Practices for the Refounding of God’s People written by Martin Robinson and I arrived at my yesterday. Its a fun moment when the work of several years appears in front of you as a book. A big thanks to our editors at Church Publishing, Milton Brasher-Cunningham and Ryan Masteller for their patience and great work.
The book addresses the nature of a missiological engagement with a modern West whose basic narratives are unravelling along with the churches birthed out of the European reformations. We’re addressing what it means to be God’s people in this place arguing that the modern West has been one massive wager (modernity’s wager) – that life could be lived well without God. Its not that God disappeared; rather, in the wake of this wager the churches turned God into a useful resources for the replacement stories of the West. What was lost in this wager was a sense, or experience, of God as the primary active Agent in the world. Almost all attempts to reform, renew or fix these churches are continually done from within the wager; their fundamental grounding is human agency wherein God (or Jesus, or the Spirit) are used as helpful supports through quotes, prayer or some naming of God as a modifier of some action. This is why the initiatives driving these churches miss the mark. They miss the more basic challenge presented by this modern West and in so doing miss the essential missiological practices. A focus on churches discovering their “potential” being “innovative” or (worst of all) becoming “relevant” etc., is to miss the ways God’s Spirit is fermenting something outside our capacities to strategize, manage or program. The book focuses on ways we might join this ferment.
In this context I recommend Faith Formation in a Secular Age by Andrew Root. He, too, proposes that the primary issue confronting Christian life in a secular age is what Charles Taylor describes as the immanent frame and the buffered self. In brief, a world absented of any sense of God as Agent. In his Introduction Root states: “We are deeply concerned by the loss of church members, the loss of young people from youth groups, and the vitality of our institutions…concerns that can’t really be addressed until we recognize that we are in a new time” (x). A bit later he observes how most proposals coming out of these churches are based entirely in sociological descriptors where faith in divine action is absent (xvii); even in the churches reality has become flat (transcendence-less) and faith reduced to the sociological.
While using different language at times, Practices for the Refounding of God’s People addresses the question of what kinds of refounding practices need to form God’s people in a life rooted in the conviction that God is already the primary Agent at work in our world. We are excited about shaping a conversation around this critical question.