Emerging / Missional

The end of missional

Nothing could be more important than clarity about the mission Jesus’ entrusted to us as his followers.

Yet nothing could be less clear, at least for the church of the affluent West.

Western clergy and theologians have been rethinking the nature of the church’s mission for over a century.

The journey began with the Student Volunteer Movement which morphed into the World Council of Churches. A dynamic, evangelical, missionary movement became a century-long talkfest, the fruit of which was the rejection of traditional missionary endeavour as evangelism and church planting, and the collapse of the progressive mainline denominations.

The mainline churches became captive to the spirit of the age which sidelined God, and placed humankind’s dignity, aspirations, values, and needs at the centre of the universe.*

Today, a new generation of evangelicals are going down that same path. They will face the same consequences.

Mission is increasingly about creating an economically just society on earth, and caring for the environment. Even starting businesses can bring in the kingdom of God. This holistic mission seeks to both transform society, and win disciples. Both are equally valid.

There are no priorities. Mission is everything the church is sent into the world to do. We are all missionaries now.

When everyone feeds the horse. The horse starves. When everything is mission. Nothing is. When everyone is a missionary. No one is.

*Christopher Little, What Makes Mission Christian?

The end of missional

Nothing could be more important than clarity about the mission Jesus’ entrusted to us as his followers.

Yet nothing could be less clear, at least for the church of the affluent West.

Western clergy and theologians have been rethinking the nature of the church’s mission for over a century.

The journey began with the Student Volunteer Movement which morphed into the World Council of Churches. A dynamic, evangelical, missionary movement became a century-long talkfest, the fruit of which was the rejection of traditional missionary endeavour as evangelism and church planting, and the collapse of the progressive mainline denominations.

The mainline churches became captive to the spirit of the age which sidelined God, and placed humankind’s dignity, aspirations, values, and needs at the centre of the universe.*

Today, a new generation of evangelicals are going down that same path. They will face the same consequences.

Mission is increasingly about creating an economically just society on earth, and caring for the environment. Even starting businesses can bring in the kingdom of God. This holistic mission seeks to both transform society, and win disciples. Both are equally valid.

There are no priorities. Mission is everything the church is sent into the world to do. We are all missionaries now.

When everyone feeds the horse. The horse starves. When everything is mission. Nothing is. When everyone is a missionary. No one is.

*Christopher Little, What Makes Mission Christian?

When God messes with your missional community

This email just came in from Nigel in the UK.

Hey Steve,

I’ve been saying something based on your ‘Jesus visits 175 towns’ thing around here and I thought I better run it by you to see if I’m using it correctly. It’s in regards to missional communities.

As you know, I get approached (as we all) about people idealising missional communities. They often like to refer to Acts 2 as this utopic society that miraculously grew because ‘everyone was just so cool to each other’. (If this isn’t explicitly said, it is implicit to the conversation.)

What I’ve been saying to people lately is that Acts 2 only was able to happen because of Luke (or the Gospels). You only get to Acts 2 AFTER you’ve had 3 years of visiting 175 towns in preparation for what happens at the end of Luke beginning of Acts.

Implication: It’s okay to think of missional communities as an outcome if you’ve taken care of mission first! (Sort of like what seems to have happened with Patrick.)

Running that by you to see if that is in-line with your thoughts?

Thanks.

Nigel

My response to Nigel. . .

Hey Nigel

Good to hear from you.

Good point re the groundwork Jesus had laid for the later expansion in Jerusalem.

The other big contributing factor was the coming of the HS. The community/ies in Jerusalem were the creation of the dynamic Word of the gospel and the outpouring of the HS.

Signs and wonders, community, gospel spreading are all the result of a work of God, rather than the creation of Jesus' disciples who were just trying a little harder to be missional. They were swept up in something greater than themselves.

Jerusalem was turned upside down, the Word spread to the surrounding towns and into Judea. This was not a static, come to us community. There was movement and dynamism.

Jerusalem was transformed, but not into an idillic society. Jerusalem was in turmoil and was divided over this new movement.

