When teaching theology, many students used ask “but what is this all about?” Sometimes they would say, “but all this is theory. What is its practical use?” There is a real disconnect between theology and mission.
This was the theme of two of the papers at the CEEAMS conference this morning. There was one on theory and practice and the other one on missional church in Moldova.
The first speaker was a great missiologist, Ann-Marie Kool. She discussed the dichotomy between mission (overseas) and evangelism (local) and how this created an idea that we have one theory and two applications: foreign and local. She also spoke about Ghetto mentality with Central and Eastern European (CEE) churches in which the church did not engage with the world and so did its theology “in-house”.
In addition to this, Western models of mission were imposed (post-1989) which were irrelevant to these churches. So theological texts were translated and many teachers arrived who did not understand local culture. Therefore their teaching methods were knowledge accumulation and knowledge implementation
This analysis helped us to discuss how to get resolve this issue. Ann-Marie gave us a testimony of how she approached teaching about mission among the Roma or gypsy people. In past she would start with missiological principles and try and apply these principles to the context. She told us how with the students she started with the situation of the Roma. Afterwards she got the students to think theologically about that situation.
The feedback of the students was outstandingly positive. They felt that they had learned about the Roma but they had also learned theology as well. Theology became alive to them.
What at can we learn from these reflections?