A light bulb went on as I read “Breaking the Missional Code” yesterday. It helps explain a lot of my reactions to the book. On page 79, the authors reveal that both of them “grew up in non-Christian homes,” and then one describes the significant experience he had in beginning his relationship with Jesus.
In other words, for both of them, there is a time in their life that they were not in a relationship with Jesus, and they remember the moment it began. Their moment of justification is of the type that is a clear reorientation from “no Jesus” to “know Jesus.” I think this is what leads them to eschew tradition, nuance, and complexity in favor of making new converts.
I think they are projecting too much of their own personal experience into their book without acknowledging that it comes from their own personal experience.
Because my own faith journey does not include such a moment, I am feeling as though my experience is being belittled and minimized. As if, because I grew up in church, my spiritual life doesn’t count somehow, and I have to discount all of it in order to be truly faithful. So I confess that I am projecting my own personal experience into my reading of this book, and allowing that to influence my perception of their ideas.
Because my passion is for reaching people who have either been wounded by the church or for whom the church has ceased to be meaningful, and not necessarily for introducing the church to people for the first time, I envision the Missio Dei differently than these authors do. I affirm that their approach is a very important part of what the church is supposed to be doing, but I cannot go as far as they do, and claim that it is the only thing the church is supposed to be doing.
And so I flatly reject their notion that “either the lost like you or the satisfied religious crowd likes you” (p. 80), and I find it unhelpful that they make such simplistic, sweeping claims like this as if they are unassailable truth. But maybe they aren’t doing that; maybe their main idea is less narrow than I am perceiving it. Maybe they aren’t really saying that the stuff we’re supposed to be doing is an either/or proposition, rather than a both/and. But to me, it sure seems like that’s what they’re saying.
However, since I made this realization about the authors’ backgrounds, I have been able to process the book differently. There is a lot of overlap in their particular interpretation of mission and/or evangelism (I still am having trouble figuring out their distinction) and mine.
For example, I love what they do with the idea of “spiritual warfare.” Calling much of what is available on spiritual warfare “odd,” both in books on the subject as well as in Scripture, they reconstruct the notion to include some of my favorite "demons" to "battle" – things like apathy, consumerism, and image. It is these “strongholds” that we must address to fulfill the mission at hand, they say.
But on the other hand, I do not appreciate their characterization of “deeper” theology as “minutia” (p. 80). And I wonder what they mean when they indicate that the kind of people they are talking about “can and do go deeper” later on in that section. What do they mean by “deeper,” then? I have spent 40 years (almost) exploring Christianity, and I feel as though I have only the tiniest hint of what it is all about.
Through six chapters of “Breaking,” I have reacted with a mix of agreement and disagreement. But now at least I have a fuller appreciation for the authors’ perspectives. I kind of wish they had mentioned that earlier in the book.
If you’ve read this, thanks for sticking with me. One of the reasons I’m digging into this is to prime my writing pump, and it’s primed, baby! So I’m going to finish up this book and write about it all along the way. On to chapter seven!
Part 1 - Part 2