But God was not satisfied. A shift was taking place. The model of mission in the OT was Jerusalem as a light that would draw the nations in. That's how the church in Acts began. God had other plans.

Soon the Holy Spirit is at work to scatter the believers to the ends of the earth. Come to us and see our community was replaced with we're being sent to you to share the gospel and form new communities.

Stephen was murdered and the believers were scattered and with them went the gospel. Philip down to Samaria. Some unnamed believers as far as Antioch where the gospel finally is shared with Gentiles.

God broke up the missional community in Jerusalem so that it multiplied among the Samaritans and the Gentiles. Meanwhile the apostles in Jerusalem are flat out trying to keep up with what God is doing on out on the fringes through ordinary people.

Eventually, even Peter has to be shaken up before he saw the need for an intentional mission beyond the borders of his missional community.

The Word then leaves Jerusalem behind as it spreads into new territory despite the persecution thrown at the messengers. Wherever the Word goes, new disciples are made and new communities are formed. Acts is built around six summary statements about the spread, growth and multiplication of the Word which results in new disciples and new communities.

Acts is not about one idillic community in Jerusalem. It's about the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to the world. Movements move. Jesus rarely stood still and as the Risen Lord he continued to unsettle his followers.

Acts finishes with Paul in Rome preaching the gospel of the kingdom. Luke never tells us what happens to Paul. He's more concerned with the unfettered power of God's Word conquering the world and leaving new disciples and new churches in its wake.

It's God's mission, not ours. It's not about our missional community, it's about the spread of his dynamic Word which creates communities everywhere.

Hey, this feels a blog post. . ..

Steve

PS Let's jump on Skype sometime soon and talk about how you're putting the principles to work. . . When's a good time?

When God messes with your missional community

This email just came in from Nigel in the UK.

Hey Steve,

I’ve been saying something based on your ‘Jesus visits 175 towns’ thing around here and I thought I better run it by you to see if I’m using it correctly. It’s in regards to missional communities.

As you know, I get approached (as we all) about people idealising missional communities. They often like to refer to Acts 2 as this utopic society that miraculously grew because ‘everyone was just so cool to each other’. (If this isn’t explicitly said, it is implicit to the conversation.)

What I’ve been saying to people lately is that Acts 2 only was able to happen because of Luke (or the Gospels). You only get to Acts 2 AFTER you’ve had 3 years of visiting 175 towns in preparation for what happens at the end of Luke beginning of Acts.

Implication: It’s okay to think of missional communities as an outcome if you’ve taken care of mission first! (Sort of like what seems to have happened with Patrick.)

Running that by you to see if that is in-line with your thoughts?

Thanks.

Nigel

My response to Nigel. . .

Hey Nigel

Good to hear from you.

Good point re the groundwork Jesus had laid for the later expansion in Jerusalem.

The other big contributing factor was the coming of the HS. The community/ies in Jerusalem were the creation of the dynamic Word of the gospel and the outpouring of the HS.

Signs and wonders, community, gospel spreading are all the result of a work of God, rather than the creation of Jesus' disciples who were just trying a little harder to be missional. They were swept up in something greater than themselves.

Jerusalem was turned upside down, the Word spread to the surrounding towns and into Judea. This was not a static, come to us community. There was movement and dynamism.

Jerusalem was transformed, but not into an idillic society. Jerusalem was in turmoil and was divided over this new movement.

But God was not satisfied. A shift was taking place. The model of mission in the OT was Jerusalem as a light that would draw the nations in. That's how the church in Acts began. God had other plans.

Soon the Holy Spirit is at work to scatter the believers to the ends of the earth. Come to us and see our community was replaced with we're being sent to you to share the gospel and form new communities.

Stephen was murdered and the believers were scattered and with them went the gospel. Philip down to Samaria. Some unnamed believers as far as Antioch where the gospel finally is shared with Gentiles.

