Previous posts in this series:
- So what is Missio Alliance and this Future of the Gospel Gathering? (Pt. 1)
- The FUTURE of the Gospel: Renewing Evangelical Imagination for Mission (Pt. 2)
- The Future of the GOSPEL: Renewing Evangelical Imagination for Mission (Pt. 3)
I was thinking about trying to tackle RENEWING, EVANGELICAL, and IMAGINATION in individual posts, but they are so interconnected that I think it just works better to treat them together. This will make this post a little longer, hope you’ll hand with me!
The assumption that of course lies behind this phrase is that EVANGELICAL IMAGINATION (with special reference to mission) has somehow been stunted, has veered off course, or has otherwise become corrupt. For those who remain unconvinced of this assumption, likely this gathering will be seen as holding little value. However, if the responses we received yesterday to the invitation we extended via our Facebook page & Twitter feed to complete the phrase, “The future of the gospel is….” are any indication, there are plenty of people out there who indeed believe that RENEWING our IMAGINATION is a high priority. You can see Twitter responses below and Facebook posts here. Feel free to add your own response in either spot!
In the article article, “The Priority of Mission for Renewal of the Church,” Wilbert Shenk, my doctoral mentor, has this to say about the RENEWING of the Church…
Authentic renewal will only come with a return to the theological roots of the church in Scripture along with a missionary engagement of its culture.
He goes on to describe the various strategies of renewal that have often been employed in the life of the Church, but it’s his proposal of an alternative strategy that most closely approximates what I believe Missio Alliance is after.
Finally, a fifth strategy takes as its premise that the church has been constituted by Jesus Christ for mission. The source of its renewal is missio Dei—God’s mission—while the goal of renewal is an intensified witness to the reign of God. It understands the latter as a recovery of the church’s raison d’etre. But this is not simply to return to the past. The founding of the church was linked to its purpose in relation to the world in which the church was located. The church exists for the missio Dei on behalf of the world. Authentic renewal will be manifested in intensified witness in the world to the reign of God. This must be the clue that guides the (re)institutionalization of the church at a particular moment in history.
From our perspective, at least part of what it will mean to engage in this kind of strategy is a focus on IMAGINATION – asking fresh questions and inviting fresh perspectives with regard to some of our most fundamental assumptions, habits, and convictions. Linked back to the first Shenk quote offered above, RENEWING EVANGELICAL IMAGINATION, for us, is not an exclusively intellectual project. Actually, believing it so is probably one of the causes of a corrupted imagination in the first place! Rather, it’s at the intersection of an active missionary engagement with culture and related, critical theological dialogue that our IMAGINATIONS might be most faithfully RENEWED. This is why it has been so important for us to bring scholars and practitioners together as co-presenters as well as to make ample space for praying as well as listening to and dialoguing with one another in both plenaries and workshops.
But as we talked about this, we wanted to make clear that there was still an orienting framework from which we wanted to engage this task. On the other side of a good deal of reflection, discussion, and debate, we settled on using the word EVANGELICAL to describe the general kind of IMAGINATION that we would hope to see RENEWED. Said another way, our concern isn’t so much with “evangelicalISM” as a word that corresponds to a tribal identity (one that, inasmuch as it apparently includes everyone from John Piper to Benny Hinn to Joel Osteen, may be too broad to be of any real use) but with EVANGELICAL as a word that corresponds to a primary concern for the good news of Jesus. For the same reason, we have put forth Lausanne’s Cape Town Commitment, “A Confession of Faith and a Call to Action,” as a statement that conveys a strong and distinctive theological identity – one that concerns itself with God’s global Church and mission.
As an aside on the issue of evangelicalism, do yourself a favor and read this great piece from the Internet Monk on, “Saving Evangelicalism.” It’s very good, especially this closing paragraph…
Evangelicalism that survives will be such that it no longer encourages its followers to transact business with God, but one that proclaims God has set up a new order, a new kingdom with new laws, and invites all to enjoy the peace and prosperity that comes by living in this new kingdom. The emphasis must be on what God has done, not what we want him to do for us.No more telling us that if we would just be more moral, read our Bibles more, pray more, give more, we would have more. The story must be told over and over of how we are completely and utterly bankrupt, but God in his mercy paid our debt. Then we can be sent on our way to rejoice throughout the week. That is the message of the evangelicalism that survives.
Some good food for thought there on the issue of “evangelicalism.” However, the endeavor of RENEWING EVANGELICAL IMAGINATION… for mission, is not concerned with strict boundary lines. It is a Kingdom enterprise that has the entire Christian Church in view. A final post on the MISSION piece to the theme of our gathering in the next post will hopefully make this more explicit. In the meantime, we’d love for you to join us for these conversations. Today (1/31/13) is the final day for Early-Bird registration. Click the button below to register!