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A Half Puerto Rican’s Critique of A Black Missional Critique of the Missional Movement

flags-of-latin-americaYesterday, there was a guest post on Drew G.I. Hart’s Blog by D. Kyle Canty entitled “A Black Missional Critique of the Missional Movement.” First, let me say that I loved this article! I’d suggest you read it in its entirety here before going on.

Along the same lines, I’m writing a series entitled “3 Hard Questions That Missional Folks Need To Ask.” You can read Part 1 here.

There are several poignant questions which the author asks in the article:

 

“Does the broader evangelical church in America recognize that there is something that they can learn from the African American church?”

I almost don’t like this question. Almost… I’d rather phrase it this way; “Do believers understand that they can learn from other believers?” When a question starts off with “don’t you recognize?” or “can’t you see?” it presupposes and accepts into evidence an ignorance not established. It’s almost like starting off the conversation from a position of superiority and assumes the very posture that the author is trying to point out. Maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s because I’ve been working in a poverty-stricken part of the world for over 7 years, maybe it’s because I’m part Latino and the same points that the author addresses concerning blacks may be equally applied for Latino people & churches. I don’t know. Being Missional transcends color, context, and culture. God is a missionary God. He is the “Sent and the Sending One.” Being Missional or missionary-ish, embracing an attitude of sent-ness has absolutely nothing to do with race until we force it into a racial package. Making Disciples, the essence and driving force of missionality, is a multi-dimensional command of Christ which transcends ethnicities. When Christ said to Make Disciples of the nations (all ethnic groups), he tore the curtain of any temple guarded philosophy of mission. While this question is important and must be considered, I fear it will ultimately detract from the missional conversation. Every believer can learn from, be encouraged by, be equipped, and strengthen any other believer.

‘Does a black pastor of an inner city church have anything to teach a white suburban pastor?’

Two things are to be considered here. The missional movement, in my opinion, is still trying to get to the core meaning of what a “pastor” is, and what a “church” is. Missional folks say that Christology informs Missiology, Missiology informs Ecclesiology. So, before we can ever get to answering this question from a missional perspective, we have to establish a common frame of reference. Again, I would rephrase the question in this way; “Are those that are pastoral, disposed to learn from, teach, and equip others? The missional DNA is rooted in the full functioning of the Ephesians 4 gifts of Apostles, Prophets, Teachers, Evangelists, and Pastors.  The 5-fold people gifts are there for every believer to equip every believer for ministry. The single “head” pastor of a local “church” as commonly thought of outside of missional circles doesn’t necessarily speak to where the missional movement is going. All traditional views of pastors, preaching, and church are being turned on their edge and examined again.

Why is it so hard to sit down at this table called the Missional Movement?

This is an excellent question! I’ve felt the same frustration. I’ll be addressing this in part two of the above mentioned series, but I wanted to say that the author has a point here. The term “missional” has been co-opted by many who are trying to take over the navigation of the missional ship. Despite it’s best efforts, some missional thinkers have adopted a missional apologetic, a missional hermeneutic, and a tendency to mark their missional territories. It’s vocabulary, if we’re not careful can separate. One almost feels forced to embrace what the author calls a theological accent in order to fit in to the movement. We need to remind ourselves that we’re supposed to be loving our neighbors. Even our non-missional ones.

Who is able to speak to the ills of White Evangelicalism like the Black church?

Again, I love this question, but would rephrase it so as not to cloud the issue. “Who is able to speak to the ills of a poorly functioning part the church than a more healthy one?” There’s no need for one-upmanship on anyone’s part here. There’s no need to say that “we’re better than you, because we’ve been doing it longer and better than you.” That kind of language only separates one from another instead of serving one another, esteeming others higher than ourselves, and loving one another.

In spite of these critiques on the questions the author asks, I think the following statements are spot on:

“Although loosely associated, the decisions regarding the broader missional movement rest in the hands of the few. “

“Although there is this rediscovery of mission Dei and what it means to be sent, there is also a danger that the voices are predominantly white and suburban.”

“If the voices of the missional movement remain largely those of the dominant culture, then there is the possibility that the movement will begin to speak with a privileged accent.”

“The proverbial ‘table’ that is so often talked about is actually nestled inside evangelicalism’s board room.”

“One of the things that missional theology taught me was to question the things that contradicted God’s kingdom agenda.”

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    1. Eli July 14, 2013 at 12:59 am #

      agree those statements are solid and i’ve experienced it firsthand. more white mans burden dressed up.
      The extreme of not recognizing the influence of race, class and gender dynamics… and the extreme of over emphasizing them thereby becoming what we are against are unhelpful though very difficult to avoid.
      I always sigh when I see some new intiative or council or steering team and it consists of men only, even worse if they do not reflect the ethnic makeup of those they represent.
      This is not limited to institutional dynamics though formal structures can certainly enshrine this sort of blindness.

    2. Marcos M July 26, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

      Miguel, I appreciate you phrasing the questions differently. I loved the original post and found it refreshing. I also agree that there is a great value in approaching the discussion from level ground and perhaps the way the questions were phrased did not facilitate said posture. Your re-wording is great although perhaps too passive (I don’t know if that’s even possible, just a thought).

      After reading your work I noticed that the first question, especially, is very telling of a perhaps the power structures that are at play. I must confess that rather than looking at the tone of the question as a condescending, “we’ve been doing this forever” I could look at it as a voice that wants/needs to be heard. I was born and raised in PR and in latino evangelical circles. I’ve had the privilege to serve in large anglo churches and I confess my actions affirmed that both “tribes” were part of the “Larger Evangelical Church in America,” but perhaps my actions did not include the African American Evangelical Church.

      I guess my thought at the moment is that sometimes, when speaking from the bottom, we have to shout to be heard and it may come off as condescending. Not to be trite, but I think there’s a thin line between both.

      Thank You for your comments. Love the post.

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