So I'm processing through the latest Chaplaincy newsletter and followed the link to read the article by Alan Hirsch entitled, Defining Missional, when I stumbled (and I mean, stumbled) across these words, "By his very nature God is a "sent one" who takes the initiative to redeem his creation" (para. 7). I can no longer hear anything this man has written because he has reduced God to a "sent one!" So who sent God? Should I worship that one! Lest you think me a bit over-dramatic, paragraphs 4 & 5 are written thusly:
There are consequences when the meanings of words become confused. This is particularly true within a biblical worldview. The Hebrews were suspicious of images as conveyors of truth, so they guarded words and their meanings carefully. Part of theology, therefore, includes guarding the meaning of words to maintain truth within the community of faith.
This is why I am concerned about the confusion surrounding the meaning of the word missional. Maintaining the integrity of this word is critical, because recovering a missional understanding of God and the Church is essential not only for the advancement of our mission but, I believe, also for the survival of Christianity in the West.
So he spends two paragraphs "guarding the meanings of words" and "maintaining the integrity of this word," only to goof it up by calling God a sent one? That is a very difficult proposition to swallow. Now, admittedly, I am no expert on missio Dei theology, but a cursory examination of it bothers me. From its thomistic origins to its wildly divergent definitions, perhaps it's not as clear a descriptor as some think.
My two cents? Chaplains are pastors with transient congregants. I'm military, so sometimes my congregants move, and sometimes I do. Hospital chaplains see patients come and go from the hospital with even more frequency than I. Missionaries tend to be focused on a fairly stable people group (though admittedly not always). All churches operate with a degree of transient congregants, but Chaplaincy focuses all its energies almost entirely on those transients. My only stable congregants? My family. Imagine spending all your hours of study, sermon prep, and socializing on people whom you know won't be there for very long! That's what a chaplain does! In many ways, I count myself blessed to be in the military because my chapel attendees are usually around for two to three years, though even that is broken up by field exercises and deployments (combat and otherwise). Congregational instability is a way of life for the chaplain, yet we continue to give it our all because we are chosen by God and sent by the Church to a people.
WHEW! Got that off my chest. Now back to ministry.