Friday, March 04, 2005

Gospel-Driven Church

On the whole i'm enjoying Ian Stackhouse's book (which a lot of people seem to be reading) although i'm not sure i agree with everything he has to say (he's coming from quite a Reformed, Calvinist perspective that doesn't sit that comfortably with me, for example). his contention that much evangelical spirituality is predicated on the idea that by raising the spiritual temperature (i.e. working harder in prayer etc.) we can somehow precipitate a 'move of God' seems insightful to me. there's certainly a lot of that sort of 'COME ON!' thinking in the contemporary church. over the years i have seen many people give up on church when the revival that has been promised for so long has failed to materialise. year after year they were told that 'this is the year of the favour of the Lord' (not so sure that this was exactly what Isaiah had in mind). disillusionment was always just around the corner. for some time now i have felt drawn to a spirituality that has more to do with spiritual formation through the faithful practice of the spiritual disciplines in community. For Stackhouse, much contemporary evangelical spirituality is almost Old Testament in its character: continually pursuing something more from God (like there's something missing) rather than trusting and resting in what has already been accomplished through Christ. it's a fine line though, i guess, isn't it? not many of us would want to disagree with St Bono when he said, "I still haven't found what I'm looking for". It's that pesky 'already, but not yet' eschatological thing again.
One thing that has struck me about Stackhouse's book is his missiology, or rather, a lack of one. admittedly i have not yet finished reading it but he doesn't seem to have one in what i've read so far and, flicking through the rest of the book, it doesn't look like one is coming. perhaps this book does not include missiology within its remit but in what it does contain i am picking up a sense that for Stackhouse, in an almost Anglo-Catholic sense, mission is about getting the church right, being faithful.

"the formation of a...charismatic, evangelical community, under the Word and the sacraments, and empowered by the Holy Spirit of God, is the ultimate proclamation of the gospel" (p.178)

Now I am one of the first to say that one of the best ways to do mission is to plant new expressions of church, i.e. that doing church is a good way to do mission, but Stackhouse seems to reduce the task of mission to the pursuit of a faithful church life. what about the missio dei? what about seeking, and attending to, the kingdom in the world? perhaps i've misread him. would anyone else who's read the book care to comment?

Gospel-Driven Church
Originally uploaded by Matt Rees.

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