Vol 2:4 A Missional Story

This week I am at the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries in Elkhart, IN for a week-long Pastor’s Conference focusing on preaching in the 21st century. I bring many questions with me to this coming week.

The congregation I serve has been experimenting with a different way of engaging God’s Story and Vision (Scripture) since last Easter. I have attempted being more interactive, dialogical in our approach. While reading Stuart Murray’s The Naked Anabaptist, I discovered that there was a term for this kind of preaching – Interactive Preaching. This style of preaching fits with our Anabaptist heritage of approach Scripture through a community hermeneutic – in which the community interprets Scripture together. Though this is part of our Anabaptist heritage, today in contemporary Mennonite churches, as well as most churches in North America, we seem to rarely practice such an approach in our exploring Scripture.

Recently I also came across Doug Pagitt’s book, Preaching Re-imagined, and I discovered that he provides helpful insights for an interactive approach – his term is progressional dialogue.

One particular insight of Pagitt’s helps us see that we are involved in a missional story.

In his 11th chapter on Implication vs. Application, he makes the point that in asking the application question of Scripture, we are asking what we are to do with the story, how the Bible applies to our own lives, how we can make use of the Bible for our own living, what is in this text for me – it perpetuates an individualistic hermeneutic where we make use of Scripture.

On the other hand, implication asks a different set of questions. It asks “how we fit into the story of God” (Pagitt, 100). Our lives find a vocabulary for living by weaving our lives into God’s Story and Vision – and as a result our lives become woven missionally into the stories of the world (cf. Pagitt, 100).

As the people of God we are not about living out our own stories, but we have been embraced, captured by God’s Story and Vision – it is God’s Story and Vision that shapes our life, shapes our faith, shapes who we are, what we do, how we engage others, how we are missional in the world. When we ask “what are the implications of a particular Scripture for our lives?” we are not asking an application question – it is not about how we use the Bible, but rather we are asking how is my life to be transformed by the Spirit of God so that I might live my life within a faith community, missionally and incarnationally in the world, in order to participate in the redemptive mission of God of making all things new.

Pagitt expresses that “application is about how a piece of information fits into your life. Implication is not about fitting; it’s about redefining. It’s not value-added suggestion; it’s a call to see the story and join in it” (Pagitt, 102).

We are involved in a missional Story – a story that calls out to us to become engaged in it – a story that reshapes us, transforms us and refits us for living our lives under God’s reign – we become part of God’s ongoing Story and Vision as it is being enacted by God today – until God brings shalom to humanity and creation.

Our Sunday mornings then are a time for engaging God’s Story and Vision, not just to hear and apply it so that it somehow adds to our lives, it challenges us to contemplate implications of how we need to continually surrender our lives to God’s Story and Vision so that we live out our callings of being a people of God who are sign, foretaste, and instrument of God’s present and coming reign.

I will let you know next week the questions and insights I gained from this coming week’s Pastor’s Week.

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