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Interview with David Fitch: Evangelicalism, Anabaptism, and Being the Church in a Post-Christian Culture

This past spring, I spent a little over an hour on the phone with David Fitch, an author, pastor and theology professor. Our conversation has just been published in Anabaptist Witness, a journal published by Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. 

For the last 10 years, I have been on a journey of rethinking what it means to be the church. Early on that journey, I stumbled on author and professor Scot McKnight, whose explorations of Jesus, the kingdom and the gospel as a larger Story were welcome manna along the way. As McKnight and Fitch are colleagues and friends, it didn't take long to run into Fitch's blog and writings about missional theology. I found Prodigal Christianity: Ten Signposts into the Missional Frontier a particularly challenging and affirming exercise of putting that theology into practice.

In May 2013, McKnight and Fitch were among the plenary speakers at Missio Alliance’s inaugural gathering in Alexandria, my home town. Missio Alliance is a multi-denominational coming together under a common commitment to provide a place to address what faithfulness to Christ and His Mission might look like for the churches of North America. In other words, what it looks like to be the people of God we are called and enable to be here and now.

I found great value in getting to know the faces and personalities behind the authors, thinkers, theologians and people in a conversation I’d been following for the last decade. In one session, Scot McKnight and Cherith Nordling touched on how the theological voices who change the way we think are not formless voices coming to us out of a void but connected to real people and personalities. And I enjoyed the chance to get to know those personalities, particularly Alan and Debra Hirsh, Todd Hunter, Nordling, Fitch, and McKnight.

And I was thrilled by the presence of Anabaptism in the discussion. It has been interesting watching the theology move from the margins and saturate the current conversation. For most of my life, I have straddled the Anabaptist and evangelical streams in my explorations of Jesus and the church, and I have found affirmation in maintaining that tension in Fitch and McKnight, who wrestle with those tensions as well.

Through Missio Alliance and writers like McKnight and Fitch (and Dallas Willard, Richard Foster—the list is quite long, actually), I have also found great affirmation that I am not alone in this journey. Truth be told, 10 years into it, I thought we might be further. But that’s my own weakness. Foster says it’s a slow process, and I’m impatient. But, for the first time in a long time, I am expectant. I see the movement of the church to the margins in a Post-Christian world as an unexpected opportunity, one that gives us the chance to loose the entanglements that have kept us from being the authentic communities of love, justice, and restoration into which our gospel compels us.

So, it was a pleasure to talk with David Fitch about what it means to be the church in a post-Christian world and about the growing relationship between evangelicalism and Anabaptism. May it be a helpful addition to the larger conversation about what it means to be the people of God we are called and enabled to be here and now.


Anonymous said…
I heard another unexpected voice join this conversation when I read Dan Wakefield's article about Kurt Vonnegut for Image magazine. Kurt, who described himself as a Christ-loving atheist, said: "If Christ hadn't delivered the Sermon on the Mount, with its message of mercy and pity, I wouldn't want to be a human being. I would just as soon be a rattlesnake." And--more to the point for the 'what is the church' conversation: "Vonnegut believed that providing people with extended families explained 'the fantastic growth of Christianity in a Roman Empire which was so cruelly opposed to it. The state religion formed crowds of strangers to propitiate gods in enormous buildings or plazas. Christians prayed with cozy little bunches of friends who met regularly in cozy little places, which felt much better.'" And, in a Playboy interview, "I admire Christianity more than anything--Christianity symbolized by gentle people sharing a common bowl."
As always--love reading your thoughts--