The 'back story' for my Fall quarter was a wrestling match with Donald McGavran. As founder of my school, and as an inheritor of his church growth classes at Fuller (after C.Peter Wagner, Eddie Gibbs did their respective runs), I had to make up my mind about him. I read most all of his many books and I read what his adversaries said about him. I read him in his context (primarily in the 1950s and 1960s). I presented on him to my church growth class in October, to a conference on church growth in November, and I had many conversations with senior faculty over the last few months. All three of these venues were helpful to get a better handle on things. I also brought his material into conversation with some of my dissertation work on practices, Jesus, the kingdom, modernity, postmodernity, and global information culture. What served to bring all these perspectives together was a 5000 word article I wrote on McGavran for Missiology this coming spring. That paper gave me fits -- how to synthesize all these streams together to say what I thought about McGavran -- what ought to be brought into the new millenium and what ought to be left behind.
That 'little' paper took me over a month to write! I just couldn't bring it all together. However, in the end, I felt this assignment was more a gift than a burden -- it provided me the opportunity to weave together many threads that have been dangling there for at least ten years. I feel I found a way forward with McGavran -- a way to look at this man in light of our changed context. Here is the abstract for the upcoming article in Missiology:
LOOKING BACK TO MCGAVRAN AND FINDING A WAY FORWARD
This article explores Donald McGavran’s writings for resources that enable mission engagement today in the culture of late modernity. There is, indeed, much of value in McGavran’s 1955 classic, “The Bridges of God,” among other writings. With these resources in hand, the author situates McGavran within the socio-cultural changes of the twentieth century. Adding deterritorialization to people movement theory enables the formulation of a theory that maintains the dynamics of mission within spaces where people are no longer associated with particular places or cultures. If mission stations represent mission engagement in modernity, and people movements in postmodernity, the author proposes practice movements as a viable way forward for mission in global information culture.