What happens to theology when it becomes missional?
John Franke will not be surprised when he reads that, when I got this book in my Inbox to blurb, my first word was “Finally.” I have known John’s excellent work and penetrating thoughts for years and years and this book has been in his brain the whole time. I’m so glad his work is now beginning to appear in accessible and even pastoral form.
This book opens the doors on Franke’s missional theology, and anyone who has paid attention to this term “missional” knows that it is filled with both suggestiveness and confusion. It seems at times to have as many definitions as it has proponents. If Bosch and Guder and Franke and Fitch and Stetzer can all use this term for what they are doing we are in need of someone to call a conference and say, “Folks, here’s how we are going to use this term. OK?” The word is not a new progressive version of the word “evangelism.”
Our theology world operates in silos unfortunately. I kid you not, in a book I was part of one of the other participants – just a few years back – asked us “What does ‘missional’ mean? I’ve never heard this term!” He then asked if it was a new term for evangelism or missionary like the “Roman Catholic term ‘evangelization’.” Nope, it’s a commonly used term if you are in one or more of its silos!
But a “missional” theology? What’s that?
Those of us who are not systematic theologians can be irritated at times (or more often, perhaps always) by how it works. It can be at times what appears to be intellectualizing in a way that prevents the heart of the faith to be obscured or obfuscated or even erased. Yes, some feel this way at times.
So there are underway a few proposals – Sarah Coakley, Katherine Sonderegger – to refashion theology in ways that adjust to the Christian life or the church’s life, or at least something other than the classic topics.
Perhaps the most broadly engaged different proposal comes from the missional theology quarters, and here I think of Darrell Guder and George Hunsberger, which is the corner from which John Franke is writing up his missional theology. This is a precis of his work so far.
Image: Cover Photo
Missional theology by Franke does this, and here are the factors required for theology to become missional.
One must give “an account of the mission and purpose of God.”
The mission of God has to be connected firmly and clearly to the mission of the church.
Theology must be recast so that it serves the mssion of God and the participation of the church in the mission of God, and at the same time resist cultural imperialism and colonization.
The mission of God has multiplicity, and this plurality flows from the Word of God as act and event of God, engaged by humans through Scripture and also through proclamation in its many forms.
A missional theology forms missional solidarity or unity within God’s pluralism, but time shows this is not in theological agreement, in pragmatism and power, and this unity is to be found in the presence of Christ, the ministry of the Spirit, participation in God’s own mission, and in the way of love.