Mission Style

In a world where faith doesn’t work like it used to and we are tempted to think that the sky is falling, our mission, and God’s call, are to live according to the lifestyle of Jesus. Our mission must become a style. That is the purpose of this blog. Welcome!

From an evenmtential to a stylistic paradigm of mission

What if we could shift our vision of what mission is; to zoom out from a focused idea of mission as events, or doing certain things, in certain times, and in certain places; to mission being the overarching context of our entire lives and our way of living.

Craig van Gelder argued that a vision of the Church as a social organisation that must accomplish something is a uniquely American invention, an unheard of change in the history of Christian ecclesiology (British missiologist Andrew Walls makes a similar argument in his article American Evangelicals and Foreign Missions; I’m sure I’ll post a summary at some point). Van Gelder argues that we should reestablish a conception of the Church’s vocation as incarnating what God is doing in the world, rather than accomplishing something, either for people or for God.

I find the French term évenémentiel particularly well suited to describing what has become a dominant way of thinking about missions – a paradigm that is becoming less and less helpful to the Church. L’évenementiel has the a revealing double meaning: on the one hand, as an adjective it signifies “relates to events”, in a very broad sense. But it has also been taken up as the name for the professional domain of event planning – those who work in l’événementiel do the logistical job of planning and executing events, concerts, conferences, festivals and so on. Like every professional domain, l’événementiel commes with a built-in set of values: excellence of execution, polish, marketability, growth, profitibility. These things describe the consumer entertainment industry very well, but don’t really look much like Jesus’ way of living out his mission. Instead of fighting the losing – and exhausting – battle of competing with Disney, Netflix and Youtube on their own terms, maybe we can start thinking differently about missions. Maybe we can set aside both the lotistical perfection of event planning, and the relegation of mission to special moments or activities.

Last week I joined the orientation time for a missions trip entitled PRAXIS, which describes itself like this: “PRAXIS is an opportunity to practise being a whole person who lives an integrated life.” What if we could adopt this as a definiton of mission?

Five paradigmes of Christian faith

Western society is undergoing a transition from a doctrinal-institutional paradigm of faith and religion to an experiential-lifestyle understanding. What would Christianity, and Christian mission, look like if we viewed them as a way of life?

The society we live in influences how we perceive the Christian faith, as if culture were as a lens or a window framing our view of the landscape behind it. The patterns we learn from our social context provide us with resources to understand the world, but they also color our understanding of the world, and they can hinder us from grasping the fullness of our reality.

The style of the joy and hope of the gospel

For some of my Protestant friends, having a photo of the Pope at the top of this article may seem scandalous. As an evangelical, I certainly have my hesitations and criticisms regarding Pope Francis and the Roman Catholic Church; but I have learned a lot, and have often been inspired, by examples of faith from the other side of the Tiber. The holistic vision of life and mission described in the text The Joy of the Gospel that Francis published during his first year as pope is an example that closely aligns with the idea of mission as a lifestyle which is at the core of my theological project. At a later date I wll discuss my theory of a transition from societal, doctrinal, and institutional paradgims towards a stylitic paradigm of Christian faith – but suffice it to say that some of these themes are very clear in this text by François. Here, I offer a brief summary of the main ideas of this text, based on a reading by Enzo Biemmi, a Catholic theologian and professor in Verona.