There is a danger that the idea of “conversion” can become a casualty of the Missional Church movement. The emphasis on the Mission of God, that God is working everywhere outside the church and all we need do is join in, might lead some to imply that there is no specific realm of Christ’s Lordship where disciples of Christ must enter and explicitly submit their lives into Christ’s rule. Other missiological notions might contribute to a de-emphasis on conversion such as the missiological notions that a.) ask us to think more in terms of centered sets as opposed to bounded sets, that b.) argue that missiology precedes ecclesiology or that c.) Mission is more about God working in various forces of society as opposed to an explicit “people of God.” I appreciate all these missiological insights and the authors/friends that teach us about them. I see the value in each one of these theological/missiological ideas especially when accompanied by a strong ecclesiology. Nonetheless, I’ve notice that, if not careful, “conversion” can become a casualty of this missiology. I don’t think it has to. I don’t think it should. Yet often, the line becomes blurred between church and world, between explicit submission to Jesus as Lord and a participation in that reign in the world. I think a strong ecclesiology is inextricable from a strong missiology. We need a distinction as well as a inclusion of one in the other. I’ve noticed when this distinction gets lost that so does the notion of conversion.
A couple of months ago (over here) I tried to raise the issue that conversions look differently in missional/emerging churches. As a result, I think that missional churches need to be intentional about how we engage the process of conversion – initiation into Christ’s Lordship via the church, lest we fail in this essential aspect of the gospel. We need to avoid the mistakes of a transactional meaningless conversion process, yet we need to avoid the loss of conversion as a real point of discipleship for Missional church. I wrote an article on this for this month’s Christianity Today (as part of the Christian Vision Project). You can check it out here.
Am I too much of a fundamentalist here? Is any one else in Missional church world struggling with these issues? How are you addressing it?