Roxburgh & Franke
I’m attending a class about the “Nature and Mission of the Church,” that’s being held at Jacob’s Well in KC. I’m just going to throw some of the thoughts I’m encountering and maybe play with them a little bit. I’ll try to do a little bit each day.
If we’re going to start this conversation about what “Missional church” is, we must start it with the question “whose mission is it?” The answer to that (ala Moltmann, church in the power of the Spirit) the mission is God’s not the church’s. The missio dei is about God and God is responsible for it from start to finish. This is God’s show, so the natural question follows, “who is God?”
Things we want to say about God…God is:
- Truine – a plurality in oneness; there are two theories of Trinity, West and East
- West: start with the oneness of God & ask “how is this one, three?” (Augustine) So he wanted to explore the ways in which in the internal life of human being we could identify plurality of being. His answer was the psychological.
- East: They start with the three and ask, “How are these three, one?” Their analogy was the social analogy of the Trinity. So it is a relation.
- Social – not solitary.
- Love – I was thinking that this sounds just like John Zizioulas who says that Love, in regard to God, is “the supreme ontological predicate,” that before God is anything God is love.
- Missional – in God’s very life
The things we want to say about church:
- It is the image of God (this is a communal image)
- We are spoken of as the body of Christ
Dr. Roxburgh talked in detail about the life of Lesslie Newbigin, which was really cool. I know some of his history, but Roxburgh put some life into the thin biography with which I was acquainted with.
He was part of the Gospel in Culture Network that produced the book “Missional Church,” edited by Darrell Guder. He was in on that project and realized after the fact that they took the safe road, which is to talk about theology and the church instead of talking about the serious question of Missional engagement concerning justice, mercy, compassion, politics and life together.
He mentioned the idea that the conversation about the church is not quite the point. But we talk about the church so much because that is safe ground. But if you really want to see what God is up to, you’ve got to get outside the church.
One of my thoughts when I was listening to these guys, I jotted down this response:
“Do we really engage this entire endeavor as means of transforming our churches, or as a means of transforming the world? Because if it is God’s mission, I think we simply do this in response to who God is, not merely to make a difference. I don’t know any other way to conceive of it that doesn’t become contingent upon results.”
Newbigin calls it “the sign and the foretaste” – from Pannenberg, who called it proleptically actualized. I hear them venerate Lesslie Newbigin a lot, but he was writing this stuff after Moltmann and Pannenberg. I hear many echoes of those two greats when I read Newbigin. I really think Newbigin copped a lot of his theological ideas from those guys. I do not know if he interacted with their work or not, but it seems like if he didn’t, he arrived at a place that they had already been.
Other important ideas that I’m interacting with in my mind are sort of connected to the thought of Moltmann. He said that mission includes but is not confined to the church. That means, then, that mission includes but is not confined to the denomination or church network. Moltmann insisted that the church cannot absolutize itself but has to fulfill its own messianic role by increasing dialogue with its partners in history. This means not only interdenominational dialogue but ecumenism as well. The Missional church will consider their role in pure dialogue just for the purpose of understanding and looking for where God is at work. God is not simply at work in the life of the church. The church cannot be absolutizing.