Our friends, Dieter and Angi, have had a passion for bringing the word of God to the people of Africa. Being from South Africa, they are positioned well to move in response to this call. They have, for some time, been fleshing out their vision through the 72° initiative and a method they call freeWord.
Having had conversations both with Dieter and with folks in our home office, I’ve sensed some dissonant understanding of the form and function of 72° and freeWord. I find they are often clumped as one (72°/freeWord) by those with whom I speak here in Minnesota; yet, there is a significant distinction between the two. Allow me to walk you through my understanding of these initiatives.
Sitting on the sidelines, so to speak, I watched as the 72° initiative was re-envisioned, planned, and prodded to fit into place among the Prayer League. At the same time, I would turn and watch, what was then, the Way of the Cross initiative undergo similar testing and maturation. In a way, I considered both of these budding initiatives as frameworks for membership among the Prayer League – filling in gaps between praying membership and full-time missionary service. If the Prayer League were to adopt and advocate for these initiatives, I would envision them somewhat as progressive avenues for involvement. At the core, they aim to put a name to lifestyles that embody the beliefs, values, and purposes of WMPL.
Thus, membership among the Prayer League could take four forms.
- Praying Membership: Individuals who have committed to pray for the advance of the Kingdom through the work of WMPL.
- Way of the Cross: Groups of individuals who have committed to pursue commissioned living as hometown missionaries among their family, church, and community.
- 72°: Groups of individuals who have committed to periodic short-term missionary exercises outside of their primary culture in an effort to broaden their understanding of missionary involvement and affect a change toward mission-mindedness in their congregation’s identity. As 72° was initially taking shape, it happened upon my mind that SHiFT could be another good acronym to describe the initiative (Simple Harvest Field Training). A stepping stone from local missionary involvement into global missionary involvement – bridging the two while working for the integrity of mission experience (i.e. the things we value and profess as a fellowship are realized on the ground in our daily life).
- Missionary Service: Individuals or groups of individuals who have responded to a specific call, committing to engage in full-time service in carrying out the work of God through WMPL.
So, foundationally, 72° is a framework for involvement in God’s mission.
The modus operandi for carrying out mission in the context of 72° (as should be the case for any context into which the Prayer League enters) is found in a number of values (or distinctive emphases). Among these are prayer as mission, displaced living, missional partnership, etc.
I understand freeWord as an additional, even more, the foundational distinctive emphasis upon which the others are founded. Although the WMPL Statement of Faith points to the authority of the Bible among us, nowhere among the values linked above does the Prayer League explicitly state the intent to live in response to a belief that God’s word is living, active, and creative.
For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
It is through the word of God (both that revealed to us in Scripture and that to which we ought remain attentive each new day) that God meets us and charts a way forward. It is in this word that we determine the distinctive emphases of our lives. It is with this word, I think, that we can embrace a lifestyle of freeWord – simply God’s living word, unimpeded and active in our lives.
From recent correspondence with Dieter, he says:
- freeWord’s reformational essence is that the bible continues to be the creative word of God – making things and bringing things into existence that were not there before. As Luther says, His promises are performative … reading is not a study but an awareness of being addressed, of a disruptive grace entering in.
- freeWord is thoroughly disenchanted with the current theological recolonization of Africa and other parts of the world by the so-called interpretive super powers of the Christian universe and seeks to foster the genuine bible reading that undergirds the prolific proclamation of the gospel on a saturated and hyper-evangelized Southern Africa.
- freeWord is intentionally sensitive to the necessity for de-colonizing missionary bible reading (i.e., rather than talk of “contextualizing” western Christendom we ought to be thinking about de-colonizing our biblical interpretive praxis, or we need to think more carefully about what I might call the hermeneutical art of over privilege).
So, freeWord is not so much a thing as it is our personal missional engagement.
freeWord then is simply a crucial and inexpendable aspect of SHIFT72, one element of the SHIFT program of missionary exercises shaped by my perspective, reflections, experience and perception of the need for bible reading innovations in contemporary missionary Africa and other parts of the world.
So, to read His creative word in the world is freeWord…… To provide an avenue and opportunity for displacement away from ordinary societal expectations is “way of the cross”…… To provide an avenue for intercultural missionary exercises and discipleship is SHIFT72…… To provide the paradigm and opportunity for full time missionary faithfulness and effectiveness is WMPL….YAY!
May we remain attentive to the Spirit of God at work among us and may we ever stand upon His word – for His word shall stand. May this word indelibly and daily mark our hearts and lives. And, may this word fill us with such fire as can’t be contained.
