American Baptists Asking Missional Questions and Seeking New Vocabulary

American Baptists Asking Missional Questions and Seeking New Vocabulary August 19, 2013

Back in June, the American Baptist denomination hosted it’s biennial Mission Summit in Overland Park/Kansas City, KS.

Justin Thornbugh, an ABC-USA pastor in Indianapolis, IN, said this about the Summit (quoted from Facebook with permission):

“ABC-USA is pushing us to common mission. That is what I found so fascinating at our Mission Summit. The big questions posed were not the ‘How do we grow our shrinking churches?’ and other such survivalist oriented questions. The central question was, ‘What IS God doing?’ It caused people to stop and think — to see that God is actually already doing things in their various contexts. It then forced the question of how do we become involved in the work God is already doing? …

“The mentality of Christendom seemed to be focused on what can WE do to perpetuate the power of the church. Post-Christendom is forcing the church to return to a more Gospel/Grace-centered understanding of what is GOD doing and how do we live into that. It is a dynamic shift of understanding power.

“One of the most troubling things at the Mission Summit was tied to the thing I found fascinating. People were not able to articulate or see how God is already working! The language around my table was so rooted in the mentality of ‘we have to do the work’ that noticing God’s present work was almost absent. People could not name how God was at work. …

“Our vocabulary needs to see a fundamental shift. It is, I think, a shift from this mentality of the power residing in our own capabilities to understanding that the power is from God. The power Jesus had was used for God’s purposes, not to show how pious he was or for growing his followers. It was a surrender to God’s transformative power that gave witness on earth.”

Which reminds me of 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

So great to hear that the American Baptists are making this missional shift, asking missional questions, and seeking new vocabulary for how to talk about this work. We all need new language and renewed imaginations to discern and to see and to step into the kingdom of God unfolding in our midst.

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