Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Augustine and Missional Theology

I have been thinking a lot lately about the “missional” trend in evangelicalism. On the whole, I think the drive is right: we need to see our communities in North America more and more like missions fields and approach our cultures with the sensibilities of missionaries. In that light, our LHC book club has been reading Augustine’s Confessions, and I was struck by his own account of his conversion. There was a lot more there than I recalled. So in the spirit of thinking about how people (especially those completely outside the circle of influence of Christianity) come to faith in Christ, here are a few reflections on Augustine’s conversion.

First, he was passionately devoted to truth. Though he wasted over a decade of his life stuck in systems he knew were unsatisfying, he stayed in them for their security (and income) before he had the wherewithal to leave. So what are people passionate about, and do they belong to systems of thought they are not entirely satisfied with?

Second, he had a praying mother. This may be the most well-known fact of his conversion, but it cannot be passed up. Prayer is indispensible.

Third, he had an authoritative Christian figure in his life who was different than anyone else. Whereas Augustine was wholly disappointed with the Manichean elite, Bishop Ambrose genuinely impressed him with his devotion and command of life and theology. Are we these kinds of “aliens” to the unsaved around us or do we look and sound and smell exactly like everyone else?

Fourth, he had a circle of friend who were on the spiritual journey with him. I had completely forgotten this important fact. The chapter Augustine devotes to his conversion begins with his retelling of friend who were either just “behind” him on the path to salvation, or who were just “ahead” of him and how it moved him toward Christ. We cannot neglect the power of spiritual journey with people!

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