What Does “Missional” Even Mean? Or, One Reason Why I Dropped Out of Seminary

I’ve been reading a book by an academic theologian lately. Came across this sentence:

“Missional presence and activity is nothing more than participation in the missio Dei and that participation is the praxis of atonement.”

First, let me just say, after one reading, I hope you have no idea what that means.

Second, if you do know what that means after one reading, I encourage you to get out with people more often.

Third, although theology is just a bunch of guys trying to talk smart about God, it’s not a bad thing to know how to dissect their statements.

It’s a good exercise to read complicated theology every once in a while. Not too often, but once in a while. It does stretch the brain. Sometimes it stretches boundaries of word definitions as well.

If theologians made theology easy, they’d be out of a job. Theologians spend a lot of time alone with big books. Their only hope of being of use is to turn others into isolationist book readers who talk above others.

There is no office of “theologian” detailed in the Bible for the Church. Ephesians 4, which tells us all the gifted people we need to be mature in Christ, never mentions a theologian. Yes, there are teachers, but the job of a teacher is to make complex things simple, not to make complex things indiscernible.

Theologians work in schools where others go to be theologians. They are practically of no use at all.

I understand I’m probably being flippant, hyperbolic, and rude, but seriously, it’s my honest opinion.

It is my contention that the Church would be better off without academic theologians. Anyone who thinks otherwise went to seminary, works at a seminary, wants to work at a seminary, or wants to feel like their student debt was actually worth it.

What they mainly study is what other theologians say. In the end, much of what passes for academic theology has little to do with the Bible, and much to do with dead white guys. It is a common theme among seminary observers to wonder why seminaries don’t seem to be equipping pastors for actual pastoral work. Hmmm, it’s a mystery to me.

But, I digress. To the statement above. Here are a couple common-man definitions of theological concepts:

Missional–this is a relatively new word, invented by what is known as The Emerging Church. It’s a new way of “doing evangelism.” A middle road between evangelism (telling others the good news of Christ) and the Social Gospel (doing nice things for people as we imagine Jesus would have, but probably never mentioning Jesus). Missional means that the Church is on a mission to bring God to the world, mostly shown by example, more so than by handing out tracts.

Missional presence–refers to the purpose of the church being here–the Church is God’s redeeming presence on earth.

Missio Dei–Latin for “the mission of God.” Jesus Christ isn’t just a person, the part of the Gospel who saves you. Missio Dei is seeing yourself as doing part of the saving of others by living the example of Christ to the world around you.

Praxis–means “practice.”

Praxis of Atonement--what happens when we begin to see the redemption of Christ as more than just what saved me, but living the Gospel to bring others to redemption in Christ.

In the end, all those words are defined by me and are my take on what those who use such words are saying about those words. I’m sure they would tell you I’m an idiot, that’s totally not what we mean by that.

In essence, what the theological statement above is saying is this:

And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

Why couldn’t they just say that? Because if all theologians did was quote the Bible, they couldn’t sell books, speak at conferences, be tenured, be superior to you uneducated dolts, and so on. Also, by using complex words, they can avoid biblical application and develop their own slightly-off application. Their application is different than Paul’s on this subject.

I dropped out of seminary, I’ll admit it. It wasn’t because I couldn’t handle it, I was pulling a 3.50 GPA after a year and a half of mostly Greek classes. Academic Theology was one reason why I dropped out. Couldn’t handle the smoke and mirrors, the suspicion there was a man behind the curtain putting me on. Why not just make it simple and go with the text?

Read the Bible way more than theology books.

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