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Jim Cymbala’s Missional Theology

Nikki and I continued to be challenged by Jim Cymbala’s messages at Maranatha. Although Cymbala has yet to refer to “missional theology,” I think he is a living example of missional theology at its best.

It is evident from my posts on this blog that I’m interested in missional theology. In fact, my Doctor of Ministry work from Fuller Theological Seminary is focused on missional theology. I would love to corner Jim Cymbala to talk about missional theology, but out of respect for both of our families on vacation, I haven’t done so. However, I have imagined (based upon his messages), what this conversation may look like.

Brian: Pastor Cymbala, what do you think about the emerging church movement?

Cymbala: What is the emerging church movement?

Brian: It is a movement of Christians that believe America has moved from a modern era to a postmodern era. They believe that the typical modern, American church is irrelevant in a postmodern culture and this is why Christianity is losing prominence in America.  Therefore, we must find a way for Christianity to be relevant in a postmodern culture.

Cymbala: You guys worry about and blame “culture” too much [editorial: he has said this in sermons this week!]. Don’t blame culture, blame the fact that the church is full of hypocrites who are only concerned about their own well-being. We don’t need new methods to reach culture, we just need to pray, allow the Spirit to lead, and get out there into the world and tell people about Christ.

Brian: Well, what do you think about missional theology?

Cymbala: What is missional theology?

Brian: It is a resurgence of the idea that the church has been sent into the world by God to continue the work of Christ (John 20:21). It teaches that the church’s core identity is that she is a missional people sent by God. Therefore, missions is not one program of the church among many, it is the essence of the church. Missional theology emphasizes moving beyond the walls of the church to impact the world for Christ.

Cymbala: You mean there needs to be a resurgence in this kind of thinking? Of course the church is supposed to continue the work of Christ. Of course missions is who we are. We’ve been doing this in Brooklyn for 25 years!! You guys need to stop reading so many books and spending so much money on school and just get out there and minister to people.

I do not mean to imply that Cymbala doesn’t know about the emerging church or missional theology. I’m sure he does. He strikes me as an extremely intelligent and well-read man who has a passion for church history. The point I’m trying to make is this: most of the North American church, including the emerging and even some of the missional movements, are so concerned with understanding the culture, creating and critiquing methods of doing church, debating the relationship between postmodernity and Christianity, etc,etc, that we are spending all of our time talking and not doing!

My own life serves as an example of this. How much time and money am I going to spend on another degree to learn what it means to be the missional people of God rather than just living as the missional people of God and making a difference in this world?

I’m amazed at Jim Cymbala.  He is a very intelligent and educated man, but he isn’t spending his time debating all of these things. While we debate, Jim and the Brooklyn Tabernacle are helping the people of Brooklyn earn their GEDs, overcome dependency upon drugs, give up lives of prostitution, seek reconciliation with their families, and, most importantly, enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ. While the rest of us talk about it, he is doing it.

If you think Cymbala’s approach is simple an unsophisticated, let me ask you a question: what impact have you or your church made on its community and the world for Christ? Cymbala doesn’t need to debate or study missional theology because he is missional. May God grant me just a little of what he has!

  1. July 10, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    I’ll pray it for you, if you pray it for me!

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