Initial Thoughts on Mike Breen’s Proposal to Change the Missional Conversation
Mike Breen’s blog “Why the Missional Conversation Must Change” puts into more popular form the core of John Flett’s scholarly analysis God as Witness. He argues that “Missio Dei” needs to become “Missio Trinitatis” to confront the strong individualism of western culture. This individualism, claims Breen, has reduced the conception of Missio Dei to an individualized “God” which in turn results in producing individual missional Christians who are confused and ill-prepared to be witnesses in the world. So, Breen says, we must recover the triunty of the one God, God as community, and allow this understanding and experience of God to define our sense of mission and transform us as a missional people.
Flett claims that even with the rise of the Mission Dei movement usually claimed as beginning in 1952 at the World Council of Churches meeting in Willingen, Germany, this concept was insufficiently trintiarian from its beginning (for various reasons we need not go into here). Though associated and often credited with being the force behind this movement, Flett demonstrates that this genealogy is incorrect and that it is precisely Barth’s theology that the movement needs to flesh out its potential.
This is, I think, certainly true. I also think Breen is right to identify western individualism as a chief culprit. And while in the scholarly realm Trinitarian theology has redressed some of the theological deficits Flett identifies, Breen points to the failure of the same “on the ground” in the churches. I’m not sure his suggestion that we leave Missio Dei behind in favor of Missio Trinitatis is helpful, though. The Missio Dei, the mission of God, the Christian God, is Trinitarian through and through. Better retain the term and fill it with its proper content than needlessly proliferate phrases. And, of course, the critical task is to find ways to live more deeply into the trinitarian life of God, the community that God is that we, his people, might more and more grow into the community we are meant to be.
I have a lot of thoughts about that and will blog some of them in the days ahead.