Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Missional Gibberish: On learning German and leading.

"Learning to read German is like constructing a jigsaw puzzle: the more pieces you have in place, the easier it is to fit in the final pieces." German Quickly

That is so true it is ridiculous! I need to read German for my doctoral program, and I am having so much trouble with it. But now it is finally getting easier. Unlike English grammar which is relatively straight forward (linear day I say), German grammar is more intuitive and loose (the pic is not a joke, it is reality!).

The same goes for much of missional theology. It is a jigsaw puzzle, a gestalt of pieces placed together which become comprehensible only when nearly finished. It is often hard to know where to start when describing it to people: "It has to do with theology...but really missiology, or rather, what Christ has accomplished on the cross, so that is soteriology, but not merely in a substitutionary-individualist sense...well, what I mean is God gathers us into his mission to save all creation, but we can't really do that unless we are in a concrete community...so really God is calling a people and that is what the cross is about..." Ever had that conversation? And we are still not even talking about what a missional church might look like!

The problem, though, that I've noticed is that often we missional leaders are so steeped in the missional grammar that we don't think it is confusing to talk like this, to talk as if we were speaking German. But just as often we loss the people we are supposed to be leading and then get frustrated that they don't see the big picture.

We must get in the habit of going back to the missional basics. Just because we are in advanced missional linguistics doesn't mean we neglect teaching our young leaders the basic missional grammar in clear, compelling language. If we don't, many of our lay leaders will start off excited albeit confused, and then continue being confused without being excited.


  1. Anonymous2:30 PM


    We met several years ago when I was living in Chicago and you were near Deerfield.

    I stumbled upon your blog and thought I would try to reconnect. I finished my Ph.D. this past spring, and am currently a pastor in SW Michigan. I hope all is well. If oyu would like to connect my email is: kjasmall@gmail.com

    Peace to you,

  2. Geoff,

    Good point. It seems we need to be both translators and language teachers. Nice post.