First, thank you, Erika, my lovely bride, for providing a platform for these comments. As part of a class I am taking at Fuller, I must present several public writings that come from my interaction with the course materials. These will be short, incomplete, and perhaps even unsatisfactory â€˜snapshotsâ€™ of the bigger picture. They are thoughts from a much broader conversation. My hope remains that they will provoke, inspire, prod, whatever, and that you will be willing to jump in.
We have read A LOT about culture, the â€˜missionalâ€™ corrective, education (particularly regarding the religious educator), and more recently the role of the pastor.
I have been left wondering one thing: what is the point? To what end for all of this? From my position at the seminary, I have a front-row view of the recent trends in theological education (in so much as they have reared themselves at my institution): â€˜classical training,â€™ â€˜homogenous church growth,â€™ â€˜healthy church growth,â€™ â€˜natural church development,â€™ and now â€˜missionalâ€™ and â€˜emerging church.â€™ To (over)simplify the conversation, these trends fall into two categories: â€œhow to get people in (attractional) and plugged in to getting people inâ€ and â€œhow to get people in by going out (missional) to get them in and then plugged in to go out to get people in.â€ Delivery systems â€“ not development. Does anyone know what to do with people when they are got? Into what are people coming and how? Or should the question be: what are people becoming and how?
Dallas Willard offers us this:
â€œIt is, I gently suggest, a serious error to make â€œoutreachâ€ a primary goal of the local congregation, and especially so when those who are already â€œwith usâ€ have not become clear-headed and devoted apprentices of Jesus, and are not, for the most part, solidly progressing along the path. Outreach is one essential task of Christâ€™s people, and among them there will always be those especially gifted for evangelism. But the most successful work of outreach would be the work of inreach that turns people, wherever they are, into lights in the darkened world.â€