I have been thinking a bit lately on the missional/emerging (M/E) church movement and its implication on cross-cultural missionaries. I have a couple of observations that I would like to bounce off of you and get your feedback.
I have been reading â€œThe Shaping of Things to Comeâ€ by Hirsch and Frost. It is a wonderful book, full of good missiology and itâ€™s also a super way to wrap your head around the philosophies behind so much of the M/E movement. It has also made me question some of the assumptions in the M/E movement, though, because I am not sure that they are practicing what they are preaching.
Now, I donâ€™t mean that from a moral or hypocritical standpoint so much as to how their theology has actually worked out. One of the more forceful points made in â€œThe Shaping of Things to Comeâ€ is that the missional model is incarnational. The term, â€œincarnationalâ€ is one which has been used within mission agency circles for years. It has most often been applied to the concept of contextualization and the need for Christians to incarnate Christ to those they are reaching. When I have taught what it means to be incarnational I have stressed the importance of understanding the people to whom you are ministering. It involves learning the language and culture of the people and being careful to avoid inserting your culture into the communication process.
This is not new missiology, of course, but M/E brings a new focus onto it. This is great! This is the kind of thinking that we need within the whole church, not just the missions proponents.
Why is it that the vast majority of the M/E practitioners and leaders are working completely within the English language? Where are the cross-cultural models that are incarnational yet â€œemergingâ€ in their ethos?
I think the reason why this might be the case is that the M/E philosophy is altogether focused on post-modernism. They are, in effect, like Ezra. They are discovering for the first time the written law that was hidden away in a long forgotten alcove. Pulling it out and reading it for the first time it all feels and seems new.
For those in the â€œtraditionalâ€ mission agency, however, itâ€™s not new. Itâ€™s just not been applied within the English speaking world because that world has been considered â€œreached.â€
Now, when one goes into a tribal culture or an Islamic culture that is not post-modern the incarnational approach is just as valid. Yet, we don’t seem to find the M/E church involved there much. I am sure there are a few examples, but the “sending” concept seems to be distasteful to my M/E friends. “No, Ted, the mission field is here,” they tell me.
Well, that might be true. It’s all also there, however.
How cool would it be for the M/E movement and the traditional mission agency world to â€œcome togetherâ€ and see how much of their DNA is the same?