Following up from the first part of this review , the second major sections of Missional God, Missional Church, is about “Discovering Shalom.”
The shalom theme actually runs back to part of what Hastings offered in the introduction that I didn’t pick up in the first part of the review. He says…
The call of the church in any age is faithfulness to shalom sharing, the living and proclaiming of the gospel in its fulness… That said, the missional call to which christians are to be faithful must include faith-filled engagement and shalom sharing with society at every level. (22)
The theme of shalom comes into focus for Hastings in this section inasmuch as he is seeking to structure his reflections around John 20:19-23 as a core text. It is here where Jesus appears to his disciples following his resurrection and says, “Peace (shalom) be with you.” Though this second section leaves much to be desired in terms of organization, the author seeks to explicate a missional ecclesiology with reference to shalom as the defining mark of a faithful Christology.
In a manner that perhaps asks too much of an isolated, albeit important, text, Hastings seeks to draw out Christological implications of John 20:19-23 for framing an ecclesiology. He offers that the Church is: Christocentric, Celebratory, a community of Shalom (bad move to isolate a key term that you are trying to argue for seeing as an overarching theme), a community of hospitality, and essential community, a one holy catholic community, both lively and old, missional (see critique above), and catechetical. Again, this is cumbersomely organized, but he offers some fantastic theological insights and related practical suggestions nonetheless.
In the following chapter, Hastings turns his attention (back) to the dual nature of Christian mission, here described as at once, incarnational and resurrectional.
A Christian theology of mission therefore is inherently creational, world-affirming and holistic, and it moves us to engage the world to seek the whole personhood and full humanization of each person… The mission of the Christian church is to be undergirded by the telos of God for humanity that is, what he intended when he created humans in the image of God and more particularly when he sent the last Adam to be its fulfillment and archetype. (149)
By tracing out a fully trinitarian anthropology and by arguing for the inherently ethical nature of Christian mission, Hastings seeks to dismantle the artificial disunity that Western Christianity has erected between “evangelism” and “justice.” This leads to some compelling arguments for how we understand and practice being the missional Church that God intended.
It is only after establishing the primacy of the resurrection for framing key components of a missional ecclesiology that Hastings turns his attention to what it means to understand the cruciform nature and practice of Christian community and mission. Here, he seeks to make a case for sacramental practice by recasting it in light of its participational/missional nature and witness. For example,
In its gatherings centered on Communion, the church is itself a semiotic missional expression of Christ given for the life of the world. It should be a table of gospel invitation to all… The Passover and the covenantal dimensions of the communion serve to reinforce the missional nature of Communion. (203)
In the final chapter of this section the author speaks to mission about the cross and mission under the cross. When Hastings says “mission about the cross,” he’s mainly talking about preaching. This is, in my opinion, narrow, but what he offers is profound nonetheless.
Missional preaching is fueled by the conviction that the atonement is a fait accompli for all since God has in Christ justified creation and all humanity representatively and yet that God will not push this ‘yes’ verdict on anyone. This Barthian perspective on the One true human, Jesus, who has justified humanity and indeed creation, offers a perspective beyond Calvinist and Arminian perspective. (225)
To this I can only add a hearty AMEN! (It’s also, by the way, a seldom explored point of connection b/t Barth and Anabaptists . This perspective paves the way for a more proclamational disposition toward preaching and Christian witness in general. More than defending, arguing, or coercing people toward the Christian faith, we proclaim it as reality as we witness to it in submission and power.
This leads quite naturally to where the section finishes – mission under the cross. This involves seeing and understanding the church through the lenses of the Kingdom of God.
As a community that embodies the kingdom values of a servant King, it will reflect triumph over principalities and powers, but not in triumphalistic ways… The church’s members will bear those scars [of Jesus] when they invite people to leave their self-accomplishment to embrace the cross in repentance, relying only on Christ and his work for them. The church’s members will also be expected to enter the scarred places of the world. Conflicts with the success motif of modernity will invite persecution… In other words, the nature of the church as a servant, cross-centered community reveals what the kingdom is, even if the kingdom is larger in scope than the church. (233-234)
Hastings also speaks of the peripheral (marginal) nature of the Church’s life and witness. Far from being societally determined, marginality is where the Church “locates” itself theologically. It is from this place/identity that we are better situated to come alongside those who are culturally, socio-economically, or otherwise marginalized as brothers and sisters offering hospitality and a overcoming oppressiveness, not through violent revolution, but in the way of Jesus.
Christians living under the cross present the gospel in the manner Jesus presented it – nonoppressively. (239)