Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New Wine/New Wineskins (2)

My other paper for Prague is ready, having benefited from your comments to earlier postings. I have enjoyed reading others, such as Van Gelder (in Review & Expositor Vol 101:2). He summarizes old and new wineskins by contrasting the corporate church with the missional church. Claiming that the majority of Christian congregations share one characteristic in common, he describes the corporate church (embedded in the European version of Constantinian Christendom) as marked by a self-understanding that it exists 'as an organization to accomplish something, normally on behalf of God in the world.' However, the missional church's self understanding is 'a called and sent community created by Spirit to participate in God's mission in the world.' There is a world of difference between the DOING corporate church and the BEING missional church.
Now this contrast is inevitably oversimplified, yet the missional model, undergirded by a lively Trinitarian theology (inviting us to share with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit), does speak powerfully of new wineskins.
I shall be interested, within the conference's international context, to see how many identify with the missional church rather than the corporate. And what difference should this make to our seminary teaching?
At the end of my paper I decided (cheekily) to give an example from my teaching of preachers. I refer to a worksheet with ten questions that I use with preachers, who need to select a number of recent sermons for analysis: 'How thin-blooded is my preaching?' Question 1 asks how individualistic the sermons are. 'Look at the language. Is "you" always about the personal individual lives of hearers, and how often is "you" (plural) and "we" related to the community? Does the "kingdom of God feature in your language? Can a hearer walk away thinking that Christ's challenge in only about "my life, my purpose, my future"?
Question 3 asks about 'spineless theology'. Underline where there is a theology of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, either explicit or implicit. Where else do you share theological truth to undergird continuing Christian experience. Question 10 asks whether sermons are 'missionally defective': In what ways did the sermon challenge the church to live as missional people, expressing Christ's life and love in its witness before the world?
Having used the full ten questions many times over the last two years I can tell you most preachers fall short somewhere. I certainly do. I shall let you know what happens at the conference!


Anonymous said...


Are your final papers going to be available somewhere so we can look at the final product? I would love to see the end result.
Your questions to pastors really hit at the heart of their ministries and force them to think critiquely about what they are doing. You create an interesting structure for their critical thinking. What has been the response of pastors and the impact on their ministries? Do you get encouraging feedback and positive follow-up from them?

Anonymous said...

Okay, I have some questions too: what is subversive about this spirituality, the new wine and wineskins? Practically, how do the two churchs differ, the corporate church vs. the missional church? I'm a visual and experiential learner and from Missouri, the Show Me state so, on occasion, you have to show me. There are times that I feel you two are talking and I just need to sit back and take it in. I do need to interject a few questions now and again though.