Friday, September 23, 2005

Curt Watke and NeoTribal Wiki: New Tool for Missional Christians

A few years ago while doing some Internet research on neotribal concepts of self-identity and social groupings in western postmodern contexts, I ran across Dr. Curt Watke with the Intercultural Institute for Contexualized Ministry. Curt and I exchanged emails for some time but were never able to connect. To my great surprise he called me this week, and we met this morning for several hours in the greater Salt Lake City area in connection with a ministry and personal trip in the area.

Curt is a missional and visionary Christian. He appreciates the application of intercultural missions in the western postmodern, post-Christendom, retribalized context. An important concept for Curt is "neotribalism," which he defines variously as:

1. The organization, culture, or beliefs of a group similar to a tribe.
2. A strong feeling of identity with and loyalty to one’s tribe or group.
3. The fragmentation of North American society that causes a re-tribalization of culture.
4. A group of people with similar lifestyles, attitudes and consumer behavior who live together in common neighborhoods.
5. Not dependent on genealogy but on proximity and choice.

Curt has been working to educate and connect Christians in missional ways that will enable them to connect with the neotribal cultures and subcultures of their communities. One of the tools that Curt has been developing is NeoTribal Wiki. This is a missional knowledge database that has the potential to be very helpful to missional churches. It utilizes the information technology of the Wikipedia online encyclopedia. Within this framework NeoTribal Wiki has plugged in a wealth of demographic and cultural data from around the world that is in the process of being cross-referenced and segmented for missional application.

You have to take a look at the website for NeoTribal Wiki to fully understand and appreciate it, and keep in mind that this missional tool is currently in pre-launch construction, but perhaps a few examples will help to illustrate the value and potential of this resource.

For example, if you click on Browse by Categories, and then select Community Studies, followed by North American Community Studies, you can eventually work your way to a South Carolina Community Study which provides a wealth of data that can prove invaluable to pastors, church planters, and missionaries. Curt and his associates will be adding to this database and including statistical data on other states in the U.S. International data is available as well.

As another example for those working in missions to emerging spiritualities, going back to Browse by Categories, you will see that other divisions of information and topics are of missional value as well. Continuing on the neotribal concept, Curt includes categories such as Religious Neotribes, Spiritual Neotribes, Postmodern Neotribes, and Youth Neotribes. Once developed, these categories help provide what Curt calls "missional culturescapes" that compliment the other areas of missional knowledge in this database that can be shared and studied to assist in the formation of culturally informed mission strategy.

After I reviewed just a little of the information in this missional base I came to the conclusion that this may represent a tool for missions that can revolutionize missional approaches in America and beyond.

Curt was interested in sharing this project with me, and my involvement in overseeing the development of the Spiritual NeoTribes section of NeoTribalWiki, and in working as a Research Associate. I will be contacting colleagues in my network in the hopes of recruiting their involvement and contributions to this project.

I encourage missional thinking Christians to check out this exciting resource.

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