The Missional Slope, or Should Have Linked to Kinnon

Here in Oklahoma we are bracing for what meteorologists believe will be a major “winter event.” Translation for you not schooled in Okie meteorological euphemisms. We are headed for some rain, followed by freezing rain, then sleet, finally snow. By late Friday a wintry paralysis will blanket the state. Schools are already prepared to close. Weather teams hearken back to ’07 when power outages were common and slippery roads kept wise people indoors.

Turn on and tune in to the interwebs last week and you will discover the “winter event” of obsessive slippery-ness has found a home with those “concerned about missional.” Fear of slipping is common sense when on the ice. But, when there is no ice, it seems whatever you are against becomes the slope du jour.

I first discovered the dust up at the Out of Ur blog and Skye Jethani’s piece. Then my friend David sent a link to a response by Michael Bird I had seen in my Google Reader. The rabbit trail continued.

Rather than trace the story from IVP reps and 9Marks articles to some gymnastic turns that plunk the likes of Tim Keller on the slope toward a liberalism I suggest you catch Bill Kinnon’s latest reflection for the links and posts. When I saw that my friend Ed Stetzer had been included in this snare I wondered what would become of MissionalShift. Now the manifesto will surely include some declaration that “we are not on the slippery slope toward liberalism.” As if anyone who knows Ed is really worried about that! Just because he knows how to have conversations outside of his own tribe does not of him a liberal make. Ed responds here. (Incidentally, according to Ed’s post I missed the first salvo.)

The saddest part? We not only disabuse others by declaring “our” template for Gospel preaching, we now purport to hold the key to what someone else means when they find the term “missional” helpful.

I will give those space in the SBC who contend our denomination was on the slippery slope toward liberalism. Now 30 years after we find history repeated in wider circles as we hunker down against the amorphous “emerging church” it seems we must rope in “missional” which can be as equally difficult to nail.

These insider games simply make the title of Slavo Zizek’s little book critiquing liberal democracy in the first decade of this millennium apropos. When we trot out the slippery slope the first time as tragedy. We note what needs to be done. We offer solutions. Then, we trot it out again shouting the same things over and again having witnessed little different than before and then history repeats itself then as farce.

David Fitch has it right. Sometimes these conversations mean very little. Its time to take a look on the ground rather than pontificate from a well branded perch. He concludes,

Those of us who publish books, write blogs and speak at conferences are always tempted to find an image/or be part of something  we can project and find marketable. It gives one power with publishers. There’s also some kind of sick enjoyment that comes from seeing our name in print or influence. I have regularly had to nail any such temptations (as meager as the temptations have been) to death. That’s part of my necessary spiritual formation. Sorry, it’s true. Each one of the above “labels” has the potential to attract such spiritually malforming ‘bandwagoning.’ We should resist such grasping for attention by refusing to worry too much. For the seeking of any such attention through any of the above ‘labels’ is a sure sign that we have lost sight of Mission and the ‘movements’ have already become mere fads. So I end this post quickly! lest I find myself worrying too much.

We will continue to brace for the “winter event.” But, we will not assume a step out to risk a better understanding of the mission of God will inevitably lead us to slide into liberalism. And, if that is what someone must call the whole Gospel some of us prefer to appreciate, then maybe we should reify the word and give it healthy meaning.

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.

6 comments on “The Missional Slope, or Should Have Linked to Kinnon

  1. Bill Kinnon says:

    Well said. One would think the 9 Marks liberal-heresy hunters might want to take more than cursory glance at Matthew 25:31-45.

    And the thought of Ed as a liberal heretic cracks me up.

    1. Bill, Thanks. When I was following the rabbit trial this has been and read where Ed was noted among those risking the slope I about fell out of my chair. On Matthew 25 – seems like we flaunt the perspicuity of Scripture and attempt to give it a secondary meaning to what Jesus message was about. Wondering why it is so hard to connect Luke 4 and Matthew 25. Maybe its just us.

  2. sonja says:

    Todd, I assume you meant “rabbit trail” in your comment above, but “rabbit trial” is soooo much more appropriate. 😉 But that’s not what I was going to comment on.

    First … thank you very much for this witty, and excellent perspective on the latest salvos about missional. You made me laugh and it was the easiest post of all to follow. I get lost in all the who said whats and whens.

    Second … I would love to know what the great bogeyman of liberalism is? Can you tell me? Being liberal is not a bad thing. In the classical sense it means that one has a broad perspective, is willing to learn new things and does not automatically assume that anything new is bad. We actually need liberal people to survive or … ahem … we’d still be huddled in caves without fires, using sticks to kill our food.

    Anyway … thanks for this.

    1. Sonja,
      You just nearly convinced me to go back and insert “trial” as I am sure getting the back and forth together is quite the trial.

      Thanks for the nice comment about the post.

      I eschew the polarizing labels. But, since the tribe in which I am a part, and glad to be even if we throw the terms around to vilify others, happily continues to see things only in either this extreme or that extreme I made such a reference. Rather than give you a definition of what liberal is, maybe I would prefer to say we need lots of voices – even those with whom we disagree lest, as you well note, we end up trapped in the caves of our own making.


  3. sonja says:

    Todd … I’m sorry, I was not clear with my question. It was a good deal more honest and observational than it appeared. Although … the way I wrote it, it does look pretty snarky. I really do want to know if you know what the history is or root cause or something about the fear of liberalism in the evangelical church. I’m kind of on a mission to find out what I can about it. Liberalism – the bogeyman for grown-ups. If you want to get people to back down from an argument, or back out, or turn up the heat, just accuse them of being a liberal. And that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

    1. Sonja,
      I did not take your question as snarky. There is little doubt the way to polarize a conversation is to lob “liberal” at the other person. Some trace the beginnings of the current situation to the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy ( An interesting philosophical look is offered by Nancey Murphy on Liberalism and Fundamentalism. You may want to take a look at The Young Evangelicals by Richard Quebedeaux and The Younger Evangelicals by Robert Webber.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.