Thursday, June 23, 2011

a crash course in fleeing Western captivity. part 1 culture

According to Wilbert Shenk (“Recasting Theology of Mission. Impulses from the Non-Western World”, in Landmark Essays in Mission and World Christianity).

Western theology has pursued an inward-focused, intellectual, and pastoral agenda rather than outward-looking evangelistic and missional agenda … As Western theology moved into the university and was professionalized, it became increasingly detached from ecclesial reality and cultural context. (117, 8).


This means that all talk about being Christian, about church, about mission, in the West, runs the risk of being corrupted by the scripts of Western theology, of being overly inward, intellectual and detached.

For Shenk, the way forward is to learn from the global (non-Western) church. He suggests wisdom from the global church has come in four areas -culture, Spirit, Jesus and church.

Let’s start with the first. With regard to culture, we need to learn skills to look for God in culture. Shenk  draws on the work of Andrew Walls (“The Gospel as Prisoner and Liberator of Culture” Landmark Essays in Mission and World Christianity).

Christianity Today has called Andrew Walls “the most important person you don’t know.” Walls argues that while mission needs to hold in tension both the Indigenizing principle (God starts where we are at) and the Pilgrim principle (God invites us to change), that mission must begin with the first, with indigenization, with starting where people are.

  • Indigenizing – only way we can understand Christ is “in our own language” – in our context, our culture, our concepts. In other words, God starts despite our prejudices, suspicions, our hostilities.
  • Pilgrim – God takes us in order to transform us. That faith will put us out of step with culture and invites us to link with our past, with the church through history, with another’s sets of ideas, concepts, assumptions.

For discussion.

1. What would it mean in your community if you started with “indigenizing”?

2. What examples of “pilgrim” have you seen in your own experience?

Posted by steve at 09:16 PM


  1. A current example of ‘pilgrim’ is how the church welcomes ex-offenders into their midst and the challenges and tensions this brings. This interaction brings about change for all constituencies, the transformation of self and community. Faith is influnetial in the desistance process, but not always straightforward.

    Comment by Gary Manders — June 24, 2011 @ 5:07 am

  2. That’s a really fascinating link Gary. Love you to talk a bit more about it. Is it pilgrim for both ex-offender and church? How do the tensions between acceptance and safety play out?


    Comment by steve — June 26, 2011 @ 4:37 pm

  3. It is a process of learning to love for church and offender, it is an invitation to change. The circles of support enable the tensions to be worked out between acceptance and safety with a covenant of trust where risk can be managed in a real relaionship with a clear understanding of expectaions on both sides. The circles of support comes out of restorative justice principles based on working with sex offenders in Canada. It has extension to rehabilitation for all offenders.

    Comment by Gary Manders — June 27, 2011 @ 9:48 am

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