I have found Darrell Guder to be one of the most important voices in the missional conversation. In an excellent essay titled “The Challenges of Evangelization in America: Theological Ambiguities” Guder emphasizes the fact that mission is the definitive task of the church.
Furthermore, Guder believes that any attempt to reclaim the missional calling of the church will require serious reflection on a spectrum of theological ambiguities that Christendom has left behind.
For a list of some of these ambiguities check out Kruse Kroncile’s post on the same article. Michael also has a link to download the article.
In one portion of Guder’s article he introduces what has come to be known as “the Newbigin Triad.” Lesslie Newbigin proposed a series of questions that spoke to the need of reclaiming the missionary nature of the western church. These questions were organized around the key emphases of Gospel, Church, and Culture.
Newbigin stated that it was essential that we constantly ask these fundamental questions:
What is the Gospel and how does the Gospel form and confront the church? What has happened to the Gospel in the course of western Christendom? How do we reclaim the fundamentally event character of the Gospel over against more abstract, propositional renderings of it? How do we engage the fundamental translatability of the Gospel?
What is the church and what is its purpose? How do we reclaim the church’s essential vocation as witness to the gospel, as light, leaven and salt, as Christ’s letter to the world. How does the church after Christendom learn what it means to “lead its life worthy of the calling with which it has been called?”
What is the interaction between the church and the cultures in which it is planted? How does the gospel through the church both confront and affirm cultures as ways in which witness becomes concrete. Here again, we are asking about the fundamental translatability of the gospel, recognizing that the Gospel “destigmatizes” every culture by affirming it as a potential bearer of gospel. How does the witness to the gospel become appropriately embodied in diverse cultures, while continuing to confess the one message of the one Triune God?
If you are interested in a few of the books and journal articles by both Newbigin and Guder that I have found helpful check out my missional reading list.