kingdom, and from time to time some of those who responded to such announcements and embodiments also found themselves called to become disciples of Jesus, too. I have little doubt that Jesus had some sort of worship life with his disciples, apart from the synagogues they would frequent or the practices of Judaism (such as Passover) they shared as a””new family unit.” But what that community-specific worship practice was like, really, we have almost no idea. About the only hints we have of it from Scripture are the story of the commending of the “Lord’s Prayer” and the line from Acts 2 about the newly baptized folk breaking bread from house to house (a proto-Eucharist?) and their participation in “the prayers” (at the temple– so not uniquely Christian) and “the apostles’ teaching.” While one might see in those “hints” a precursor of “word and table” as a daily practice, that seems weak at best, especially given the witness both by Acts and the Corinthian correspondence that Paul’s work in Corinth in founding the community there was far more about teaching outside a worship setting than the creation of a worshiping community per se.

    • http://www.knightopia.com/blog Steve Knight

      Thanks for weighing in, Taylor!


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