Friday, January 25, 2013

Missional Spirituality by Helland and Hjalmarson (Book Review)

What does it mean to develop a spirituality that is dispersed into the life we lead seven days a week? What does it mean to move beyond the kind of spirituality that most Western Christians have developed, the kind that Helland and Hjalmarson call “temple spirituality”? In Missional Spirituality, they write, “Temple spirituality is dualistic: Sunday is sacred while Monday through Saturday are secular. Temple spirituality views God as a church-based deity whom we worship once per week, but Jesus was a seven-days-a-week mobile Messiah” (27).

Missional spirituality is the metaphorical phrase that the authors use to capture this seven-day-a-week life with God, a phrase that many could easily misunderstand because the term “missional” is being used today to mean so many different things. Everyone, it seems, wants to be missional, but so many can miss the meaning. For instance, it might be tempting to think that this book would be synonymous to something like "evangelistic sprituality" or "social justice" spirituality. If you think that, then you will be led astray.

This book is helpful in that it guides the reader to envision a way of following Jesus that moves “missional” beyond catch-phrases and church strategies for success. This is a book that introduces a way of life with God. It does this primarily through the introduction of core practices of missional living. Two-thirds of the book is dedicated to spiritual practices that aim at helping people enter into missional living in the normal parts of their lives. Many of these practices are quite familiar—worship, prayer, obedience, humility—but the authors offer an alternative way of seeing them that stands in contrast to temple spirituality. Other practices include those that are specifically shaped by a missional view of the world. These include practices like enchantment, neighboring, refuge and hospitality.

One of the great strengths of this book is how they challenge the myth that there are two types of church practices, those for church insiders and those that insiders do for outsiders. In contrast they see all of the practices as shaping the way the people of God are on mission. In other words, prayer and worship have just as much impact on our missional spirituality as does hospitality and neighboring.

This is a great resource. It’s full of powerful quotes that you will use in your preaching and training. Also, the practical suggestions and the discussion starters at the end of each chapter make this a book that will help you embody what this book is actually talking about.

I found myself longing for more about how the Holy Spirit enlivens these practices and uses them to draw us into the life of the Trinity. I say this because I’ve found myself having the same longing while reading other books on spiritual practices. Heck, I find myself longing for more robust theology of the Holy Spirit through the practices in my own books on this topic. It seems that there is a global need across many different resources for the development of full-fledged theological language that rightly speaks to how the Holy Spirit is at work through the disciplines. This is not easy because as soon as one brings up the Holy Spirit there is so much baggage that comes with the topic. And part of that baggage is a kind of wait-and-see spirituality, one that expects God to do everything while we do nothing. The power of this book is that it confronts such a wait-and-see spirituality. Instead, it shows us practical ways to participate in God’s life as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are on mission to redeem all of creation. Work through this book. The Spirit of God will use it to put missional treads on the tires of your life.

1 comment:

alexabsalom said...

Thanks for letting us know about this book - looks like a really helpful resource!