The word “missional” is in the air, and I’ve taken a stab myself at defining it (Bloglossary). The word to use for many of those using this word is “muddle.” What to do? I believe every pastor and every church needs a copy of John Corrie (ed), Dictionary of Mission Theology. There is no book like it, and it is a book filled with ideas and articulations that anyone in ministry, especially those with some emerging leanings, needs. Here’s why:
How do you define “missional”?
This new dictionary from IVP is edited by and through the lens of missional theology, and the opening essay by John Corrie explains the volume as integrating theology and mission, contextualizing (sensitive term) theology and mission, and providing evangelical foundations for theology and mission. Mission is not something separate from theology; all theology is missional or it isn’t faithful to the Bible, to the early church or (to be blunt) evangelicalism.
Who are the authors? It’s a who’s who collection of professors and missionaries. From all over the globe — co-editors are J. Samuel Escobar (Spain), Wilbert R. Shenk (Fuller), and there are regional advisors (Rosemary Dowsett, Roy Musasiwa, K., Rajendran, Kang-San Tan). It’s an international scoping of missional theology all bound up in one volume.
OK, yes, I was asked to write the short article on conversion and John Corrie tapped me a few times to expand my thinking. But the articles here are really good. I began by reading “missio Dei” by L. Pachuau, professor of mission at Asbury, and I was delighted to read this piece — good on the origins of the expression (Karl Barth, Karl Hartenstein), and then a very nice description of how some think this is a see missio Dei as a world-oriented mission of God while others — I stand with this group — of a “through the church” church-shaped missio Dei. Still, a major focus is that, if there is a missio Dei, that is the only mission there is.
Let me make a point: I see many today identifying “kingdom” with the world-centered understanding of missio Dei. Without disputing the value of thinking through the world aspect of missio Dei, I’m now blogging through the word “kingdom” in the Gospels to see if identifying “kingdom” with missio Dei (as world-missio Dei) is justified by the Gospels. (So far, I’d have to say “not at all.”) This article explores how pluralists have used “missio Dei” but the author states that the misuse of the expression does mean we need to jettison it. It has played an important role in decentering the West in missional theology.
The value of topical dictionaries like this is: written by experts, saving us all the time of reading and reading just to figure out the lay of the land; taxonomic, explaining to us what folks are saying; integrative, pulling all the threads and themes into a coherent piece about missional theology. (I just scanned the nice survey of “feminism” by Catherine Ross.)
Guess what? The word “missional” does not get its own entry.
A final point: I am a professor today in part because of John Corrie and his wife Elisabeth. John was the curate at St Peter’s Toton when Kris and I lived in England while I was doing my PhD. One evening he knocked on the door, said the Lord had spoken to him about us, and asked if he could help us financially so I could have sufficient funds to finish the research. Had it not been for him … anyway, there’s often a story behind the story.