The Missional Church
Technically, “missional” is a newly coined adjective for “mission.” A church truly on the right mission is missional. But, sadly, the term has been co-opted by some to refer to their particular way of being missional.
Advocates of the missional church have observed that the traditional understanding of the church as the place where the word is preached and the sacraments are administered fits within the context of Christendom but is inadequate in a post-Christian era, for its focus on the church as “the place where” offers no understanding of its mission.
Thompson, James W.. The Church according to Paul: Rediscovering the Community Conformed to Christ (p. 12). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The goal, therefore, is to leave the building and enter the world as salt and light. Continue reading
Thompson begins his book by summarizing several possible views on the mission of the church.
Political Action Committee
While liberals and conservatives choose different issues, they agree that the task of the church is to mobilize and influence public opinion in a democracy. Liberals have addressed the most contentious issues of the day: wars in Vietnam and Iraq, the rights of the marginalized, and the evils of corporate capitalism. Conservatives have mobilized to shape public policy on sexual mores, abortion, and the maintenance of a “Christian America.” Despite their differing priorities, both hope to inject Christian values into the larger society, and both exist in continuity with the Constantinian relationship between church and society.
Thompson, James W. The Church according to Paul: Rediscovering the Community Conformed to Christ (p. 9). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Thompson doesn’t unpack his conclusions in any detail, but there’s a lot of truth here to think about. For example, both Republican and Democratic Parties have libertarian strands. The Republicans want the government out of the way of business and education, but they want government to criminalize gay sex and to encourage family values, prayer in the schools, and such like. The Democrats want the government out of our sex lives — even to the extent of paying for abortions — but they want the government to compel businesses and individuals to respect the sexual freedoms of others by banning LGBT discrimination. And they love the idea of government strictly regulating business and education. Continue reading
As I mentioned in the last post, James W. Thompson, a professor at Abilene Christian, just published The Church according to Paul: Rediscovering the Community Conformed to Christ.
He begins by reviewing several popular theories of church mission.
Having observed the numerous attempts at reimagining the church, I am convinced that the most basic questions are not being asked. In the various strategies for reinventing the church, the theological identity of the church is assumed but not examined. The crisis of the church pertains not only to the loss of numbers but also to the fundamental question, what kind of church should survive? That is, what is the purpose of the church?
Thompson, James W. The Church according to Paul: Rediscovering the Community Conformed to Christ (p. 2). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
I think this is exactly right. The need for church growth is assumed and is assumed to apply at the local congregational level. This seems obvious, but don’t we first need to be certain that our church is the sort that God would like to see grow? I mean, long before we get to growth, we need to cover faithfulness — and the church growth literature assumes faithfulness. But not all churches are faithful and not all deserve to grow. Some would serve the Kingdom better by dying — or, better yet, changing. Continue reading
I earlier introduced the readers to the writings of Christopher J. H. Wright (no kin to N.T.) in my review of his commentary on Ezekiel. Wright is a marvelous writer, and he’s twice turned his attention to the doctrine of mission.
In The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative Wright builds a hermeneutic based on mission. That is, he takes mission to be the central theme of scripture and then reads the entirety of scripture through that lens. This approach is very similar to John Walton’s Covenant: God Purpose, God’s Plan, which sees scripture through the lens of God’s self-revelation (which the covenants are a major part of). God’s self-revelation is, of course, for a purpose — and that purpose is mission.
Wright later published The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission (Biblical Theology for Life), which is written for a more popular audience and is about mission rather than hermeneutics. I’m reading this book as I write this series.
Also excellent is an article summarizing one of Wright’s lectures published May 16. I’ll cover this in a future post. Continue reading
I get emails —
I’ve read some of your articles and recently read one about elders firing their minister. My husband was once fired from a position, and it was a mess. And as we have moved on and are serving at another church, doing so has made me question the lack of accountability for elders.
It seems to me that elders really do not have finite, effective accountability other than church members gossiping about them or complaining to them. In most cases, the only time an elder is asked to resign is if he has an affair, embezzles money, or hurts a child. What would be the process for removing elders that simply aren’t fit for the job (though are good men and faithful believers), or as a group have struggled to lead the church biblically, financially, and relationally?
It doesn’t seem wise to me that our God would leave any leader with absolute power, without real consequences for his/her actions.
Thank you in advance for considering my questions.
I get this question a lot — maybe more than any other. Although I’m in a middle of a series on the mission of the church, I figure I could provide links to prior posts on the subject. Continue reading
I do not like vision statements. I think they’re a colossal waste of time and energy. As Exhibit A, allow me to introduce into evidence these statements I found by searching “Church Vision Statement” in Google Images:
So I’ve been thinking about the mission of the church some lately. I know that’s badly out of fashion. According the authors of evangelical literature, I’m supposed to be thinking about the mission of God — and doing so in Latin: missio Dei.
But I don’t speak or read Latin, nor do many of my readers. So I’m sure why it’s better to say “mission of God” in Latin.
It’s rather like “worldview.” For the longest time, the authors all wanted us to learn to say Weltanschauung, which is German for “worldview.” But how do I become a better writer, teacher, or Christian by preferring the German over the English?
So we need to begin with this caution: theology in America is heavily influenced by fashion. By “fashion” I mean what the academics and professional clergy consider cool — meaning “new.” There’s a distinct tendency to want to say things in a way that makes their D.Min.’s seem worth the money. Hence, we can’t say “stranger.” We must say “the Other” — because this is how some philosophers talk, and it sounds just so much cooler to say “the Other” rather than “someone not like you” or “stranger.”
It’s all just so very pretentious. Continue reading
We’re continuing to look at ways to deal with one of the Bible’s most difficult passages, Num 31, where Moses commanded that upon defeat of an enemy, all the people were to be killed, regardless of age, other than virgin girls.
In Part 1, we considered, as a first possibility, the likelihood that the text contains hyperbolic or exaggerated language typical of the Ancient Near East. We now consider some additional possibilities.
Second, Matt Lynch has posted a series on the battles recorded in Joshua with interesting insights as to the methods of early Hebrew recording of history. Here and here. (The other posts in the series are fascinating reads as well.) Continue reading