I have been reading Alan Roxburgh's book, Missional Map-Making: Skills for Leading in Times of Transition. He makes some interesting connections to the field of biomedicine. Dr Arthur Kornberg received the Nobel Prize (1959) for his work in isolating the first DNA polymerizing enzyme. A long-time professor at Stanford University, in 2000 he had this to say:
With regard to medical research, the best plan over many decades has been no plan at all. ... the pursuit of understanding the basic facts of nature has proven throughout the history of medical science to be the most practical, the most cost-effective route to successful drugs and devices... Investigations that seemed irrelevant to any practical objective have yielded most of the major discoveries in medicine: X-rays, MRI, penicillin, polio vaccine.
He suggests that the way to "discover" solutions is to:
- invest one's energies and skills in engaging the most fundamental questions of the system
- be shaped by the long tradition within which one has lived
- invest oneself in raising up a new generation who are able to do this foundational reflection within the tradition
- recognize that one is not in control of predicting what these practical, revolutionary solutions are going to look like
Of course, we should probably apply those insights to how we need to imagine the way forward for Christian witness in these in-between times that we find ourselves in.
- We need a lot more basic "lab" work going on in Christian communities. Paying attention to the basics - leitourgia (the work of the people in public worship); koinonia (forming caring, transformative communities); manthano (make/form disciples of Jesus); and diakonia (serve, minister, to those in need). What do those basic rhythms of Christian community need to look like in our time and space and cultural context?
- We need to pay attention to the shaping practices and notions of the Christian life that have formed our traditions. In my case, the Wesleyan tradition with Catholic, Anglican and Arminian roots which directs me to the disciplines and practices of the means of grace (acts of piety, acts of mercy); to the notion that all should have access to the good news (wherever and whatever form that may take); to Christian community as fundamental to growth in grace (no solitary Christianity); and a particular vision of what it means to be healed and whole in Christ ("How can I be the kind of person that God created me to be, and that I long to be, a person holy in heart and life?")
- We need to be proactive in developing others who will understand, live in, and pass on the tradition.
- And recognize that if we pay attention to these things, unimaginable possibilities will emerge, with which our Father will be well pleased.