God broke up the missional community in Jerusalem so that it multiplied among the Samaritans and the Gentiles. Meanwhile the apostles in Jerusalem are flat out trying to keep up with what God is doing on out on the fringes through ordinary people.

Eventually, even Peter has to be shaken up before he saw the need for an intentional mission beyond the borders of his missional community.

The Word then leaves Jerusalem behind as it spreads into new territory despite the persecution thrown at the messengers. Wherever the Word goes, new disciples are made and new communities are formed. Acts is built around six summary statements about the spread, growth and multiplication of the Word which results in new disciples and new communities.

Acts is not about one idillic community in Jerusalem. It's about the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to the world. Movements move. Jesus rarely stood still and as the Risen Lord he continued to unsettle his followers.

Acts finishes with Paul in Rome preaching the gospel of the kingdom. Luke never tells us what happens to Paul. He's more concerned with the unfettered power of God's Word conquering the world and leaving new disciples and new churches in its wake.

It's God's mission, not ours. It's not about our missional community, it's about the spread of his dynamic Word which creates communities everywhere.

Hey, this feels a blog post. . ..

Steve

PS Let's jump on Skype sometime soon and talk about how you're putting the principles to work. . . When's a good time?

Just how missional-incarnational was Jesus?

IMG_0812.JPG

I snapped this roadside advert for missionalwear.com on the way to the Exponential conference in 2010. I knew you could drink your coffee missionally, I didn't realise you could dress missionally.

Browse the titles of your local Christian bookstore, or the Christian titles on Amazon, and you'll find hundreds of recent books that include some, or all of the words, "missional, incarnational community." [The term "emerging church" has been on the slide since about 2007. Don't use it in public.]

You can be a missional church, business leader, mom, small group, disciple, or movement. Even Nehemiah was missional.

You can be a missional denomination, church plant, or house church. You can replace mission trips with missional living. You can even preach and worship missionally, or is that missionaly?

There's a missional hermeneutic and missional ecclesiology. I couldn't find much on missional pneumatology or missional eschatology. Missional demonology is an unexplored field.

For the brave there's "missional synergy through cordic connectivity." Sounds a bit New Age.

You can relate incarnationally, be spiritual incarnationally, your soul can have an incarnational journey. There's incarnational art and incarnational youth ministry. The Scottish parish system can be incarnational. The Shona women of Zimbabwe have an incarnational narrative Christology.

For the confused there's incarnational counselling.

All this seems a long way from what Jesus actually did.

For Jesus "missional incarnational community" meant hitting the road and meeting strangers. Put yourself in his incarnational, missional band and you'll find yourself visiting every one of the 175 towns and villages of Galilee proclaiming the gospel, healing the sick and casting out demons.

Jesus pursued his ministry with the intention of reaching as many people as he could in the limited time he had. First in his home region of Galilee, and then in the surrounding districts and down into Judea and Jerusalem.

As he went from village to village, as he ministered to the crowds and to individuals at every level of society, Jesus went looking for faith. When he found it, he turned the newest believers into missionaries who could take the gospel to their community.

As Jesus pursued his mission, he trained a band of disciples who would return to the same towns he had visited. Some of them took the gospel to the ends of the earth. And when they did, they would know what to do, because they had been with Jesus, and now the Risen Lord was with them.

The scriptures never apply the incarnation to believers.

If we do we want to describe ourselves as incarnational we must make sure that it is the ministry of Jesus—in the Gospels and continuing in Acts—that is the benchmark for incarnational missional ministry today.

What matters is not the language, but the reality of aligning ourselves with what Jesus did, and what the risen Lord continued to do through his people.

Just how missional-incarnational was Jesus?

IMG_0812.JPG

I snapped this roadside advert for missionalwear.com on the way to the Exponential conference in 2010. I knew you could drink your coffee missionally, I didn't realise you could dress missionally.

Browse the titles of your local Christian bookstore, or the Christian titles on Amazon, and you'll find hundreds of recent books that include some, or all of the words, "missional, incarnational community." [The term "emerging church" has been on the slide since about 2007. Don't use it in public.]

