Tuesday, March 11, 2008
"Were not our hearts burning within us...
...while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"
That is the Scripture that came to mind Friday night, and I've been wrestling ever since. That wrestling isn't exactly the reason I haven't posted in a few days. That had more to do with being snowed "in". I thought a bit about blogging on that, but it's just not that big a deal - beyond the fact that they simply don't get out and plough here in Ohio like they do in Southern Ontario, where I grew up.
For those of you who may not have known, Darrell Guder, Academic Dean, Professor of Missional and Ecumenical Theology - and one of my favourite people at Princeton, was in town as a keynote speaker at a special "Spring Fest" event of the Presbytery of Scioto Valley Saturday. I was set to introduce him and be one of a dozen or more leaders of workshops. Due to the storm, the event was canceled - but not the Friday night dinner. Dr. Guder had flown in ahead of the storm and so the dinner remained - a way for some of us to engage the idea of the "Missional Church" and to hear from him.
While I have no bones to pick with our presbytery, I'm not entirely sure that many are really "on board" with what Dr. Guder is saying - or even know what he is saying. It has (the word "missional") become, I was reminded recently, a "buzz word" among theological circles and within the church. I regret that - as does Dr. Guder and Dr. George Hunsberger - who coined the phrase. But the explosion of interest has outstripped the ability of those who began this conversation - The Gospel and our North American Culture - spawned mainly by a challenge delivered by the late Bishop, pastor, missionary and theologian Lesslie Newbigin when he looked at the state of the North American church in a post-Christendom situation and asked "What is the Church in N. America going to do to address this changed culture?" The Warfield Lectures he gave in 1984 were eventually expanded and published as Foolishness to the Greeks, The Gospel and Western Culture.
As I sat in that room with pastors and Christian educators, lay leaders and spouses, I was transported back to seminary, when I was under Dr. Guder - I was excited and energized with the gospel - and the mission that we have been called to undertake as Christ's church. The major difference, is that I was now in a church. This was no longer theoretical but real. I was now engaged in this conversation in the context of a living, breathing, community - one called by Christ but one that may not recognize their calling. And I realized that the conversation - the conversation that focuses on HOW we live out our missional calling in the midst of this Western Culture, in the midst of our faith communities - those same communities that now pay us to be (for lack of a better term) - purveyors of religious goods. How now, brown cow?
I want desperately to continue to the conversation. I want desperately to engage in these ideas - to understand how we can be those sent ones we have been called to be. In part, my initial response comes from that passage above - as he... opened the Scriptures to us - and my prayer right now is that I will discover some conversation partners that I can walk with and talk with, right here where I live...