Missional Church, Ch. 1

I have recently began reading Missional Church:  A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America that was written by several authors.  I decided to start blogging about write I read as a sort of journal because I feel that I read a lot of books but don’t retain very much of it, so maybe this will help.  I thought I would at least give it a try with this book.

Chapter 1 “Missional Church – From Sending to Being Sent” – gives an overview for the rest of the book but also lays down the basic assumptions, bias, and perspectives that the authors are coming from.  They don’t pretend to offer an objective study of how to fix the church and the church’s relationship with American culture.  Rather, they start from a profound belief in Missio Dei (mission of God) and influenced by British missionary/theologian Leslie Newbigin (p.3).  Missio Dei means that from the start mission is God’s mission, it is His activity in the world.  That from the beginning God has been restoring and healing creation.  It began with His call of Israel and reached a climax in the incarnation and ensuing life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  It continues today through the work of the church and the Holy Spirit.

They argue that this simple shift in thinking creates an enormous shift in our theology and ecclesiology because we now see God as a “missionary God” and the church as a “sent people” (p.4).  Darrell Guder, the author of this chapter, quotes David Bosch:  “Mission (is)understood as being derived from the very nature of God.  It (is) thus put in the context of the doctrine of the Trinity, not of ecclesiology or soteriology.  The classical doctrine of the missio Dei as God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit (is) expanded to include yet another “movement”:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sending the church into the world.”

Guder argues that the church in America today is not missional and must be transformed to become missional.  Today’s churches are based in Christendom, a time period where the church was shaped because of its dominant role in a society that considered itself officially Christian.  This is no longer the case as the church now exists in a postmodern, multicultural context.  So the basic question no becomes:  “What would an understanding of the church (an ecclesiology) look like if it were truly missional in design and definition.”  Thus the basic question of the book.

They also lay out five characteristics of a faithfully missional ecclesiology (11-12):

  • A missional ecclesiology is biblical…
  • A missional ecclesiology is historical…
  • A missional ecclesiology is contextual…
  • A missional ecclesiology is eschatological…
  • A missional ecclesiology can be practiced, that is, it can be translated into practice…

The rest of the chapter is a sort of overview of the rest of the book, chapter by chapter.  I am excited after the first chapter because I agree with Guder when he states that we need to read the Scriptures through a missional hermeneutic.  Which means to read and interpret scripture from the position that God deeply loves all of creation and wants to heal and restore that creation.  From this basic understanding we must agree that mission can no longer be just a program of the church, in the form of outreach or foreign missions.  Instead, mission “defines the church as God’s sent people” and “either we are defined by mission, or we reduce the scope of the gospel and the mandate of the church” (6).  “Thus our challenge today is to move from church with mission to missional church” (6).

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Missional Church, Ch. 1

  1. This is very interesting. I have been reading Newbigin for some time now and have really enjoyed him. If anything though, he has just brought up more difficult questions than answers. I would love to hear your thoughts on him. I just put up a post on my blog quoting from Newbigin’s “Open Secret”.
    Currently my wife and I are serving in Malawi at African Bible College Christian Academy. I can assure you, being on the mission field doesn’t answer anymore questions than newbigin does.
    Thanks for your post.

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