Ed Stetzer & David Fitch – a missional conversation (updated with second thoughts)

I like the distinction of the church .. being attractive more than attractional.  While there’s nothing I would strongly disagree with Ed Stetzer (his answers are more  hurried, neat and tidy), I resonate more with how David Fitch articulates his thoughts (esp. on incarnational and witness).

Interesting to note that when Ed Stetzer gave examples his focus was on the big ones in Korea, Nigeria and Latin America. But in Malaysia and big parts of Asia, while there are “mega churches” and doing good ministry and seeking to be faithful in mission, but I wonder whether this kind of focus is helpful when most of us cannot relate to the “mega church” paradigm. Again Ed has some good insights and well thought through, but it tends to be neat and tidy. so, far in the 2 videos he talks the most seemingly cramming in as much as possible.

However, while David Fitch is slower, with more pauses, he is less defensive and apologetic, maybe it’s simply because of where I am today theologically, ecclesiologically, and missiologically  I would find myself relating more to what David says. Probably, my friends who are in different settings would be drawn to what Ed says.

So .. let’s continue to see how things evolve.

* * *

(updated with part III and my feeble second thoughts!)

What a delightful surprise to get some comments from even Ed Stetzer! 🙂 Thanks guys.

Ed StetzerOctober 4th, 2009 at 9:04 am  

Hurried, neat, and tidy.

My life.



Bill KinnonOctober 4th, 2009 at 9:49 pm 

Good comments – I very much appreciate your perspective on this. Part III is now up, as well.

Dave & Ed come at missional from very different perspectives. What I love most about the conversation is how much fun they had doing it. Modelling unity whilst having some fairly profound differences in perspective.

Ed’s brain does go at a million miles an hour – so I don’t see him cramming stuff in but rather that’s just how fast he processes stuff. And Dave’s delivery reminds me a little of Jack Nicholson. :-)

The beauty of the internet is for the possibility for an engagement like this.  But first on my first impressions of the “conversation” (perhaps more second thoughts). 

To start off . on a more human and personal level, it’s a great conversation.  And I agree with Bill that it’s a great example of how to engage in a conversation like this.

On a humorous level and in terms of delivery, I too was thinking of Jack Nicholson when Dave was speaking too. 🙂

Now, for the record, as I said earlier I don’t have much I’d totally disagree with Ed.  And of course, the limits of merely watching a video like this for both Dave and Ed, is that we do not have a personal relationship (perhaps after this we will) and thus appreciate the nuances Bill mentions e.g. “Ed’s brain does go at a million miles an hour” 🙂

So, first impressions out of the way.  Now some second thoughts.

For someone not living in the USA context, I’m very much aware how much of the conversation by both Dave and Ed is shaped by it.  It’s where they live and breath.  This is most evident in my humble opinion on a substantial amount of reference to the “Mega church” phenomena and the general Evangelical landscape there.

So, what I see is a helpful critical engagement missiologically and theologically (as well as Ed’s repeated reminder Biblically) on the given location and context the churches in USA are living in.  I thought Dave’s interesting push-back on where some “mega churches” are succeeding in places like Texas, is worth more in depth discussion.

Ed’s reference to Nigeria, South Korea, and Latin America is noteworthy.  Because it’s one of the few places where the conversation was nudged a little more globally.  I recall Dave mentioned Europe a little. And I think is actually crucial in the conversation.  Because, theologically we would anchor our “missional” conversation on God’s mission for the World. And if we could reflect that more in our local reflections then I think it helps to do some needed check and balances.

I can comment a little on South Korea, since I’ve been in Seoul and have been in conversation with friends in Christian ministry at different points. And one of the things they are known for is the “mega church”, cell groups and prayer (and also missionary sending). However, on the ground from what I hear from some Koreans, there’s also the serious challenge of competitiveness, disunity, losing the younger generations, reverts back to Buddhism, the stagnation of Christianity, etc. which often is not mention as we talk about the successes.

Now while we celebrate each other, we also seek to honestly step back and ask hard questions. So, for me this kind of honest conversation is needed as Ed and Dave have modeled in the USA context for us in a global context as well.

I have good friends in more “mega-church” like churches in Malaysia.  So, while I personally do not feel called to lead one, this is a given reality for many of my friends who may not be the senior pastor, or find themselves moving in that direction. 

To me, Ed’s words would be very helpful to them from a constructive point of view if they continue to be that context. I would also guess that for many in Malaysia since most would probably fall into the “Evangelical-Pentecostal-Charismatic” (EPC) stream will find the way Ed articulates his theology safer for them to engage in more “missional” perspectives. 

But there will be those like me (maybe), where I’d even question theologically the helpfulness of articulating in EPC language when engaging a majority Muslim and pluralistic context.  This is further accentuated by the socio-political climate we are in currently in Malaysia.  Thus, the place for ways of articulating and reflecting theologically like Dave is more helpful.  Both are needed.

Perhaps, more is needed in my view to speak beyond EPC (it’s almost impossible to be a theological liberal in Asia and survive!) and “Practical” categories as this is in some ways at least for a lot of the Chinese speaking and English speaking churches what we are already very comfortable with.  And my personal gripe with the Malaysian situation is the need for more “self-theologizing” (after the missiological three-self formula).

That “self-theologizing” process would keep in mind starting from a local context (and yet intentionally global in outlook), engaged in reflexive Scriptural engagement (some might prefer the term biblical) and highly theologically robust (not as in a tight theological system but in community with others while appreciating differences).

There are many side issues we could delve in, e.g. the whole impact of Christian publishing (usually birthed out of USA), or the lack of critical thinking on our side here in Malaysia or Asia buying ideas lock, stock and barrel from our friends from the west, or the lack of confidence in our own thoughts (and thus reflected even in the low view we have even with our own ministries with the indigenous people), etc.  so, there’s a wide variety of side issues which need to be brought in to double check the missional vision we are talking about.

Well, here I sit, I can do no other . with my not so neat, and very much untidy but still a little hurried thoughts. 🙂

About Sivin Kit

man of one wife, father of four kids
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