What does Missional Look Like? Not Look Like? Why must I Tweet about it???

You may have noticed my missionSHIFT tweets of late over on my Twitter feed. Five weeks ago as I prepared to spend time in Asheville, NC as Warren Wilson’s activist in residence, I learned about the MissionSHIFT conference that will be held at the Ridgecrest Conference Center very close to the Wilson campus.The purpose of the conference  is to bring together missiologists, theologians, and practitioners to think deeply about the mission of God and how we might become missional.

On the conference site they provide a cool tech feature where tweets appear in “The Conversation” section of the bottom of each page. You tweet with #missionSHIFT as 13 of your 140 characters and your message pops up on the site. A few of us began tweeting about the lack of diversity represented among the speakers and the framers of the Missional Manifesto. It was exclusively a white, male, American group of pastors and church planters. Two weeks later conference organizers added  Linda Bergquist, a female church worker from the Bay Area doing a lab (not a keynote) and Eric Mason, a Black man (with a cap I envy) featured not as a speaker but one of the framers (with no bio or links provided–just his photo.)

This week David Fitch, a reflective and thoughtful. emerging church Evangelical pastor from the Chicago area launched a synchroblog where speakers and organizers and interested parties of the MissionSHIFT conference all asked the same question about missional in order to open up a community dialogue.

So for the sake of conversation today, leave a comment about with your own 1-sentence definition of “missional.” And, in the weeks to come, we will be addressing certain points or issues in the missional conversation that need consideration and perhaps clarity.

After a month of trying to get a twitter discussion started (most of the folks so far have only posted PR sort of tweets about the conference) I thought I’d jump in with my concerns. Below is a transcripts of comments between me and  Ed Stetzer, the lead organizer of the event and staff member at Lifeway (publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention). Check out the sort of missional exchange share.

By peterson toscano on March 2, 2010 9:07 AM

As I have posted elsewhere, we need to commit to hearing multiple voices, not just in on-line forums, but from the stage of the missionSHIFT conference. Demonstrate and validate your value to diversity of voices by giving those voices a place on the program and not just in blog comments.

The primary apparent flaw with the missionSHIFT missional manifesto conference is the grossly over-representation of white, male, middle-class, American clergy of the church planting variety. So many voices are not represented. Women, non-Americans, the poor, sexual minorities, other types of ministers (hospital & prison chaplains, people who work with children, the homeless, in hospice, college ministries.) The result is destined to be much of the same unless we open up the table to the full body of Christ.

Look at the early churc–one of the first converts to Christianity was a surgically altered, gender-variant, rich civil servant from Africa (the Ethiopian Eunuch) who went home w/ Good News and to this day a church traces its roots to that person. Radical inclusion. New Wine in New Wine Skins.

By Ed StetzerAuthor Profile Page on March 2, 2010 1:58 PM

Peter,

You have left this almost identical quote on several blogs. Let me address it here.

We agree that there needs to be more diversity– I’ve already indicated that and we are continuing to invite more voices. I think if you will follow my blog you will see that I often seek to introduce new voices. Thanks for taking a look at the different types of people that are coming. But, we also think that God uses pastors in the church and are glad to have many of them represented as they serve churches filled with all kinds of people.

Now, in regards to you gender and sexuality comments. We believe that the mission of God is described and explained in the Word of God. Thus, we cannot call something missional that does not follow the teaching of scripture.

I know your desire is for all Christians to affirm the practices of gay, lesbian, and transgendered persons. And, I have read of your hurt in ex-gay programs. I am sorry that you were hurt, because so many others have found great freedom through those very ministries.

But, we won’t be debating homosexuality here because we think that is is settled in the scriptures. We want to be welcoming of all people, but we cannot affirm what scripture teaches is wrong. Thus, we want to be on mission to all peoples– and we know that all of us have sins with which we struggle. But, we cannot proclaim a focus on the mission of God and then ignore the teachings of the Word of God.

I invite you to reconsider your view, look to the scriptures, get in a community that will encourage you to biblical fidelity and faithfulness, and, yes, change your view of homosexuality.

We are all broken– but the answer is not to call “right” what God calls wrong.

As I said, we won’t be debating that here… but since you commented, I’m glad to reply in what I hope is a respectful way.

God bless,

Ed

By peterson toscano on March 2, 2010 4:57 PM
Ed, having attended Nyack College and served as an Evangelical Christian missionary, I am fully aware that you are not interested in a discussion about the faith experiences of gay and lesbian Christians. I never intended to bring up that topic and would prefer we not get bogged down with a fruitless and distracting conversation.

Sexual minorities were only one of several groups I mentioned (and sexual minorities I mentioned were not gay or lesbian people but intersex and transgender individuals who rarely find welcome in either the church or gay and lesbian spaces.)

I hear you say you wish to reserve your platforms for pastors, and I imagine that means mostly male pastors, but the church and the mission field is made up of a vast array of ministers, male and female, in a diversity of ministries. These servants have vital information to share with church planters and pastors.

As I mentioned above these include–hospital & prison chaplains, people who work with children, the homeless, in hospice, college ministries etc. Also, having served in both South America and Africa, I can see the challenges and pitfalls of a predominately white US-led discussion of missions and missional living that does not include voices from outside of the US.

We may not agree on one issue, but I have a heart for missions and for the fulfillment of a scene that always moves me deeply:

I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

I believe we may share this hope in common.

