Dr. Al Tizon
Interview conducted at Northeastern Seminary by Kaitlin Harding. Some answers edited for space.
It seems so obvious that we need to reach out. What do you see as the barriers that have kept us from being where we need to be missionally? I think, ultimately, our problem is our propensity to dichotomize. Fundamentally, it begins with the dichotomy between theory and practice. Churches can feel great about theorizing, theologizing, and we can do the practice if we have the time. It’s dichotomizing of things, and even when we get into the nature of mission, dichotomy is still the culprit. Is it evangelism or social justice? It’s both! We have to proclaim, we have to bear witness to the gospel with our mouths, and we have to bear witness to the gospel with our hands and feet. It’s not either/or. That, to me, is why we are where we are. We should be a both/and kind of people. What does missional preaching mean for those of us who aren’t going out into the field? The term missional was precisely to remind people that mission isn’t just sending missionaries off to some exotic land, even though that’s still a legitimate thing to do. There are people called to go to the far away “over there” kind of place, but the missional church, that word is new in the Christian Lexicon, and what’s new about it is that it’s reminding us that we are sent by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are sent by God to be here. The missionary church is a church that sends specialized people to exotic lands. The missional church movement said, “Wait, there’s something missing there. What about us? There’s something more to this; mission. You are missionary, your church is sent right here. You’re sent to be missional here. You mentioned that wisdom is not the same as head knowledge. Do you feel that head knowledge gets in the way of wisdom, or the mission of God? It can, because of that dichotomy of theory and practice. Head knowledge could deceive people into thinking they did something. Because we have all this knowledge, we have all our principles and ideas in a row, and we can organize it, and articulate it; wow! Great! In that sense, yeah, it can be a hindrance to our service in the world, and our mission to the world, which is why I advocate for the word orthopraxy, which is different from orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is right thinking in order to write a doctrinal statement. Orthopraxy is right thinking for the sake of right doing. That, by the way, is a liberation theology term. So, Head knowledge isn’t the same as wisdom because of that. Wisdom, in fact, is practical knowledge. It’s knowledge for life as opposed to knowledge for a degree. You mentioned you got the idea for writing a book about missional preaching because you didn’t really find any books on your shelves that combined all of these things, but what prompted you to focus on it and start learning about it? Two loves did it for me; my love for the church, and my love for the world. You talk about being a missional church, and being a missional person. Is it difficult to be missional on a Christian college campus?
There’s certainly need on a Christian campus, but it’s true that we interact with less and less non-Christians. If we don’t do something about that, there could be a time in our lives where we don’t interact with unbelievers at all….That could mean on any given day intentionally getting to know a merchant, somebody in the store, to take the time to talk to someone you wouldn’t normally talk to. Write a letter to my congressperson about in issue, it could mean sending an email to a friend who doesn’t know about Jesus, not to talk about Jesus, just to be me. So I’m defining it broadly, but it’s a discipline for me.