More on Missional

I wrote my post, “Which Missional Church?” last week in order to further hone my thinking on the matter.  It succeeded.  Not only are there  many good comments on that item (see particularly the comment by Craig Goodwin, whose forthcoming book is excellent), I also heard back from others via Twitter and Facebook.  Based on the responses there, I’d like to amend the two camps I laid out last week.

First of all, on Twitter, David Fitch objected to being put in the same camp as Ed Stetzer:

I guess I hadn’t been paying close enough attention, because David wrote his own taxonomy of the missional church on his blog the week prior to my post (please forgive me that in my dissertation writing haze, I have fallen way behind on Google Reader).  He says there are three missionals: the anabaptists (of which he is one), the reformed (Driscoll, Acts 29), and the pragmatists (Kimball, et al).

On Facebook, Tim Neufeld also thinks my categories need emendation.  He writes,

If I had to choose two types of Missional leaders it would be #1) the theologians (Guder, Van Gelder, Roxburgh, Franke, etc (though this group could be broken further between pure academics and practitioners)), and #2) the hyper-modern church growthers like Stetzer, Stanely, McNeal and tons more (these folks are still talking about how we can get more people to church, be more relevant to the culture, etc.).

I think they’re both right, to a point.  If anything, I should not have classified Stetzer with the other evangelicalish missionals.  I don’t know Ed’s theological underpinnings.  Those of Guder et al and Fitch et al are much easier to sniff out.

Now, there’s another good critique of my post, and that’s that I’ve done just what I objected to when, years ago, Stetzer came up with his Three R’s of the emerging church.  If I’ve done to another what I don’t want done to me, I apologize.  I don’t mean to box people in.  I meant only to get my own head around the term “missional.”

Further, it’s clear in Ed’s writing that he considers his Three R’s to be on a spectrum from more theologically orthodox to less theologically orthodox.  I don’t mean to do anything of the sort.  In fact, I am almost completely uninterested in what Tim Neufeld calls the “hyper-modern” approach to missional.  I am really interested in a theological debate between the Anabaptists and the (non-hyper-)Reformed folks.  That is, between Fitch and Guder.

Can someone make that happen?

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  • toddh

    Yeah, right on. Sign me up for the Fitch – Guder conversation. I think that’s where the constructive energy in this missional debate really lies. Also, Craig Van Gelder and another professor at Luther have a book coming out that looks like another take on dissecting the directions of “missional:”

  • Thanks for the update, Tony.

    Hmm, didn’t know I would get quoted so I hope I didn’t sound too harsh. I appreciate the work of all the authors cited, I just see different agenda roughly represented in the two streams mentioned. For the sake of disclosure, I’ve studied with Roxburgh and Branson at Fuller for the last few years. These guys are working with some seminal academic content (Newbigin, Bosch, Yoder, Hauerwas, Guder and co.) and trying to work it out “on the ground” in the real life of the church. Van Gelder is doing the same at Luther. The theory/praxis loop is the framework for mission.

    With regard to the original post, I think I’d also add a third category in the missional conversation, though it certainly isn’t formal. It might not even be recognizable. These are the unsung faithful who quietly work listening and responding to the kingdom. These are folks who will never be published, never have an article written about them, never attend a missional lecture. They are in neighborhood ministries, home studies and small ethnic churches. They are orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Anabaptist, mainstream and no-stream. They have an intuition rather than a precise theology or praxis about this stuff. I absolutely love these people who faithfully and instinctively reach out as missionaries to all who are in need while routinely gathering for worship and celebration. Beautiful.

  • Tony, …
    that tweet was a bit in jest, since Bob Hyatt and I had just been lampooning an argument over the merits of McDonald’s versus Starbuck’s (Hyatt’s preferred choice in Portland) as “third places,” and Ed and I had just been bantering on twitter over whether his church planting strategy in Nashville was an exercise in church planting or “church competition.”
    … but I think your proposal is a worthy one. If I were to parse the evangelical-ish missionals theologically, I would continue to push for the most clear divisions being between the Neo-Reformed, the more Pragmatic Missionals and the Neo-Anabaptists (the post that you link to above). Of us all, I see the GOCN as having the most overlap with the Neo-Anabaptists although I know for sure that both Guder and Van Gelder have objected to Stephen Bevans putting GOCN in that counter-cultural last chapter in Models of Contextual Theology. The founding thinker of GOCN, Newbigin, is very much in sync with someone like Hauerwas. Ecclesia Network has been very receptive to both myself and Guder (we were both speakers at their national gatherings and I now sit on the board). In my forthcoming book I end up showing how evangelical theology has the seeds to form a political theology that is distinctly missional in the terms laid down by Bosch, Newbigin and Guder. So I’ve learned so much from all of the GOCN, and I now work with Roxburgh and Van Gelder in a D Min program at Northern Seminary
    Having said all that however, I think there are some differences/distinctives in Neo-Anabaptist thought (from the GOCN group) that offer resources for the church in mission caught in America’s new post-Christendom cultures. For this reason I’ll try to post a little more on ths subject in the not too distant future. Thanks for the provocation!

  • Ben

    I divide ‘missional church’ into two groups – the Mino and the Missional.

    What ever the division they fit into from those you have described above I feel the far more important distinction is between those who are actively committed to a wholesale radical reorientation of the church and their lives around mission & those who are Mino (or missional in name only). The Mino have watered down the very concept of missional until it is almost meaningless as a distinct approach to church.

    Time for a nameless revolution.

  • Tony writes:

    I guess I hadn’t been paying close enough attention, because David wrote his own taxonomy of the missional church on his blog the week prior to my post (please forgive me that in my dissertation writing haze, I have fallen way behind on Google Reader).

    Fitch’s post (which is a very fine one) is from January 23rd 2009–2 years ago!