Simon Chan may be the world's most liturgically minded Pentecostal. The Earnest Lau professor of systematic theology at Trinity Theological College in Singapore is both a scholar of Pentecostalism and a leader in the Assemblies of God, but his recent books, Spiritual Theology and Liturgical Theology, engage with wider and older Christian traditions as well. Worship, Chan believes, is not just a function of the church, but the church's very reason for being. Our big question for 2007 focuses on global mission: What must we learn, and unlearn, to be agents of God's mission in the world? Christian Vision Project editorial director Andy Crouch interviewed Chan while Chan was a visiting scholar at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, to find out whether fully joining God's mission may require that we unlearn some of our assumptions about mission itself.
You have written a great deal about liturgical theology, but missional theology seems more popular these days.
I think that missional theology is a very positive development. But some missional theology has not gone far enough. It hasn't asked, What is the mission of the Trinity? And the answer to that question is communion. Ultimately, all things are to be brought back into communion with the triune God. Communion is the ultimate end, not mission.
If we see communion as central to the life of the church, we are going to have an important place for mission. And this is reflected in the ancient fourfold structure of worship: gathering, proclaiming the Word, celebrating the Eucharist, and going out into the world. The last, of course, is mission. But mission takes its place within a larger structure. It is this sense of communion that the evangelical world especially needs. Communion is ...