A Missions “Trainwreck.”

I am actually using “trainwreck” in a positive way. Surprise surprise. I am using the idea of Richard Beck in a blog he wrote on “Musings on the Integration of Psychology and Theology.” Three areas of missions

In that, Beck described his method for integrating psychology and theology.

It’s a three step process:

1. Get really good at psychology.
2. Get really good at theology.
3. Find an interesting question.

Sounds pretty simple, but imagine two boxers. Train one and build him up very well (be very good at psychology). Train the other and build him up very well (be very good at theology). Then have them fight it out in a ring (find an interesting question).

Although I am using boxing here, Beck preferred the idea of a train wreck. The collision of analysis from two very different well-informed perspectives can lead to creative results.

Beck also noted that being “good in psychology” involved more than simply being good in clinical psychology or psychotherapy. In other words, one needs more than good methodology. Beck did not mention (if I remember right) but there is parallelism with theology. One can focus on practical (or applied) theology while knowing little if anything about the broader systematization of missions. Again, methodology is not enough.

Let’s carry the idea over to Missions.

Consider the drawing above. Missions involves three aspects… One could describe missions in terms of the integration of theology and social sciences. Yet in many cases, missions is more about methodology. In fact, in missions, the general, the justification for missions methods tends to be that “it works.” Not the worst justification, but does not have roots in theology or the social sciences.

Looking at the above drawing, the gray region is social sciences and methodology without being informed by theology. This could be seen as secular missions. Social sciences include, sociology, anthropology, among others.

The blue region is academic missions, with no real methods.

The pink region is perhaps spiritualistic missions, poorly informed by the social sciences.

A healthy missions should integrate theology, social sciences, and methodology.

But I would like to suggest a different way.

  1. Get really good at theology (not just practical theology)
  2. Get really good at the social sciences (not just applied social sciences)
  3. Come up with a good question.


And then… allow the two to collide. Just as particle physics owes much to particle colliders, there is room for a great deal of creativity.

Let the creative interaction (“trainwreck”) of the two to be the breeding ground for valuable insights into missions methodology. That is not to say that pragmatism is totally tossed out. Creative ideas still might not work, but imagine the fruit of the interaction of sound theology and sound social sciences?

Not sure how practical this is… would love to see it tried out more often to find out.


One thought on “A Missions “Trainwreck.”

  1. Pingback: A Missions “Trainwreck.” Follow-up | MMM — Munson Mission Musings

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