Fellowship of Presbyterians event and listening around I can't help but see triangles. Now by the end of this post, you'll probably think that I have been watching too much Sesame Street with my 3 year old daughter, but probably it has more to do with sitting under Dr. John Frame at Reformed Theological Seminary who calls his obsession with triangles "triperspectivalism". Regardless of the source, triangles, I'm convinced, are a fine way to help structurally organize thought. They are simple, easy to understand, and provide multiple approaches to whatever topic may be at hand.
The basic format for any of these triangles is as follows: Normative, Situational, and Existential. You place the topic at hand in the center of the triangle and then you consider the topic from these three different angles. The Normative approach is the "normal" approach which includes the dogmatic or usual approach. The Situational approach is to consider the external circumstances, or the topic in context with the world, while the Existential approach is from a more internalized place. The first example should be both familiar and reinforce your love of triangles.
ECO) and the fellowship as being a three legged stool of common theological language, missional congregations, and covenant order. While the denomination is new and so is the "fellowship", this concept has been around for awhile and fits nicely into our triangle structure. Normatively speaking, this new expression of church wants to have an emphasis on dogma or doctrine. There needs to be essential beliefs. Situationally, the church needs to have an effect in the world, the gospel needs to be demonstrated. Existentially, there needs to be a spiritual element, and internal covenant that binds the churches and members together much as the Spirit binds above. This is great, though I've seen it expressed differently, like Head, Hands, Heart or as Tim Keller mentioned Word, Deed, Community. One thing that we in FOP/ECO need to realize is that our presbyterian heritage and tradition have emphasized the normative part of the triangle. We are predisposed, so to say, to emphasize the intellectual and the doctrine. In fact, in one of the breakout sessions about being missional, the speaker told us that the primary way to equip our people to be missional was intellectual training: have them read a book, change the focus of our sermons, get them to intellectual grasp that they should be missional christians, and then off they will go. Because this is our slant, we would do well to focus on the other parts of the triangle to help bring more balance and indeed bring in more influence from outside our tradition who may be focused more on these other areas.
I could do this all night, but let me leave you my last triangle which is the gospel. How do we effectively communicate the gospel? I think one of the answers to reaching those parts of our post-christendom culture is church planting a new micro-expression of church that many call missional communities. My heroes so far in this area are the triangle lovers at Soma Communities. Our church is wading into these waters now for the first time. Normatively, in order to communicate the gospel, it must be proclaimed. We must share the actual good news in real verbal forms. I think primarily this works best through story telling as alluded to in this conference and directly utilized by Soma. Situationally, we must, like Jesus, enter into the situations and realities of the people we wish to hear the gospel. With the proclamation of the gospel came the kingdom of God (another related triangle is Gospel Events, Kingdom of God, and Personal Salvation) and we demonstrate the Gospel when we heal a hurting world. Existentially, we love one another in our communities and "gospel" with one another. The world will know us, after all, by the love we have for one another. When we focus on one section of the triangle, we lose something essential.