—————-

Back to my blog here today: So there is the exchange above, but something brought Ed’s comments to me and particularly his hope that the response he gave was respectful.  I sat with it, spent some time in prayer, got discernment and feedback from folks I respect. I didn’t want to create a major thread drift over at his blog post, and I didn’t want to respond immediately, so instead I post my response to Ed here in my blog. I am not looking for a debate on the gay issue. I am not looking for an invite to their conference (that ain’t gonna happen I know). I actually don’t exactly know why I am responding (leading of the Spirit or unresolved angst from my sordid Evangelical past?) but here goes. He who has ears to hear…

Ed, I could not find your e-mail address where I can send the following, so I will have to hsare it here. You and others may find my comments relevant to our discussion about missional.

Above you write,

I invite you to reconsider your view, look to the scriptures, get in a community that will encourage you to biblical fidelity and faithfulness, and, yes, change your view of homosexuality.

-snip-

As I said, we won’t be debating that here… but since you commented, I’m glad to reply in what I hope is a respectful way.

Ed, Actually I find your words to be disrespectful condescending, reactive and dismissive–the antithesis of missional. Dis-missional?

You may not respect me because I am gay, and you have determined that my faith and my relationship to God are inferior to yours, but in doing so you highlight the very problem I point out in my original statement above–your view of missional is elitist, allowing only a select few to speak out. This is not a gay debate. This is about allowing even those you are in fellowship with a chance to speak at your conference.

You may not like to hear this message from me, someone you consider broken, but as a wise elder from an Evangelical church I attended in Yonkers, NY would say, truth is truth no matter who says it.
p2son@earthlink.net

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This post has 5 Comments

  1. chrisaiken on March 3, 2010 at 4:53 pm Reply

    So…I took the bait and dropped by to pick up on what you were alluding to on Ed’s site.

    Sir, (and I do mean that respectfully), I think it is a bit disingenuous to accuse Stetzer of elitism. The very heart of the gospel is a clear recognition that there is no basis for pride or elitism in any true follower of Christ since the only means by which a person is reconciled to God is by grace through faith.

    He presented his view framed in Scripture. Most evangelicals would agree that the Scripture is very clear on the subject of homosexuality. As you noted…”truth is truth.” In fact, the only way to argue against Stetzer is to declare that he misrepresents truth and that you alone can truthfully interpret the Word of God. (Sort of sounds elitist to me).

    I imagine that this issue is not resolvable between you and I (or you and whomever) since I would imagine that there is not an objective authority that we can agree to accept and submit our differing and quite possible errant conclusions to. I might appeal to a traditional (conservative)hermeneutic, while you may begin at a different place. Either way, I can respect that you are a man of conviction who feels “convinced/convicted” about your conclusions on the subject of homosexuality. I would think that a man of conviction can also respect the convictions of other who have thoughtfully arrived at a different conclusion.

    If being “missional” involves a dismissing of doctrinal truth in order to become inclusive, then I am not certain we embrace the same “mission.”

    Regards,
    CA

    • p2son on March 3, 2010 at 5:17 pm Reply

      Chris, yeah, I’m not talking about the “gay thing” which I know is so distracting for some people. When I talk about elitism, I mean the exclusion of non-pastors (like chaplains, youth workers, homeless shelter staff, etc), non-whites, women, internationals. For a moment step away from my fabulous gayness and consider that I am NOT talking about the gays here, but your own people who are left out.

  2. Jane on March 3, 2010 at 6:06 pm Reply

    Peterson states:

    The primary apparent flaw with the missionSHIFT missional manifesto conference is the grossly over-representation of white, male, middle-class, American clergy of the church planting variety. So many voices are not represented. Women, non-Americans, the poor, sexual minorities, other types of ministers (hospital & prison chaplains, people who work with children, the homeless, in hospice, college ministries.) The result is destined to be much of the same unless we open up the table to the full body of Christ.”

    Now being “from Missouri” I went to the website to see what the conference “looked like.” As I clicked my way across the masthead I was hit with the cost of the conference. If I were to attend my basic cost would be $499.00. That is room and registration alone, no food or transportation. I looked for something that might tell me there was scholarships or financial assistance available. I found no such thing. This excludes so many of the Church. In the midst of a recession; good stewards do not take food from children and widows while tending to their own wants.

    Speakers. Every keynote speaker is male, white, and the executive or head pastor of a ministry or church; there is one she, and SHE is not on the Mainstage. Now as any garage band can tell you, the Mainstage is where it’s at. That is the focus — that’s the money — that’s where the people want to be. The only woman slated to speak, is in the back of the building in the “labs.”

    I checked out the ministries of those giving keynote addresses. Again, I saw no one giving bread to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, visiting the sick or those in prison, no one clothing the naked. Jesus is very clear that this is to be our mission.

    If MissionSHIFT wants to truly shift the way THEY view the world, to see through the love of God, ALL God’s children need to be represented and heard. As Tony Campolo often says: it’s time to afflict the comfortable.

  3. Vicki Hesse on March 3, 2010 at 10:04 pm Reply

    I’m sad that the focus is on sexuality, once again. Can I vomit? The issue is so much bigger – and I think, P2son you nailed it (sorry for the pun).

    It’s about DIVERSITY of views and experiences and welcoming ALL of God’s creation to the new realm of God that is happening now.

    They say it’s not what you see when you travel, but the new eyes you come home with. I’ve been formed from straight, white, male eyes – and I hunger for all the other eyes and ears and flesh of other experiences to enliven my ministry.

    Thank you for continuing this conversation. That’s where healing is – in mutual transformation. blessings – Vicki

  4. Joe G. on March 4, 2010 at 7:38 pm Reply

    I actually don’t exactly know why I am responding (leading of the Spirit or unresolved angst from my sordid Evangelical past?)…

    I think it’s one of the personalities. This has happened in the past, but you typically for it.

    You’re my favorite multiple, p2son…

    Thanks for missing my podcast, too.

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