Friday, 21 January 2011

01.20.11 | Word and Spirit..

4:58 am by len

Yesterday I noted that Alan closes The Forgotten Ways with a plea that we rely more on the power of the Holy Spirit in mission. I found this intriguing, because as he begins to works out mDNA through the book (in particular the diagram on page 25), he places Jesus is Lord at the center without mention of the Holy Spirit.

In other words, mDNA seems to be founded on a confession and an understanding around Jesus more than on a dynamic and a power. Yet as Alan develops his thesis he is focused on the spiritual dynamics of missional movements. There is this juxtaposition and contrast that is never worked out (altho his description of the implications of the Shema on pp 86 and following is highly relevant in our dualistic culture).

In the context of a settled Christendom movement, one could offer that the Church in the west has majored on Christology at the same time as it became entrenched, formal, and mired in debates about leadership and worship while neglecting its mission. A recovery of Christology, then, is likely not what is needed. A more likely argument could be made, especially in light of Luke-Acts, that we need a recovery.. and a renewed experience.. of the Holy Spirit.

The theological solution is Trinitarian, and Irenaeus offered us a clue long, long ago with his dictum: “the Word and the Spirit as the two hands of the Father.”� Interesting.. this little dictum sits in the background of at least one passionate cry: the need to recover an incarnational-missional ecclesiology and practice. It was the Word who was incarnate, with all the implications for our theology and practice. He was incarnate because He was sent into the world to redeem it – sent on mission. The Word was incarnate by the Spirit, and empowered by the Spirit for mission.

The issue gets just a bit sharper with the release of Steve Addison’s little book, “Movements That Change the World.” Steve all but explicitly notes the importance of holding the Word and the Spirit together (107-108) when he notes the need to balance creativity and design, chaos and structure. But he rightly prefers the Spirit in mission. How could anyone not prejudice the Spirit in mission in view of the book of Acts?

All this to say that mDNA is Trinitarian, or it is not missional-incarnational. As Newbigin,

“The concern for mission is nothing less than this: the kingdom of God, the sovereign rule of the Father of Jesus over all humankind and over all creation. Mission.. is the proclamation of the kingdom, the presence of the kingdom and the prevenience of the kingdom. By proclaiming the reign of God over all things the church acts out its faith that the Father of Jesus is indeed ruler of all. The church, by inviting all humankind to share in the mystery of the presence of the kingdom hidden in its life through its union with the crucified and risen life of Jesus, acts out the love of Jesus that took him to the cross. By obediently following where the Spirit leads, often in ways neither planned, known, nor understood, the church acts out the hope that it is given by the presence of the Spirit who is the living foretaste of the kingdom.”� (The Open Secret, 64)

But there is one more aspect of this, related to leadership and in particular to APEPT.

APEPT is a plural and apostolic leadership framework, as revealed by Paul in Eph. 4. What is striking to me about conceiving of mDNA with Jesus at the center is this does not support a plural leadership imagination, but would more closely echo the sola pastora frame that anchored a settled church in modernity. The Trinitarian frame – communal, mutually submissive, collaborative and diverse — more readily echoes the function of adaptive leadership that we currently need.

Furthermore, it is precisely in Jesus leaving that the Spirit is sent, and the victory of Jesus ascension is the opportunity for the King to distribute gifts to humankind. Again, this seems to move against a frame of mDNA with Jesus at the center. If we had to choose one member of the Trinity here, at least from the perspective of mission, it ought to be the Spirit.

Well, all these quibbles are toward clarity. Alan closes the book on the right note, bringing through the back door what was lacking at the front. And rumor has it that a coming book will take another look at the Trinity in relation to recovering a missional ecclesiology.

I woke this morning with the kingdom prayer in mind, wondering why there is no mention of the Spirit. We close the prayer with, “Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory…” And I remembered that there is an early manuscript of the gospel of Matthew that has a variant: instead of “Thy kingdom come” it reads, “The Spirit come.”

The Spirit is the power of the age to come. When we ask for God’s kingdom to come, we are asking for His Spirit to come and make all things new..

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