Why the 72° Name?
While engaging communities along the Zambezi River in Mozambique, Dieter & Angi found that 72°C was the temperature to which water should be heated for some minutes in order to make it potable. Also, when visiting the United States, they found that 72°F is often considered the most ideal temperature for indoor comfort. The 72° initiative is intended to meet people at the edge of their comfort zone and usher them into a testing that may refine them for more effective service in global mission of the Church.
Definitely not Latitude.. Although it could have been Longitude. 🙂
Maybe somewhere here or here?
“As Luther says, His promises are performative … reading is not a study but an awareness of being addressed, of a disruptive grace entering in.” I love this, could you share with me a full quote or context?
And I’d love to hear more about your thoughts on “hermeneutical art of over privilege” that really struck me – something that most of us overlook everyday.
Those are Dieter’s words. I clarified the post to make that a bit more evident. I’ll request he comment here.
WHAT SCRIPTURE *MAY* HAVE TO SAY
I suggest that it will be particularly insightful in this case to do a reflection on the hermeneutical art of over privilege. This is important because it is completely different from the scriptural interpretation of white supremacists. It is urgent because it is less noticeably ‘evil’. It is also of highest priority because of the biblical validation it gives to over privileged people to be passive in the face of injustice and even perpetuating of this social crime. A hermeneutic of over privilege makes it far too easy to remain complicit, to be critical from a distance and yet continue to be tolerable. I definitely want to try to uncover this approach to scriptural interpretation because as you mentioned in class, it is crucial to recognize how scripture has been abused, ‘used in obvious destructive ways’, or ‘echo past prejudices and violent tendencies’. The scary thing, literally, is that this is not in the past, it is present and undergirds a great deal of white complacency. This I want to suggest is more urgent today than ever for SA because there is a ‘popular’ version of scriptural interpretation that people who are the fortunate recipients of the ‘opportunity of privilege’ are embracing simply because it gives biblical validation to privilege. A little like Aristotelian ethics reinforces a good, happy and flourishing middle class. It may well be more urgent and necessary to recognize, identify and uncover the common abuses of scripture before we as a nation turn to those biblical stories, passages and texts which require more of us.
THE HERMENEUTICAL ART OF WHITE PRIVILEGE, some examples….
We tend to look at scripture through the lens of rights. We have a right to be safe, secure, prosperous and happy.
We confuse privilege for blessing.
We tend to identify with the ‘good guys’. For example Egypt or the Hebrews.
We steer clear of the theology of the cross
We default to a highly individualistic interpretation.
Much interpretation is sort of ethereal and other worldly.
This means we have a ray of ‘choices’ as to meaning.
We require privileged access to extra biblical ‘criticism’.
Application and implementation is optional, or urgency without immediacy. Biblical obedience needs to fit into our own agendas on our terms.
Textual excusability. By this I mean healing, freedom and reconciliation has more to do with doctors, therapists and counselors than with the ‘spirit of God’.
We have a bias toward western notions of power and authority.
My view is that the accumulated effect of this interpretation of scripture
is going to be far more destructive to the potential alternative of the kingdom of God than anything else at present. I have not looked at isolated texts because it has been my experience in trying to navigate this issue on the ground in SA that for every biblical text there is an alternative scriptural passage. The urgency of the day is first and foremost to acknowledge, own and recognize our ‘hermeneutic of over privilege’. I think that when we are able to deconstruct that and demonstrates its hollowness we will be released to see realistically how ethically reprehensible simply yielding to the unfair advantage of white over privilege is. We must deconstruct a perverse biblically informed worldview in order to begin to build an ethically more good and just world. How weird is that to say, especially for a Baptist pastor.
I am finding the works of Buell and Hodge particularly informative as I begin to try and construct an alternative hermeneutic for those of us white South Africans caught up in ‘the fiction of innocence’. The book ‘Why this New Race’ is proving especially helpful.
Just to say to be mindful that my reflections are particularly ‘coloured’ by me view from Africa as much as they are conditioned by my attempts to address the disgrace of simple Christian conformity to inherited postures by default and through laziness.
In ZA up until recently ‘over-privilege’ has been easily associated with ‘white-privilege’. This is no longer so simple……
Also, I will need to do some reading of my thesis, freeWord, a de-mythologising of missional pedagogy with a view to de-colonizing bible reading in the hopes of moving toward a more constructive alternative…… To find the quotes, their is a great German theologian doing good stuff with regard to contemporising the essence of reformational thought, just trying to recall his name!