The Influence of Newbigin's Missiology on Selected Innovators and Early Adopters of the Emerging Church Paradigm
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This dissertation examined the influence of missiologist Lesslie Newbigin on the innovators and early adopters of the emerging church paradigm. The work has demonstrated a connection between Newbigin's missiology and the innovators and the early adopters of the emerging church paradigm. His influence emerged in three primary arenas: the belief that Christendom crippled missionary consciousness in Western culture, the emphases on the communal dimensions of mission, and the necessity of a gospel expression that unleashed a timely message with a timeless word. Examination of the writings of Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Dan Kimball, and Mark Driscoll revealed great familiarity with Newbigin's work as well as a desire to adopt and adapt his stances to their own ministries. Newbigin's staunch polemic against the mindset of modernity was one avenue that each of the early adopters and innovators addressed. The emerging church embraced Lesslie Newbigin's contention that Western culture emasculated the church from true gospel expression. Newbigin's influence on the epistemological views of the innovators and early adopters of the emerging church paradigm revealed a new dynamic engaged heavily with the Kingdom of God. Lesslie Newbigin's contention that a true missionary movement required a communal dimension of witness as the congregation served as a hermeneutic of the gospel resonated fully with the emerging church paradigm. The corrective idea of Newbigin emphasizing the corporate nature of discipleship contra the consumerism and individualism of Western culture was seen as a needed emphasis by the emerging church practitioners. Each proponent of the emerging church paradigm embraced incarnational praxis, although expressions varied and were not uniform in practice. Newbigin's viewpoint of the necessity of placing the church in the center of contextualization was tempered by a desire to avoid syncretism and irrelevance. Each of the innovators and early adopters of the emerging church paradigm reacted against what Newbigin termed the confinement of the gospel in the existing plausibility structures of the West. The emerging church attempted to bridge the arbitrary divisions in the culture between the sacred and secular. The embrace of practices and prospects emerged from Newbigin's connection with the emerging church paradigm. This final focus demonstrated a connection with emerging church proponents as they embraced the dynamic of identifying with the life of Jesus, transforming secular space, and living communal lives. The fracturing influence of the emerging church paradigm was seen as largely a result of embracing theological liberalism rather than a result of a focus on Newbigin's missiology. Proponents of his conclusions adopted different monikers such as "missional" to be able to fully embrace Newbigin's missiology and social emphases while downplaying theological ambiguity.