Written by Dr. Samuel Logan
Thursday, 10 November 2011 00:00
A friend just wrote me to say this:
“From my conversations with many folks outside of Biblical, it’s clear the idea of claiming ‘missional’ as differentiating [this seminary] will be a challenge since ‘missional’ has increasingly become part of the everyday lexicon of churches and seminaries.”
In my judgment, this friend is absolutely correct.
When I first came to work at Biblical (2008), I wasn’t sure myself whether being (and being known as) “missional” was a good thing. But times – and my perceptions - have changed (as I indicated in my blog post yesterday).
I know that the Lausanne Movement does not "define" evangelicalism but there probably is no current global organization with more impact on the nature and perception of evangelicalism than Lausanne and this was dramatically enhanced by the Lausanne Congress held in Cape Town, South Africa, last October. The long-term linkage of leaders like John Stott and Billy Graham with the Lausanne Movement and the inclusion as plenary speakers at the Cape Town event of individuals like John Piper and Tim Keller assure that the solidly conservative and evangelical ethos of Lausanne is both felt and real. And, having been at the Cape Town event, I can say that the word "missional" was constantly being uttered at the Congress, always in a positive way.
In addition, Chris Wright, who chairs "The Cape Town 2010 Statement Working Group" and who, more than any other single person, currently embodies and defines the theology of Lausanne, had already, even before 2010, been affirming the necessity and the biblical validity of the term, missional. See his The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative (2006). And then, just before the Cape Town Congress, he published The Mission of God's People: A Biblical Theology of the Church's Mission. Both of them outstanding books!
Not only is the term "missional" GENERALLY more "acceptable" in "orthodox evangelical" circles, the term is increasingly being adopted by all kinds of educational institutions and organizations. One reason for this is, again, the impact of "The Cape Town Commitment." For those of us in theological education, the section entitled "Theological Education and Mission" is of special significance. Here are three points made in that section:
- Those of us who lead churches and mission agencies need to acknowledge that theological education is intrinsically missional.
- Theological education stands in partnership with all forms of missional engagement.
- We urge that institutions and programmes of theological education conduct a "missional audit" of their curricula, structures, and ethos, to ensure that they truly serve the needs and opportunities facing the church in their cultures.
All of this leads me to say that my friend, quoted above, is right.
But the near universal present acceptance of “missional” (both word and concept) now presents new challenges. BEING “missional” is not necessarily the same as CLAIMING TO BE “missional.” This is really the sense of the third Cape Town point above. And if most evangelical seminaries are now claiming to be “missional,” what differentiates among them?
These are a couple of questions which those of us participating in the Biblical Seminary Faculty Blog are attempting to address. Look back at Phil Monroe's two blogs earlier this week. Or at Todd Mangum's two blogs at the end of last week. These are just the beginning of our own "missional audit" of the theological program here at Biblical Seminary.
Stay tuned for more!
Sam Logan is Special Counsel to the President and Professor of Church History at Biblical. He is an ordained minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He is married to Susan and they have two sons and two grandsons. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/samuel-logan