Friday, October 31, 2014

I just celebrated Halloween

It seems to me that I have just celebrated Halloween. I watched the news!

So called IS murdering people in Iraq and Syria; war and suffering in the Middle East and Ukraine; Ebola in West Africa; war in Central Africa. The list goes on. In this context, the celebration of the macabre seems unnecessary. 

This got me thinking and I wonder, apart from the massive commercialization of this event, whether Halloween helps people cope with such evil by making it comic. Perhaps this is a coping mechanism that so ridicules evil that it allows them to deny the reality of evil. This, of course exonerates us from confronting the reality.

I am not supporting or denying that there are dark spiritual powers behind evil, but I think it operates at all levels not only in Halloween.

BTW - Happy Reformation Day!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Interdependance of the local and the global

I've been blogging recently about how to develop a theology within local contexts that respects the fact that mission is both local and global. The danger of the new "missional" theologies that at best ignore the validity of contemporary cross-cultural mission and at worst deny it altogether.This group of posts originated in a thought from Eddie Arthur, which drives me to the subject of translation as an example. Translation of the Bible and its message is vitally important for the task of making disciples. Making disciples and teaching them to obey is a task that will always include translation. We will need to translate the Gospel into terms that British people will understand as well as in pioneering situations where the language has to be reduced to writing first. Many of the insights of missional theology are founded upon the insights of cross-cultural mission. So local mission depends on global mission for effectiveness and global mission depends on local support for its effectiveness. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


The question I would like to pose today is if the academy is not the right place to start in developing an integrated theology for mission, then where is and why there? 

I would like to propose that there is only one place we can start and that is the context in which we are placed. I have had many discussions over the years with students and teachers who have objected to this and say that our only starting place must be the Bible. However, I do not think that we even have a choice where to start.

If we take the example of the type of theology I described yesterday, I said that it answers questions posed by the academic. This is starting from the context of the academic; i.e his or her context. 

If we must start from the Bible, where in the Bible do we start? John 3:16? Romans 6:23? If so, why? Well wherever we do start, it is because of our Christian background, denomination, tradition or heritage that we will choose this or that verse, passage or book. This is context. My tradition will almost always gravitate towards a letter from the Apostle Paul, probably Romans. You can easily guess what my tradition is!

We always start from the context when thinking theologically about our mission. So if it is inevitable, then it should be conscious to avoid our context dominating the direction of our theology. 

Next time we'll look at what our context looks like.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Top down theology

I often despair of the way people think about my chosen subject. They feel that theology is for the professional and not for them. I must admit however that many times they are right and theology is written by the professional and for the professional. It does not serve the church. . 

It is theology which has its source in the academy, i.e. in the seminary or university. It is primarily academic. Now don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being academic, but the academy is the wrong place for theology to start. In this case the academy decides the themes that theology reflects upon. These themes--whatever they may be--reflect the concerns of an academic not those of the people in the pew.

For example, much of the theology of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were concerned with the existence of God and other philosophical issues. So theology was written which included issues such as the ontological, cosmological and teological arguments. Not for the faint hearted! The main conversation partner for theology was the non-believer. In Latin America, however, the question was not unbelief but grinding poverty. 

A missional theology does not start in the academy, with the academy's questions but in the pew, with the concerns of Christians, living their lives out in the public square. How is this done?

Next time we will examine how these concerns are identified.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mythology, missiology and methodology

I asked the question in my last post as to whether we can develop an adequate missional theology that integrates both local and international mission. I am convinced that one of the biggest problems we face in this regard is that "theology" is so detached from the life of ordinary Christians and they do not feel equipped to do the necessary theology to develop my proposed theology.

I see one of my functions in life as to make theology fun for people! "Fun Theology" will seem to many like an oxymoron. However, Karl Barth called theology "a most happy science"! If we do love God then talking about God is a fun thing to do. It is myth to believe that theology is a dull, boring, irrelevant discipline done by boffins. Ok so that might be the reality, but it shouldn't be!

Well, so where is the real theology? 

A Latin American theologian said that there were three levels of theology: Popular, pastoral and professional. This is great alliteration and he wasn't even a Baptist! By popular, he means grassroots; people in a congregation thinking about how they can act as Christians in a particular context in the light of the Gospel. This is real theology. This is the most important level of theology: not the professional. This is a theology that takes its missionary context seriously. 

We need Christians, who inhabit our pews, seats, chairs each Sunday to be equipped to think about their context--narrow and wide--in the light of the Gospel. What they need is not so much volume loads of theological books but a methodology to help them to relate their context--local, regional, national and international--to the Gospel and the Gospel to those contexts. How can we develop such a methodology?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mission local and international

In the past "mission" has been thought of as only "over there". You must cross saltwater or at least national borders to be involved in mission. In recent years there has been a change and a lot of churches talk of mission as almost exclusively local. Eddie Arthur has written a blog post on this, check it out. He identifies three areas: theology, generosity and openness. He posits that many churches have a limited theology of mission, generosity is a long-term commitment and UK churches, who are in decline should be open to learn from newer churches here and from churches in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

This got me thinking about the need for an integrated theology that embraces both local and international mission. 

In this blog, I simply want to raise some of the issues which we may develop over the next few blogs. 

1. Theologically, there is no difference between local and cross-cultural mission.
2. Does sending missionaries make a church a missionary church?
3. How can we develop a theology (I assuming "Missional Theology") that encourages, challenges and develops an integrated approach to mission?