The Attractional/Missional Debate Won’t Stop: Three Take-Aways

This attractional/missional debate just won’t stop! And I think we might be getting somewhere. Thanks to Dan Kimball and Out of Ur for starting this whole thing up again. Here are some highlights for me.

1.) This is a question about the right way of church in post-Christendom. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Pres. NYC, in one of his comments on my last post, raises the issues of the Models of the Church. He says all of the various historical models of the church have different strengths, weaknesses, gift mixes, and are appropriate for certain times and contexts. We need them all. I agree! What I want to argue is post Christendom requires of us an Anabaptist missional ecclesiology. Indeed what I want to argue is that the attractional and consumerist driven ecclesiologies have not got the contextualization right, what Keller refers to as “not over-adapted or under-adapted.” I think prof. Keller’s approach to cultural engagement (in that comment) has some problems in it in that he uses the word “adapt.” But I know he wasn’t working out a theology of culture there. So I’ve got to give him the benefit of the doubt.

2.) Part of this talking past each other (Attractionals talking past Missionals) has to do with the assumptions that underlie Reformed versus Anabaptist (as well as Pragmatist) missional theorists and practitioners. On my comment (in my last blog post) to prof. Keller, I hinted that I thought some of the talking past each other (in this missional/attractional debate) was due to some assumptions that lie deeply embedded in the Reformed leanings that back some missional thinkers (I’d put in this camp Keller, Driscoll and my buddy Stetzer – depite his denials) and the assumptions that lie embedded in my own and others’ Anabaptist (postmodern cultural) leanings. I want to explore that in another upcoming post. Ironically Andy Rowell has mapped 60 theologians on the spectrum of high church-low church. I think he’s ranked me wrong. For in terms of strong ecclesiology I, like the theologian who has most influenced me (Hauerwas), find myself committed to a very Mennonite communal ecclesiology along with a very high church (Catholic) view of liturgical formation. Having said that, I’d like to see Andy rank the missional thinkers along the Catholic – Reformed – Anabaptist theological spectrum. I’m going to address this in a future post.

3.) In the end the attractional apologists must still answer the consumerist question! Bill Kinnon’s post today is a highlight. In response to Redeemer Pres. NYC pastor Tim Keller’s comment in my last post, the irrepressible Bill Kinnon says some things that must be responded to directly. It’s got to be one of the highlights of this entire blogalogue on missional versus attractional. I urge Dr Keller, Dr McKnight, Rev Kimball, and other missional thinkers to respond to Bill. I urge a response that does not by pass the issues he presents regarding consumerism. Yes it’s a tired critique. But answers like “no one can avoid being a consumer,” or “people are coming to Christ in these churches” or “different models work for different contexts” simply don’t cut it when a guy like Bill Kinnon speaks so forthrightly.I hope everyone else has learned as much as I have from this dialogue. What do you think about these proposals? Agree? Disagree?

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