That’s what Dr. Kyle Roberts argued yesterday over at the Cultivare blog (on the Evangelical channel of Patheos) in his post “How Theological Is the ‘Missional Church’?”
“Reading about the origin of the modern movement in the theology of [Karl] Barth — and theological missiologists — makes me wonder how much of the missional church / missional theology movement is currently grounded in a deep theology? How pervasive, within the movement, is a reflective (and critical) theological articulation of the church’s existence — in relation to the trinitarian God and to the fully-orbed nature of the Gospel? I don’t know the answer to this, but it does seem that ‘missional church’ could easily become a catch-phrase which works well for marketing, but would not have much staying power if it is not grounded in a deep theological perspective.”
I share Dr. Roberts concern about “missional” being minimized to a meaningless buzzword, but it’s been my experience that missional practitioners are deeply engaged in theological reflection around the nature of God, God’s mission in the world, the kingdom and issues such as contextualization. But, like most church settings, that deep theological reflection is not always shared with or by the people in the communities we are forming.
Just as Joe Blow in the church pew at your traditional church does not know and is not taught half of what the seminary-educated pastor in the pulpit knows and has learned, many missional communities are not passing along a deep missional theology, perhaps because the pendulum has swung (in some cases) so far from an overemphasis on orthodoxy to an overemphasis on orthopraxy.
In other words, we’re so busy participating in God’s mission, that we don’t take time to talk about the theological underpinnings of why and how we are to be doing that missional work in the world.
I could be wrong, but that is my sense. So I agree with what Dr. Roberts is suggesting here, and that is part of the reason I’ve started this Missional Shift blog, to bring together all the various discussions around missional church (including the deep theological ones) into conversation with each other so that we can all learn and grow together. That’s my hope anyway.
What do you think about this question about deep theology in the missional church? Is my assessment correct? Have we swung the pendulum to far to orthopraxy?