Our faith—and by the way, we all have one, no matter how subliminal and disordered it may be—relates to how we perceive, reason and think about the world—our worldview—and our place and behaviour within it—our culture.
Our faith perspectives are generally based on what we have been told by those whom we trust, or trusted in the past. Or they are imbibed from cultural interactions and traditions handed on to us.
Becoming aware of, reflective and intentional about what we think and believe, how we reason and act is a transformative experience.
Missiology is a study of missionary praxis (activity). As an academic discipline, it is relatively new and quietly becoming established in a number of centres around the world—including Fuller School of Intercultural Studies, with whom I conducted my doctoral research. Missiology draws upon numerous other disciplines, besides theology, in its search to understand mission. This can make a definitive definition hard to nail down.
Its significance is revealed by David J. Bosch when he identifies the “almost imperceptible shift from an emphasis on a church-centred mission to a mission-centred church” (Transforming Mission, 2005, p.370). This implies or leads to recognition of several vital realities:
The church is, by its nature, missionary, because God is missionary.
The church is a servant community, called into existence to serve God’s purpose.
The church exists in tension with, but not separate to, a world in which injustice and corruption is both intrinsic and endemic.
A couple of years ago, a good friend, near to whom I formerly lived, now living several hours away from me, wrote informing me about a debilitating physical condition that had recently begun attacking the integrity of his body. Upon diagnosis, he was immediately admitted into the care of an NHS hospital. Sensing his distress, I shared this “blessing-prayer” with him. Continue reading “Heart and hearth in harmony”→
Between 2003 and 2008, I returned repeatedly to Burkina Faso, a landlocked nation on the southern borders of the Sahara desert. On each occasion, I was invited to present a series of missional, discipleship seminars, to two Burkinabé constituencies.
Rural-based, Pentecostal missionary-pastors and bible-school trainees associated with church-planting movement, Assemblée Evangélique de Pentecôte
Urban-based university students and young office workers associated with national youth movement, Mouvement des Jeunes Serviteurs de Dieu
On each occasion, informal feedback from participants suggested that a significant spiritual dynamic was taking place among participants during the seminars.
Between 2009 and 2013, building upon my experience of contextual leadership training, in conjunction with Fuller School of Intercultural Studies, I completed a programme doctoral research, exploring the missiological dynamics underlying my interactions with Burkinabé leaders and learners.
My research employed the perspective of contextual missiology to address theological education and discipleship in the context of Burkina Faso. My conclusions were based upon a qualitative analysis and evaluation of Burkinabé leaders’ and learners’ insights, attitudes, perspectives and hopes regarding incumbent forms of training and praxis.
Modern theological education, as generally understood and practiced today, is a wholly Western concept. Yet, over the past century and a half, it has become a global prescription. The reason for this is the successful expansionism of the Western missionary movement.
A Scripturally-based Learning Resource For Use in African Contexts, Freely distributable under license
Following 3 years of technical development and authoring, this month has seen the formal launch of “Maize Plant Discipleship.” Examining the concept, a Burkinabé theological educator stated:
“You are touching something that is not already existing. If we talk about evangelism, it may well be a new way of approaching evangelism, but we already have many methods of evangelism. But discipleship is really an innovative thing”
Imagine a narrow winding pathway, stretching off into the distance. The sides of the pathway are steep and slippery. On one side of the path is an uneven, marshy bog, on the other a dry, sandy desert. From either it is evidently difficult to escape, once trapped in one or another. Continue reading “A narrow pathway, leading to Life”→
Discipleship, in practice, relies upon winning hearts, before shaping understanding.
Discipleship is, first of all, a matter of allegiance and alliance. Loyalty and faithfulness to a core set of values. Values that may be: incarnated in a patriarchal figure (Jesus; Rev. Moon; Keynes etc.), written in a set of documents (Talmud; Mao’s Red Book; Deming’s Profound Knowledge) or represented by an institution (Vatican; Conservative Party; Google). Some form of discipleship is at the core of all people movements — be they social, political, religious or industrial. Continue reading “Discipleship and the Crises of Globalism”→
Intercultural mutuality is a missiological perspective for interpreting and relating to intercultural dynamics, in particular between Western missionary agencies and African contextual agencies (e.g. churches etc).
The text below provides an academic summary
The concept is explored in a graphical presentation here.
Intercultural mutuality embraces a missional stance that looks beyond colonialism, post-colonialism, independence and even inter-dependence and partnership, as typically understood.
Intercultural mutuality implies a working relationship between people of different cultures, based upon a mutual inter-cultural appreciation and compatibility of gifts, talents, characteristics and culture—all of which is rooted in a shared, vocational commitment to serving God’s eternal purpose, the missio Dei.
The great test of the validity and value of authentic spirituality is not how it fares amidst the affirmation and celebration of cultic community, nor in the isolation of physical separation from the world’s hustle and bustle.
It is how it fares when brought right up alongside and against those places and systems and happenings and events and choices that the world-at-large finds irresistible and assumes are irreplaceable.
Bet hamidrash is a Jewish concept meaning “house of study.” It denotes more than a physical location, however: it denotes a way of interacting with the study of Torah. I believe there is much in this idea that could helpfully inform how other traditions, particularly that of Christianity, approach the study of Scripture.
From The Rabbi from Burbank, Zwirn, Owen (Fort Worth, Texas, 1986):
My father wanted me to become a rabbi, just as his father had wanted him to be. For the past 2000 years or so, any Orthodox Jew who wanted his son to become a rabbi would send him to a Hebrew School called a yeshiva, also called a bet hamidrash, a “house of research.” The name comes from the words bet, meaning “house” and doresh which means “to seek, ask, question or research.”
Through the River: Understanding Assumptions About Truth — Hirst, Hirst, and Hiebert 2009—200pp.
Jon and Mindy Hirst thoughtfully present teachings absorbed by the authors from a book by Dr Paul Hiebert (1999), using a visual analogy, based upon three communities of people living in different ways around River Town. Each community lives by and depicts a particular epistemology—a ‘truth lens’—either positivism, instrumentalism and critical realism, respectively.