• Mission in Suburbia: Theological Resources to Empower Missional Practice Within Small, Suburban Congregations

      Wilson, Keith G. (University of Chester, 2020-09-10)
      The practice of mission within small, suburban congregations has been widely overlooked by academic and Church institutions. Marginalised by their cultural context and struggling to maintain an already weak position, such churches could be dismissed as having little to offer contemporary missiology. This research believes that small, suburban congregations have an important missional role that, once resourced, is of value to the wider Church. The aim of this research is to reflect upon theological resources which could empower missional practice within small, suburban congregations. This reflection adopted a cyclical process of theological reflection. This reflective cycle or ‘Doing Theology Spiral’ used experience, reflection, exploration and action to create an ongoing pattern for missional reflection. This research began with an analysis of the missional experiences of selected small, suburban congregations. The gathered data highlighted aspects of the missional experiences of these congregations such as varied understandings of mission and tensions regarding the context for missional practice. In addition, the perceived strengths of such congregations were not commonly regarded as missional assets. This data was compared to published research. In the literature review, the practice of mission has received sustained attention over a long period. However, the mission of small, suburban congregations in Britain was largely absent from contemporary missiological debates. A range of theological resources were considered. The resources were regarded as important to the missional practice of congregations but, frequently overlooked or undervalued. These included context, activism, social action, and a sense of belonging. The sense of missional crisis suggested a need for other theological resources, notably missio Dei and a focus on the mission of God. This research discovered that a radical re-interpretation of missional practice within small, suburban congregations is required to challenge widespread stagnation and decline. In this research, it emerged that congregations required greater clarity and confidence regarding the theological resources available to them which could empower their missional practice.