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Mission Impossible: My Five-Year Reunion with Missional and Emerging (Ted Kluck)

In the March issue of Credo Magazine, “Make Disciples of All Nations,” Ted Kluck has written an article titled, “Mission Impossible: My Five-Year Reunion with Missional and Emerging.” Reflecting back on his book with Kevin DeYoung, Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be, Kluck takes us back in time to explore what he has learned since, especially in regards to what it means to be “missional.” Here is the introduction to Kluck’s article:


 It occurred to me when I sat down today to write this piece that it’s been five years since Kevin DeYoung and I wrote Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be.  Since then I’ve been, for the most part, blissfully unaware of who’s doing what to whom (and writing what about whom) in the Emergent/Emerging/Missional camp.  I’m viewing this article as a sort of five-year reunion.  Imagine myself, Kevin, Don Carson, Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt,  Phyllis Tickle, Tony Jones and others all standing around awkwardly in a high school gymnasium with mixed drinks and nametags that read, “Hi, My Name Is: Brian McLaren”  and saying things like, “So, what have you been up to since our particular brands publicly clashed and sold us both a lot of books a few years ago?”  Rob Bell would be on the roster but will have missed the reunion in favor of giving a talk in a major sports arena or launching a television network.

Recently, by the grace of God, I’ve been made aware of some long-un-dealt-with areas of sin in my own life including (but definitely not limited to) arrogance, pride, cynicism and a kind of pervasive lack of humility.  Not the kind of pervasive lack of humility which wears sunglasses in the building, demands the best of everything, and routinely big-times people.  Not that kind at all – in fact, I was the antithesis of that – a real people pleaser.  Rather, I was the kind of un-humble person who lived for the praise of others (and therefore used people for praise), and who would quietly seethe when I felt others were receiving credit or success that I thought I deserved more.  In America we sometimes call that competitiveness, but in reality it’s just sin (jealousy, envy) and it makes a person (read: me) the worst kind of jerk at times.  Slowly realizing that has been like having my skin scraped away with sandpaper.  It’s been painful and humbling.  I think previously I had confused failure with humility – that is, when something would go wrong, as it often did, I would confuse that with “becoming more humble.”  I apologize for that, and I particularly apologize for how that attitude/cynicism found its way into some of my writing.

So all of that to say this essay probably won’t be the zinger-filled ha-ha fest that some of my past emergent/emerging/missional-related writings has been.

Nobody Knows What Missional Is But We All Agree It Was Exciting

My wife and I were driving through an uncool (pole barns as opposed to exposed brick) semi-industrial section of South Lansing recently when we passed by a print shop that doubled, for a while and maybe still, as an emergent church called “Barefoot.”  The building looked, by all appearances, to be a pretty nondescript print shop – the kind of place where you get letterhead, flyers, and business forms produced – but it was accompanied by a tired-looking vinyl banner that said something like, “Where church feels different!”  This, in addition to sort of making us sad, made us wonder about the state of the union vis the emerging/emergent/missional brand.

As you read this, you may be the kind of person who sees “missional” and immediately thinks “socialist.”  Or you may be the kind of person who sees “missional” and immediately thinks of crawling out of a drainage ditch in your (insert Christian College) t-shirt and bandana in Africa where you just solved groundwater problems for an entire village.  This means you’re probably either a college student or the editor of a Christian College alumni magazine.  Or you may be a publishing executive, thinking that putting together the right combination of young author-plus-faux-distressed-cover (remember the faux-duct-tape craze in Christian publishing, circa 2008?)-bearing-the-word-“missional” will equal booming sales.  All of that to say that it may not matter a whole lot what the word means, as much as it matters who is benefiting from the word and how they are benefiting.

The squiggly red line appearing under the word “missional” in Microsoft Word is proof that it’s not yet a real word as much as it’s more of a brand name, like Kleenex, that has sort of become a real word in the vernacular of evangelicals.  In this way even the super-nebulous emergent/emerging moniker is further along.  At least it’s linguistically possible to emerge from something or to be in the process of emerging from something.

And I think what we’ve found, as far as categories go, is that one can be conservative/reformed and still be “missional” if we loosely define missional as being someone who outwardly cares about any combination of the following:  the poor, the city, the arts, outreach in general, impoverished peoples worldwide.   If that’s our working definition, we should probably all be missional in some way, shape or form.  For that matter, nobody would really say they aren’t missional, while there are many who would say they’re not emergent (and even write books by that title).  So missional is sort of a catch-all that can encompass people from both groups.  If we were to Venn-diagram the whole thing, “missional” would be the overlapping part in the middle with emergent/ing representing a big circle on the left, and reformed/conservative in a big circle on the right. . . .

Finish reading Ted Kluck’s article!

To view the Magazine as a PDF {Click Here}

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20) These words, spoken by Jesus after his resurrection, are famously known as The Great Commission. As disciples of Christ, it is our great joy to go and tell the nations about the good news of salvation for sinners through Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. The March issue of Credo Magazine will seek to ignite a passion for missions. And what better timing as this year marks the 200th anniversary of Adoniram and Ann Judson setting sail aboard the Caravan with to take the gospel to Burma. Contributors include: Ted Kluck, Jason Duesing, Nathan Finn, the Housley Family (missionaries in Papua New Guinea), Kenneth Stewart, Brian Vickers, David VanDrunen, Matt Williams, and many others.

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