You can be a missional church, business leader, mom, small group, disciple, or movement. Even Nehemiah was missional.

You can be a missional denomination, church plant, or house church. You can replace mission trips with missional living. You can even preach and worship missionally, or is that missionaly?

There's a missional hermeneutic and missional ecclesiology. I couldn't find much on missional pneumatology or missional eschatology. Missional demonology is an unexplored field.

For the brave there's "missional synergy through cordic connectivity." Sounds a bit New Age.

You can relate incarnationally, be spiritual incarnationally, your soul can have an incarnational journey. There's incarnational art and incarnational youth ministry. The Scottish parish system can be incarnational. The Shona women of Zimbabwe have an incarnational narrative Christology.

For the confused there's incarnational counselling.

All this seems a long way from what Jesus actually did.

For Jesus "missional incarnational community" meant hitting the road and meeting strangers. Put yourself in his incarnational, missional band and you'll find yourself visiting every one of the 175 towns and villages of Galilee proclaiming the gospel, healing the sick and casting out demons.

Jesus pursued his ministry with the intention of reaching as many people as he could in the limited time he had. First in his home region of Galilee, and then in the surrounding districts and down into Judea and Jerusalem.

As he went from village to village, as he ministered to the crowds and to individuals at every level of society, Jesus went looking for faith. When he found it, he turned the newest believers into missionaries who could take the gospel to their community.

As Jesus pursued his mission, he trained a band of disciples who would return to the same towns he had visited. Some of them took the gospel to the ends of the earth. And when they did, they would know what to do, because they had been with Jesus, and now the Risen Lord was with them.

The scriptures never apply the incarnation to believers.

If we do we want to describe ourselves as incarnational we must make sure that it is the ministry of Jesus—in the Gospels and continuing in Acts—that is the benchmark for incarnational missional ministry today.

What matters is not the language, but the reality of aligning ourselves with what Jesus did, and what the risen Lord continued to do through his people.

Bell's hell

csl_man2_MD.jpg

A great deal of what is being published by writers in the religious tradition is a scandal and is actually turning people away from the church. The liberal writers who are continually accommodating and whittling down the truth of the Gospel are responsible. I cannot understand how a man can appear in print claiming to disbelieve everything that he presupposes when he puts on the surplice [clerical robe]. I feel it is a form of prostitution.

CS Lewis, 1963

When it first came out in March, Rob Bell's Love Wins was the number one Christian book on Amazon, and number four best seller of all books.

Controversy sells.

I'm thinking the next book I write will be an expose of Billy Graham as a secret Mormon.

Back in the 1960s Bishop John Robinson's Honest to God was also a best seller. It seems every forty years a new generation of second generation evangelicals has to drift from the faith of their fathers to embrace a more culturally acceptable faith.

As always it begins, not with outward denial of historic Christianity, but with unanswered questions, and musings.

I don't plan to read Rob's book. I hope this is my last post on the topic. I'm sure others will do a better job of responding to Rob Bell. Other's will defend him as a victim of the religious right.

It's a distraction.

For a hundred years Christianity in the affluent, sceptical West has been drifting from orthodoxy. Bishops, theologians and pastors have stood in line to question the very heart of our faith—the uniqueness and divinity of Jesus, the centrality of the Cross, the reality of the Resurrection and the coming Judgment.

Here's how Richard Niebuhr described this shadow of Christianity,

A God without wrath brought men without sin into a world without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.

We've spent the last 100 years discussing and redefining "mission" only to end up with a concept that is far from what Jesus actually did as recorded in the Gospels and Acts.

The results have been devastating for the church in the West.

Do not despair, the twentieth century was also the century of the greatest advance of the gospel. It happened in the most unlikely places wherever ordinary people, mostly in Asia, Africa and Latin America, take God at his word. Clerical scepticism is a luxury item that only Westerners can afford.

UPDATE

Derek Tidball of the UK Evangelical Alliance reviews Love Wins.