A primary challenge facing Western Christians involves the
engagement of the Gospel with a changing, globalized, multi-cultural
and postmodern context. How does the Gospel understand and engage the
public and social life realities of our emerging context(s)? Bishop
Lesslie Newbigin spoke of a missional engagement with western
culture(s). His writing addressed this challenge and his agenda shaped
a generation of writing, reflection and innovation on the relationship
between God and world or Gospel and culture.
This meeting was gathered believing that movements and
conversations birthed out of Newbigin’s work have largely lost
direction. Rather than focusing on questions of
God-World/Gospel/Culture, such movements have tended to be shaped more
by abstract ecclesial conversations. We believe that this is a moment
in which we might re-engage the work of Newbigin.
At the same time other movements are emerging that build on the
imagination of Newbigin but seek to understand its implications in a
postmodern context. All of this activity now engages denominational,
schools and other church systems in conversations about the nature of a
missional engagement with western culture(s). Thinkers and
practitioners in many countries are seeking ways to recalibrate their
national, educational and denomination strategies around the missional
conversation. What we are witnessing is a diffuse variety of groups
across national interests attempting to earth Newbigin’s missional
perspectives in local congregational practice and denominational
Much can be learnt from these experiments.
Re-engage the Newbigin literature and agenda through the creation
of a multi-year think tank that brings together leaders with the
critical imagination to address the challenges of a Gospel encounter
with Western culture(s). Bearing in mind the lessons drawn from others
and the perceived need to take high level missiological thinking and
translate it into missiological practice, we propose forming an
International Missional Think Tank
on Mission to Western Culture which brings together significant
missional thinkers and practitioners from a range of churchmanship
across, Europe, North America, Southern Africa and Australasia. This
will be called the Allelon Missional Think Tank.
Form a multi-year, foundation sponsored process that explores key
issues of theory and praxis for mission to the western world. This
missional thinking will be shaped with, toward, under, in, through and,
at times against, the local church. The particularity of the local
church and its context rather than the discussions of the academy will
be the focal point of the research.
Frameworks for the initial stage of development:
- A focus on re-engaging, understanding and expanding the
Newbigin agenda which is focused toward the God-World/Gospel-Culture
- All work will be shaped by a self-conscious bias toward, from
and with the local church. The Allelon Think Tank’s work will be done
in contextual, practical interaction with local churches around the
Gospel/culture issues rather than abstract, theoretical discussions of
- The working model is an action-reflection process. Theological,
biblical and social science research is done in and through real
inter-actions with local communities.
- A twenty year, multi-generational project is required to
cultivate a movement of Christian leaders and scholars capable of a
missional engagement with Western culture.
- Developing the next generation of missional thinkers and practitioners is a high priority of the project.
(Authors of this text are the Allelon Missional Leadership Network
Pat Keifert, Alan Roxburgh, Martin Robinson and Mark Priddy; with a few texts changes made by Gordon Dames).
These questions outlines the outcome of the Missional Think Tank:
- How can the rich material and processes developed by Lesslie
Newbigin, the Gospel and Our Culture Network and others enter local
congregations in a process that bring transformation regarding various
issues to fruit?
- What would it look like if we identify on each of the
continents local congregation’s contexts and design a hermeneutical
process of entering, listening and attending to the local narratives
and attending to narratives that are actually shaping local communities?
- The purpose is then to bring these discoveries into
conversation and to engage these narratives and contexts with each
other and with sociologists, theologians, practical theologians, etc;
what are we discovering, discerning and learning to design experiments
of missional learning and of reflection.
- The primary intention is to begin where local people are and to
bring that into frame with the rich missional experience and knowledge
of the think tank.
21 July 2006