There were some stimulating talks at this year’s Ancient Evangelical Future conference, but this morning’s session made the whole thing very worthwhile. Rick Richardson’s presentantion and the panel discussion afterward were worth the price of admission.
He talked about finding your church’s missional DNA, and how to move from being rhetorically missional (just talking about it because it’s the latest buzz word and a fashionable "badge" you can wear) to being actually missional. He suggested that just as you discover your spiritual gifts by exercising them, you discover your church’s missional DNA by expressing it. In other words, no easy answers: get out there and mix it up and apply creativity and theology as you go. Two other things stood out for me:
1. Analysis of Church Movements
His overview of the church’s missional impulse and the strengths and weaknesses of several missional church streams (including Vineyard/Calvary Chapel, seeker movement, emerging church, missional church, multi-site, etc) was outstanding. Let me re-iterate: OUTSTANDING.
2. Cautions For the Missional Church
He affirmed several elements of current theological and missiological thought and practice, but very effectively warned against some of the more radical implications of those impulses. These were the warnings:
- Missional emphasis can become mere activism, forgetting that only God brings the kingdom
- Emphasis on atonement as victory over evil can eclipse atonement as judgment on sin
- Talking about following the "way of Christ" can block out the implications of the indwelt Christ
- Just seeing that "we’re growing" doesn’t mean you’re evangelizing. We need to take "transfer growth" seriously and ask ourselves if we are being truly missional or just good marketers of religious goods and services to thsoe who were "in the market" for them anyway
- Emphasizing evangelism as deed can make us forget evangelism as word. Eventually the gospel has to be talked about – content that must be expressed verbally.
This is some great stuff to chew on. If you have some time, I’d urge you to watch the presentation and panel discussion afterward. I’ve embedded them below. (By the way, David Fitch gave me a very kind shout-out during the panel discussion – it’s about 20 minutes in, if you’re interested 😉
PRESENTATION BY RICK RICHARDSON
PANEL DISCUSSION: Richardson, Howard Snyder, David Fitch, Joel Scandrette