Over the next few weeks I am going to be posting my review / summary of the book The Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America, edited by Darrell Guder. I can’t promise that it will be a perfect summary and I can’t promise that it won’t make more sense unless you’ve actually read the book. But, I feel like this book is a great introduction to this whole “missional thing” so I hope you’ll enjoy. Here’s part I of many parts (I will actually finish this series because I have already written all the posts)
I’ve grown up in the church. I am a pastor’s kid, a missionary kid, a pastor’s grandkid and elders’ kid all wrapped into one. Over the years, I have experienced amazing love and acceptance in all of these communities. I have been taught about Jesus as my savior and I have learned that Christians are supposed to stand out of society and share the love of Jesus with the world. In all my years of church, despite all the awesome ways the God has used my previous church experiences to make me more like himself, I can’t say that the overwhelming emphasis and purpose was like anything that was presented in this book. While I am not claming that the churches I have been part of “got it all wrong” I do believe that this book presents a foundationally different understanding of the nature of the church than I experienced.
In my opinion, it would be hard to read this book carefully without walking away very challenged by our call to be the church “in and for the sake of the world.” With that thought in mind, I will make and effort to faithfully summarize the content of this book in a way that shows its radical view of church. After this, I will then build upon these preliminary statements and share how certain parts of this book have radically influenced my understanding of “Church.”
“From Sending to being Sent”. In the first chapter the authors share the reality in which the church finds itself at the current time. People are now finding it possible to call themselves Christians without actually joining a church. We’re “becoming more pluralistic, more individualistic and more private.” While they point out that the intention of the book is not to provide a comprehensive history of how the culture has changed, they do make the direct conclusion that “it is by now a truism to speak of North America as a mission field.” The point of this book then is to respond to this reality. “Our concern is the way the Christian churches are responding to this challenge.” (2) This concern shows that the authors are unsatisfied and left wanting in the way that the North American church has responded thus far. “The typical North American response to our situation is to analyze the problem and find a solution. These solutions tend to be methodological. Arrange all the components of the church landscape differently and many assume the problem can be solved.” (2). But they claim that we can’t look to method and problem solving to find a solution to the situation we are faced with. As they say, “the real issues in the current crisis of the Christian church are spiritual and theological.”
One of the major fundamental flaws of the modern church is that it saw itself as a sending entity rather than a “sent” entity. This means, that the North American church was more interested in sending missionaries to other countries to evangelism them than it was in seeing itself as a sent community to the North American context. Of course, the authors argue that we do need to see the church of North America as a sent entity rather than just a sent one. “We have come to see that mission is not merely an activity of the church. Rather mission, is the result of God’s initiative, rooted in God’s purposes to restore and heal creation.” (4) This idea of “being sent” is a concept and framework that has deep theological and biblical origins. We are sent because “we have learned to speak of God as a missionary God. Thus we have learned to understand the church as a “sent people.” The authors point out in this first chapter that in their research they have found that missional theology is “biblical, historical, contextual, eschatological, and can be practiced.”
to be cotinued…