Wednesday, July 7, 2010

reflections on Princeton

Princeton is a town of academic brilliance. Princeton University is a jewel in an historic setting where people like Einstein have lived. The Karl Barth interest at Princeton Seminary is due to his prestige as the greatest theologian of the twentieth century. What qualifies one for this title?

Barth saw with clarity that theology had become a mere reflection of humans looking at human interests and questions, only to project these snapshots onto God. He insisted that God must speak for God, and that that is not a literary archeological dig, but is a fresh hearing of the Bible as enabling us to encounter the Living Lord, Jesus Christ.

The conference I attended in June was focused on Karl Barth’s critique that the church often becomes an institution that refers to God and worships as an inward-focused community. He proposed that God is a Missional God, witnessed in the Father sending the Son and the Spirit. If one reads with Missional eyes, one becomes aware that everything being communicated is intended to mobilize the community to be sent out. We think of Missions as an extra program of the church. For Barth, the church is Missional: hence it gathers, builds up, and sends EVERY WEEK. If churches miss being Missional, only the storm troopers will go out, and the norm for most will be to maintain and protect existing structures.

Is your church Missional or in Maintenance mode? What would it take to re-direct its course?

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