Monday, September 06, 2004

out of cultural balance

Alan Creech engages with Don Carson, and argues:
if ultimately, you have first and foremost become some emerging church pomo whatever as a reaction to change in the culture – I, for one, believe you have your first and foremosts out of balance.

Well then, I for one am happy to put up my hand and say I’m out of balance. Out of balance and glad of it actually.

I was reading Philemon 22 yesterday; At the same time, get a room ready for me.

And it energised me as a missionary metaphor. We live in Western culture, which like the Prodigal Son, has left home. The church has been abandoned. And the Father waits. That’s our missionary reality.

As part of my missionary response, I’d like to keep a room ready for if the Prodigal returns. Our culture will never say what Paul says in Philemon. It will never ask for a room to be ready.

But I’m still willing to get the room ready, to create a welcoming and hospitable space for those wandering, squandering, enjoying the high life.

Maori culture has a proverb: ahi kaa – keep the home fires burning, so the loved ones will return. Such a hospitable (even if it might be out-of-balance) missiology has a number of implications.

First, it keeps me respectful of other rooms not like mine. This includes the mission rooms of modernity. I struggle with lots of Carson and lots of Willow Creek, but I keep trying to be respectful of such modern attempts at missiology.

Second, it keeps me surveying my room. It’s a place I prepare not for myself, but for the wanderer. So it’s not driven by my music wants or my favourite images. It’s a place that I hope the Prodigal will enjoy. Sure, it won’t be perfect. But part of my gift means I’ll do what I can.

So Alan, I’m sorry if it seems out of balance to you, but it’s a hospitable missiology that for me seems deeply energised by a Biblical impulse.

Posted by steve at 09:43 AM


  1. thank you

    Comment by scotty — September 6, 2004 @ 4:45 pm

  2. Hey Steve – I’m not sure we’re talking about the same “balance” here. Missional understanding and openness to the culture at hand and the deep undercurrent change in ecclesiology for theological reasons are, to me, not mutually exclusive.

    I mean by that – of course we must inhabit, as parts of it, the cultures that we live in. While remaining a culture unto ourselves as the Church, we must realize we are in the world and try to understand where and how people think and live. We must inhabit those cultures like good missional anthropologists. I’m with you on that one.

    The thing I was arguing against was the notion that we have ONLY an observation of culture to account for our ecclesiological rebuilding. I think there are deeper reasons for that and they transcend culture. Those deep theological underpinnings of what and how the Church is what it is are trans-cultural I believe. I mean they remain the same now, in the West in 2004 as they were in Palestine in 245. They can sit down and live and work in any culture and any time.

    That is not to say the expression of that Church is exactly the same – but that there is a core, a skeleton, that remains solid and the surrounding “flesh” of the Church is constantly regenerated in different surroundings while not loosing the core. I think that very much takes both our concerns to heart. Hope that made sense. Sorry for being long-winded. Peace to the Kiwis!

    Comment by + Alan — September 7, 2004 @ 5:29 am

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