Newbigin Misread? or, Missing Sentralized and Wondering

There will always be next year. But, I confess that I was looking forward to hanging out with David Fitch, for at least coffee over the next few days. Call it trip interrupted. I will spare you the painful details but when I learned the stones did not pass that spelled the end of my trip. Who wants to leave home to possibly writhe in pain, cry like a baby, and potentially miss out while being in the same town as the gathering you hoped to attend? Not me.

Add to the fact that my urologist could get me in Wednesday morning and could perform a procedure first thing yesterday morning and only a misguided teenager with a crush would have gone on to the concert gathering. So much for poor analogies.

Last week while I was clipping items to read I was intrigued by this one by Len Hjalmarson, missional, post-Newbigin. I wonder what those gathered in Kansas City would say? How would they respond to the idea that we may have not read Newbigin deeply enough, or even rightly? Would it scuttle him in the pantheon of missional thinkers? Or, would we be compelled to make some adjustments?

Len relayes a comment by Tom Allen left on Alan Hirsch’s blog,

“Could I suggest that Newbigin saw something about the UK on his return that is much more significant. In my discussions with him he was among the first to see that God was at work in the culture and to challenge the idea of society being ‘secular.’ This is revealing when discussing whether ‘mission-shaped church’ is an adequate alternative for ‘missional’ as an Anglican who contributed to the initial work on the report. I believe it is flawed – it tends to focus on what the Church should be doing (in a rather earnest way) which is a relatively small part of the picture rather than focusing on what God is doing and joining him, individually and as a Church. Mission-shaped church is already proving to inhibit our missional thinking here so I would hope that others will not adopt it.”

It seems Tom is suggesting some may be applying missional in a way that is little more than doubling down on a way the Church has often seen itself in relationship to the world. One that may miss the relationship between God and his world. What do you think?

Len includes some thoughts from my friend Todd Hiestand to close, and note not everyone has missed this implication in Newbigin,

“Karl Barth helpfully points out that the church is a part of world history; the gospel takes place in ‘world occurrence.’ Somehow I grew up with the assumption that there were two histories of the world: biblical history and world history. While this was likely never explicitly expressed as truth, it is what I instinctively learned. World history was somehow profane and corrupted and biblical history was holy and redemptive. But, Barth shows that this dichotomized view of history is unhelpful to mission. The church would be guilty ‘of a lack of faith and discernment if it seriously saw and understood world history as secular or profane history.’ Instead, he states that we simply cannot separate the church from world history. He writes, ‘[The church’s] history takes place as surrounded by the history of the cosmos and is everywhere affected and determined by it. Conversely, it is not without significance for the cosmos and its history that its own history takes place.’

What do you think of Todd’s explication of the idea we may have jeopardized the mission of the church by showing a “lack of faith and discernment?”

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About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

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