For the last year, I wore one teaching hat at Fuller. I taught classes in Mission in Contemporary Culture, i.e. arts, media, politics, economics, and what Jesus-like mission looks like in these formerly secular areas. I even taught on U2! I love teaching in the cultural arena -- even now, I look forward to the Fall when I can try out some more ideas in these classes.
This fall I'm putting on another hat -- church growth. Seriously? Eddie Gibbs, my mentor for the last seven years, is retiring this week. That deserves a post of its own -- but Eddie is not leaving Fuller, he is stepping down from faculty. I'm glad I have the chance to work with him on some other projects.
Eddie taught church growth at Fuller, just as C. Peter Wagner did before him, and Donald McGavran did before him. Their flagship course was MC520, Foundations of Church Growth, an introduction to McGavran's thought and the whole field of church growth.
This fall, I get to have a turn -- I'm teaching MC520 for the first time. My first inclination was to blow it up and start over. I have such mixed feelings about how church growth has been used, especially in the US. However, I've been reading McGavran's Indian writings, and I see very little American style church growth in there, but a good bit of insight on indigenous people movements. He argued for organic, non-institutional, non-Western, non-patriarchal forms of church, as opposed to the large institutional mission station. Not a bad start, in fact I resonate with much of his thoughts coming from India...
So, this fall, I'm going to present the church growth material in its entirety. Same reading, same assignments. However, at every point I will be commenting on the material, asking Jesus & kingdom questions, asking early McGavran (Indian) questions. In a sense, it will be a dialogue with a fifty year old tradition. I'll be learning as much as I'm teaching.
So, no 'blowing up' of classes -- I think I need to listen to those who went before for a year or two. In five years, the class may not look like it does now. But that will be after I have carefully spent some time arguing and wrestling with their ideas, and where possible, making them my own.