Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Missional

posted by xscot mcknight

No word is more used among the Emergent folk than the word “missional,” so I’ll use it too. Some of these churches will chuck an occasional Sunday gathering to “do something for others.” In so carrying its missional emphasis, a message is sent to the local community that what the Church is about is a mission for the good of the world.

I’m not sure if NorthBridge Church in Antioch considers itself “emergent” or not, but what I do know is that it takes its missional emphasis very seriously (just as Solomon’s Porch doe), and it begins with a solid sense of evangelism. The number of new believers testifies to this. Mark Albrecht, the pastor, wants to be a part of church community that cannot be “overlooked” when Antioch groans or rejoices or has needs. So, NorthBridge has made itself, intentionally and with great effort, a presence in the community. And it makes it clear that it cares about the community, whether that community comes to NorthBridge or not. I could give details, but helping a school repair its walls, and getting kids to paint fire hydrants, and helping Senior citizens ready their homes for winter are but a few examples of a holistic missional emphasis that does not avoid evangelism.

The point the Emergent folk want to get across is that “church” is not just for Christians to gather, be fed, be charged up, and the like. Church, in fact, is in its essence a body with legs that move in the direction of worship of God and service to the world. So, what we are seeing is a new way of doing “social service.” In the older days, the Feds and the State took care of the poor, but the Emergent movement (and they sometimes suggest they have discovered this, but they haven’t) sees the mission of the gospel in holistic terms and therefore the work of the local church is for the good of the world, for the good of the community and for the good of other Christians. It is to the local community what the missionary station was to 19th Century missionary work. Except there is a significant difference: the local church wants its walls blended with the walls of the community so that passing from one to the other is indistinguishable (at first).

A feature at Solomon’s Porch is that they are committed to service for the shaping of spirituality. Frankly, when I read this statemenet on p. 146 I was annoyed: “Are we,” I asked myself, “to do works of service for our own good?” I got over the syntax because I’m quite convinced that Doug Pagitt is not saying precisely what these words say: yes, service affects our spirituality, but we don’t serve to become more spiritual. We serve for a variety of reasons, including most significantly in order to carry the grace we’ve experienced to others, and one of them is that it is good for us. And his point is important: when mission becomes central, our own identity becomes missional. Instead of being absorbers of grace we become those who absorb and pass on that grace. Behind it all is the desire to avoid the old-fashioned, and sometimes embarrassingly obvious, idea that the Church is called to good deeds as a sort of lure for the gospel rather than seeing good deeds as what God’s loving people do when they love their neighbors as Jesus taught in the Jesus Creed.

This whole sense of being missional at the central level touches again on the ecclesiological epistemology of the Emergent movement, and while I’m not sure I can unpack it all, there is a sense that we are designed by God to be in community and only when we are in community to do we know as we are known, and so it is in mission that we come to know the Lord as he is meant to be known. (I’d like to return here to the perichoresis, about which I earlier blogged, but won’t.)

Well, I’ve come close to an end now: my last blog will be on epistemology. I will introduce that blog with a comment on how to define “emergent” and ask that more theologians pay attention to the whole task.



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Scott Baxter

posted May 3, 2005 at 6:55 am


Hi Scott, when you say “I’ve come close to an end now” and “my last blog..” do you mean that you will not be posting any more? I do hope not, I have found your blogs highly informative it would be a shame to have your contribution to these discussions end. I am prepared to beg and bribe but i draw a line at grovelling.



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Scot McKnight

posted May 3, 2005 at 7:39 am


End of my blogging about Solomon’s Porch and emergent ecclesiology.I’ve got all kinds of things planned, including some stuff on favorite essayists and some on McLaren’s new book about hell.



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fernando Gros

posted May 4, 2005 at 12:23 am


Thanks again for the insightful posts. I’ve linked these from my blog and will psot something soon.The word “missional” really threw me when I first encountered it a fwe years back. It seemed pretentious, both in use and implication. Not that it doesn’t carry some really good content, but rather that it claimed to be completely innovative, when really it was not.To me there is *a lot* of ground to be covered in unravelling what the use of “missional” says about the ecclesiological assumptions of those in the emergent movement and also where they have “emerged’ from.



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Bob

posted May 4, 2005 at 4:17 am


In reading this, I hope that places like Solomon’s Porch aren’t equating Christ’s mission with community service. Repairing walls, helping Senior citizens, etc. are all good things but I think we could do all of these things and be called the 4H club instead of the church. (In fact, I think the people of God would be more effective if they “infiltrated” secular helps organizations rather than conduct parallel programs.)The danger with running these planned “events for Jesus” is that almost anyone can put on their “Jesus face” for an “event” for a couple hours. (And I’m not saying this is what the folks at Solomon’s Porch do, just what *could* happen). The problem is that you can’t replace this event-based activity with the mission of Christ. If we accept this cheap substitue for the real thing, we will have settled for less than the best.Using the term “missiology” for this particular manifestation and holding it up as an example of “missional emphasis” lessens it.Just my $.02



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Bob

posted May 4, 2005 at 4:19 am


Sorry, I referred to Solomon’s Porch above, should have been NorthBridge.



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Scot McKnight

posted May 4, 2005 at 4:59 am


Bob,I’m sorry if it sounds like NorthBridge is doing just social service; nothing could be farther from the truth. They are an evangelistic church, filled with new believers.I apologize to Mark Albrecht and them if that is how this sounds: what I was emphasizing was that they are “in the community” as a “presence” because they love their neighbors. They don’t do these things “just” to set people up.I use NorthBridge as an example because they are working out a holistic gospel.I’m glad you responded as you did so this could be clear.



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Scot McKnight

posted May 4, 2005 at 5:04 am


Bob, I went back and read that paragraph about NorthBridge again, and I edited it. Is that a no-no?I’d be interested in your take on the evangelistic mission of the Emergent movement. I hear lots of things, none of which is confirmed for me by what I see and hear and read.



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Bob

posted May 4, 2005 at 6:14 am


I’m not sure I could comment on the “evangelistic mission of the Emergent movement”. I’m no expert–just on my own journey.I only hear about Emergent churches (never been to one) and though the things they do sound more ‘authentic’ than traditional chuches, I don’t see the substance changing that much.I’ve stepped away from “going to church” for now and am finding out what it means to walk with Christ without being able to hide in a crowd or under a “program”. All that’s left is my life.When you say that NorthBridge is “in the community” as a “presence”, are they still a presence under the guise of a church–with all that carries with it? I’ll try to explain that. When I walk up to a neighbor, I’m just a guy from next door. To speak Christ into their life requires faithful adherence to Him and genuine love for them. This will happen in unexpected ways–which I’m finding is the thrill of the Christian life.When I walk up to a neighbor as a member of a church, I’m there to speak Christ into their life but it happens in a planned way–I’m there with my small group to rake their yard, I’m bringing an invitation to a concert the church is holding, etc. Does that make sense?In their heart, I think the EC wants their people to be witnessing with their lives but the church, unwittingly, may be getting in the way of that. I honestly don’t know, though.



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Scot McKnight

posted May 4, 2005 at 7:09 am


Bob,Thanks. I thought you were Bob Robinson. I like the picture of the fish on your website. I grew up fishin’ all the time (top water lures on small farm ponds hoping always for some big bass to attack).



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