Clipboards and Culture
We want to learn by asking questions of our culture and growing in our thinking and our mission: to understand and connect but also provoke and challenge
“The Church becomes missionary by attending to each and every context in which it finds itself.” (Bevans and Schroeder). What this requires is a restoration of the skill of listening-to-the-Spirit and the gift of discernment to the heart of Christian leadership. Canvassing opinion and researching Scottish culture – the metaphorical clipboard – is an image that foregrounds a posture of listening. At heart, rooted in a theology of Missio-Dei – the idea that the missionary God has a church rather than the church having a mission – is the conviction that the Spirit of creation and Pentecost is at work in the world, and that double-listening to God and the Spirit can form a fertile seed-bed for missional engagement.
Such a context-honouring posture is itself only meaningful when done in community with other believers and through the filter of scripture. To foster the skill of exegeting the World is not to diminish the need for exegeting the Word. Rich and faithful contextualisation emerges from the engagement of both.
“Semi-conductor country. Land crammed with intimate expanses…to love you takes more details than the Book of Kells” Robert Frost, Scotland (poem)
To love Scotland, its cities and suburbs, coasts and villages, requires patience and detail and precision. The love of Christ particularises itself to everyone of us. By the same token, we often find that what is particular is universal…individual stories from specific contexts can unveil rich and meaningful insights for places and persons in very different locales. And further, fostering dialogue between different horizons and perceptions can help us to discerningly see where the Spirit is truly at work. Bishop Stephen Neill once famously said; “if everything is mission, nothing is mission.” The process of discerning where the indigenising Spirit is affirming a trend in culture or mission as godly, and where the pilgrim Spirit needs to challenge or deconstruct a local culture or missional engagement according to wider insights, is a fraught process.
White Canvas is seeking to be a place where we engage with one another in sober provocation and attentive listening for the sake of better engaging the new mission field that we find ourselves in at this time. Never before has a culture emerged that is post-Christian, inoculated against the gospel by centuries of Christendom experience. The detail and contours of that challenge take time and patience to learn about, define, and reflect on.