I have already stated several times that one key assumption behind the DITB project was that theology is not the process of constructing an abstract, systematic model of God. At least, it shouldn’t be. Unfortunately, much theology is just that. Modern academic theology has tended toward the pursuit of constructing grand systems of theory that attempt to explain God and the universe. The end result of this endeavor is inevitably the construction of an idol made, not of gold, wood, and stone, but of human ideas. A reasonably adequate Christian theology, on the other hand, is the observation and reflection (theological praxis) of what God is doing in, with, under, against, and for the local congregation. The DITB project was an attempt to embody this statement and observe what would happen if a group of ELCA suburbanites—who have had no traditional, academic theological training—engage in what many consider to be one of the most difficult and abstract theological concepts: the Trinity. Further, I wanted to see what would happen if we tried to connect the Trinity—traditionally a conversation reserved for the conversation of the intellectual elite—with the practice of spiritual formation—something traditionally considered a matter of “practical” theology.
One of the most important findings from the DITB project is that method matters. The way in which we pursued this question is as much a part of the answer as any findings we may propose as a result. I will suggest, in this section, that the process we used in our project is a trinitarian praxis that can serve as a helpful model for missional leadership in the suburban context. The process to which I refer includes the following components: Dwelling in the Word, collaboratively creating action projects, creating spaces—both digital and physical—for ongoing communication and collaboration, and regrouping to engage in communicative, theological reflection on the actions.
One thing that surprised me about the DITB Project was the average age of the team. Most of the team members were over 50. I must confess that I was initially disappointed and discouraged by this, but was ultimately humbled. The disappointment and discouragement stemmed from my initial expectation that I would focus in this project on the stereotypical suburban family that has children in late elementary or secondary school and spends exorbitant amounts of time taxiing children to various extra curricular activities. I was interested to know how an engagement in spiritual and theological conversation might impact their spiritual formation. I reached out to many families within this demographic and was repeatedly and politely denied. “We’d love to participate. Thank you for asking. But, we’re just (you guessed it) too busy.”
This final section will focus on the implications that the DITB project has for leadership in the missional church. The postmodern, missional leader finds herself navigating a minefield of polarized extremes. One of the most negative and destructive consequences of the modern dogma is the inevitable dualities that it creates. Modernity polarizes society. This is an inevitable result of the buffered self and substance ontology. The buffered, autonomous self stands apart from and, ultimately against the other. The DITB data suggest that communicative action, inherent in both PAR and Dwelling in the Word, empowers the leader to the find the third way of God’s love that both acknowledges the good in polar extremes and combines them into a more excellent way. This third way seeks a win/win scenario in which hope is born, as opposed to a win/lose scenario that creates the classes of winners and losers.