Australian Emerging Missional Church Summit

Duncan Macleod has been blogging on the Australian Emerging Missional Church Summit held by the Forge network recently. He noted Mike’s antagonism toward “attractional” models of church and that alternative worship is often just tinkering with the standard model.

I must say I’m right there with Mike on this. I think it is necessary to come down hard on attractional thinking as it is so ingrained as to be unconscious. I have attended a number of the small Converse gatherings that Mike has held amongst Emergent Leaders in Sydney and I must say that even there the assumptions needed to be regularly challenged. This is not to say there’s no place for attractional models, it’s just that its all pervasiveness needs to be robustly challenged at this time.

2 thoughts on “Australian Emerging Missional Church Summit

  1. I think this is one of the “baby with the bathwater” dualisms that the Emergent Church needs to deal with. It is not attractional v incarnational that we should be getting hung up on – its being Jesus to people – if we’re honest about who Jesus really was we see both (so called) attractional and incarnational elements to his life and ministry. Jesus hung out in synagogues as well as at the homes of tax collectors. He spoke to large crowds that he intentionally engaged by travelling to their areas as well as to a woman at a well with none from her scorning community nearby. By all means, encourage incarnational development in the church. But some emergent churches are happy doing both – it fits who they are to meet corporately for worship and engages a wide range of people from no faith to long term faith – the way I see it, that is what it means to be incarnational: being Christ in your community. If thats attractive to people, then great.


  2. I disagree with the view now being expressed that says attraction vs incarnation is a furphy dualism. The tensions in this discussion seems to me to involve profound problems of recognising the biblical centre and circumference of missions alongside of the onerous task of exegeting and engaging one’s culture. There is a strong hang-over of Christendom thinking. “Jerusalem” is in rubble, right now we are by the rivers of Babylon in exile, the Christendom culture is a dinosaur fossil.
    One of the fundamental points to note is that Jesus’ mission was first and foremost to the House of David. The Temple-Synagogue cultus was supposed to be the repository of Abrahamic faith. Thus Jesus in fulfilment of prophecy, is born in that culture and operates in that culture.
    Much of his primary work was on the margins of society. Yes he observes the religious festivals – he has to. Yes he speaks in synagogue at Capernaum as he announces his mission to the cultus – he has been anointed by the Spirit to proclaim good news. But he is essentially forced out of the institution very quickly. It is the guardians of the covenant, the sectarian Pharisees and Saduccees who engage Jesus in disputes, while Jesus focuses attention on healing, teaching and ultimately heading for Jerusalem.
    His parables are not models of attractional evangelism into the synagogue or Temple. He offers instead the Kingdom and uses analogies and motifs from the culture to illustrate what his mission is about, what the kingdom comprises and so on.
    He occasionally interacts with Gentiles and Samaritans; but that primary mission is bequeathed to the disciples to pursue post-resurrection.
    Remember that the credentials of Jesus are rejected by the institution that ought to have received him. After Jesus’ ascension the conflict ensues between those who follow and those who do not, until the Jewish War climaxes with the severance of Jewish followers of Jesus from the synagogue altogether. And recall the ripping of the Temple Veil at the moment of Jesus death is a highly symbolic statement about the termination of the sacrifical system. While Messiah has come as fulfilment of OT faith, the faith is largely passed on to the Gentile world.
    The current division of opinion about this alleged dualism has much more nuances to it. There is a fixed geographical model based around Christendom to varying degrees, where the assumption is Christianity is the norm for the West. Our gatherings are scheduled and advertised, and if you build the gathering and have adjusted the accoutrements of the service, people will love the music, love the dynamic preacher, feel they want to join and so become participants. Today this resembles in part a synagogue-model.
    The heart of the Missio Dei however is not fixed to geographical locales. To be contextual one has to exegete the culture, and to engage it at a fairly deep level. The early missions of the church involved going out to make disciples, it was not centred in invitations to join a synagogue.
    In the early church, the first Jewish Christians operated in the synagogues and Temple. But once 70 AD comes that is the end game. The greater and harder work was penetrating the Greco-Roman world, which Paul and his associates did.
    If one is to speak of attraction, it is surely the “magnetism” of the person of Christ. However very little magnetic effect can be seen in the west to the institution and its services.
    What has to be examined today is twofold:
    a) Understanding the dynamics of social change, because fixed church programmes will die very quickly, and it is dangerous to make the church’s services chameleon like, because a chameleon so blends in with the surroundings that it becomes invisible. And here the need is for keen discernment about who it is we are intentionally engaging with, and recognising the colonisation of culture by consumerist praxis. A genuine body of disciples cannot turn the good news into a commodity for consumption. Kingdom values mitigate against it.
    b). Rediscovering missional theology and praxis is warranted, and as missiologists and missionaries have long complained, the trouble with the western church is that it has lost sight of how to be missional at home.
    Finally, we ought to expect some missional-based conversations to occur, especially among those who see themselves as emerging missional people; so in our engagement with our local cultures we ought to see theological reflections, missional responses, mature apologetics and careful praxis. All of this should be an intimate engagement with the culture. So missional discussions should be emerging about how do we meet and make disciples among the local Hindus, local Buddhists, local Muslims, my neighbourhood neo-pagans, the Mormons, the esoetric-hermetic-gnostic revival and so forth. Religious pluralism is a mainstream reality, alongside of suspicion of institutions. Buffing up our techno-skills on internet technology is not exactly at the heart-beat of interpreting culture.
    The general absence of such missional discussions suggests that the radar screen detection about the local culture we live in has not been sufficiently calibrated. To function in a multi-cultural, multi-religious, globalised consumerist setting requires an intimate engagement beyond the walls of the church building. To do that involves many things, but at the very least requires the disciples of today in grasping the questions non-Christians are addressing which are generally not found in the discipleship videos and courses run from the local church environs), facing up to the church’s unpaid bills, and avoiding the temptations of projecting out on the outside world our own impressions of how the world must be and then reifying those projections.
    Much reification goes on about what is postmodern and what is generational, and there is the danger of being tripped up by sloppy and superficial research about the way the world is.


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