In an earlier post, Biblical’s academic dean, Todd Mangum, discussed why Biblical teaches missional theology and rather than ‘systematic theology.

This blog addresses how you can sharpen your study of missional theology—whether you are a casual learner or an enrolled student. Theological reflection and integration of your prior learning with the new missional framework and vocabulary will get you started on a fruitful path.

    1. Identify the theological/ecclesiological commitments that you bring to your studies, both those that are “on the surface” and those on the “theological assumptions” level. You should do this with the help resources such as your church’s creeds or statement of faith, theologically astute people in your church or family, formative books and experiences, and other students.
    2. Integrate your theological and ecclesiological location with what you are learning in your readings or courses about missional theology, missional hermeneutics, and missional church. The mission of God is the integrative motif for missional theology that can interact with your existing theological location. It can enhance it, challenge it, and rearrange it. Discuss your new theological insights with others so that you are regularly reflecting on the missional content and how it is interacting with your own theological and ecclesiological location.
    3. Become familiar with the art and skills of dynamic conversation early in your studies. Learn to speak the truth in love; listen well; hold theological and biblical interpretations provisionally, yet with conviction; and seek faithfulness in a complex, contemporary world. As one theologian put it: “The truth of the gospel…is always spoken and interpreted in love. It is never spoken for the purpose of political control or domination but in the hope that each person and community might discover its true voice and its own distinctive experience of full humanity as the gospel takes root in fresh and diverse ways.”(James Brownson, Speaking the Truth in Love (Trinity Press International, 1998).
    4. Assess your intercultural intelligence and practice the skills of intercultural intelligence. Intercultural intelligence “relinquishes pictures of the world that place our selves at the center.” (David I. Smith, Learning from the Stranger [Eerdmans, 2009]) Insteadall cultural encounters as intercultural. One missiologist’s vision for intercultural learning is holistic and is tied to growing to maturity as a follower of Jesus Christ. He wrote that it is a process that “leads us to needed changes in our attitudes and behaviors. It can open us to the need to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before God. None of these are inevitable accompaniments…. If we are willing, however, intercultural learning can be taken up into the work of redemption, the creation of a new people that began on the cross and erupted into the world at Pentecost. (Ibid)Likewise, the missional interpretive methodology assumes that no single culture is privileged, including one’s own.
    5. Maintain a journal that records your observations and reflections.  Here are some possible questions to consider:
      • Where is Christian mission in your context creating the need for fresh theological activity?
      • What interdisciplinary insights and partnerships are needed for more effective ministry in your context?
      • What intercultural insights and partnerships are needed for more authentic and inclusive ministry in your context?
    6. Incorporate and share your insights from the activities 1-5 above into a kind of “debriefing session” after several months or a year of study. Talk with others about how you have been shaped. The session can also include a biblical-theological homily or short presentation on a missional topic, whether or not you identify your theological position as specifically in agreement with missional theology’s conceptual framework.
    7. Be vigilant to look for ways to use what you are learning and share it with others—in your church, family and neighborhood context…and in all of life.

Susan Disston was assistant dean of curriculum and assessment at Biblical Seminary.

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