Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Pro Missional

posted by xscot mcknight

Enough of the posts on the significance of “post,” though some more will probably come to my head.
The emergent movement’s strongest asset and its clear prophetic voice is around this idea: the purpose of the Church, the local church, is to be a missional community. The tendency for many churches is to be stagnant — low growth with low embers glowing with low change and low adaptation to newer cultural ideas and movements. It used to be said that every generation had to speak the gospel to its generation, but this won’t do for a culture that shifts as quickly as ours does. So, the emergent movement strains the older forms because it has moved with the shifting culture and seeks to address the culture with a gospel for its time. A missional community of faith listens, looks, learns, and links to its community — and because it is responsive something new is always going on.

(By the way, the overall image of a seeker-church being totally different from an emergent church is not as accurate as many are suggesting. Size, maybe, but size ain’t all bad friends.)

However much one wants to quarrel about the shifts in culture from modernity to postmodernity, and I’m with those who see the shift as very significant, the focus of the emergent movement is on being missional.

Missional is a favored word because it is flexible. It transcends the old idea of social justice work following up on (if at all) a genuine gospel work. It blurs the distinction between “worldly” vs. “heavenly.” It asks that the vision of Jesus for the kingdom of God become the vision of the Church. And anyone who sits down with the Gospels and asks “What does Jesus mean by the kingdom of God?” and then writes down the answer each time that expression shows up in the Gospels, will discover that for Jesus the kingdom of God was a holistic vision of God’s will being done on earth (as in heaven).

To get a grip on this I suggest you sit down with Luke 1 (Mary’s Magnificat), then go to Luke 4 (Jesus’ inaugural sermon where he outlines his vision), then go to Luke 6 (or back to Matthew 5–7) in the Sermon on the Mount, then jump to Matthew 11:2-6, and then go to Acts 2 and Acts 4 and tell me what you think Jesus had in mind for the “community of Jesus.” One has to think that the three moments of Grace — Cross, Resurrection, and Pentecost — were designed to bring that sort of “kingdom” life into existence. Anything less is simply not Jesus’ kingdom. I digress.

So, missional means grasping a total picture of each society as God wants it, and it asks how it is possible for each Christian to participate in what God wants and is doing in this world. It breaks down the barrier between secular and sacred, between the spiritual and the secular, and between the holy and the profane. If the former conceptualization of the gospel was in the terms of “come out from among them” or “be not of this world,” the missional Christians are asking how to be among them and of this world in order to participate in what God is doing in this world. Thus, I see three ideas in the term missional:

It is holistic — it concerns the whole person (heart, soul, mind, strength) in this world;
It is participatory — it asks Christians to get involved and to do something
It is telic — it aims at the kingdom of God, and nothing less will do; this is why the emergent sorts are not so easy to pin down on politics: they seem to want the world to get much, much better, and in fact, they believe it can be what Jesus said it would be. (Which also means it will have an edge, a counter-cultural edge to it.)

In saying this, it becomes clear that the purpose of the Church is not just a gathering of Christians on Sunday “to be fed” and “to be warmed” and “to be blessed” but it is instead a time to worship and a time to plan how the community can participate in the work of God in its local neighborhood during the next week.

A local church that is genuinely kingdom-missional could be a terror to many Christians. Of course, many of Jesus’ day thought the same about him, and invented accusations against him — like “rebellious son” (Matthew 11:19 using Deuteronomy’s legal language).

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Sivin Kit

posted July 11, 2005 at 9:55 pm

Tim Dearborn highlights similar thoughts from a more global perspective here hope to do some mini responses while linking to your recent posts which are “gems” for me.

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Ted Gossard

posted July 13, 2005 at 1:29 am

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posted July 13, 2005 at 1:39 am

Excellent post! Glad to see discussion on this. I’ll be linking to this and giving some thoughts at

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posted July 13, 2005 at 1:49 am

Oh, and Ted’s question about retaining the difference is also important. We do need to remain counter-cultural in our rejection of sin, and not compromise. However, often we make cultural issues the stumbling block, rather than the cross. It is is a huge (and not always easy) challenge of the missional task to ask where – in the nature of the Incarnation – the gospel affirms culture, and where it confronts it.

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Ted Gossard

posted July 13, 2005 at 1:49 am

Missional community, yes. Great to hear that EM is strong in this area. Reminds me of the work of Hudson Taylor who dressing like the Chinese and really (evidently) immersing himself (at least for that time) in their culture, was considered radical.At the same time EM seems to be in its formative stages as to what they themselves are all about, what even the gospel is all about. Maybe this attitude will help reach those blighted by the postmodern scepticism. But I wonder just what they are proclaiming, what they are about, aside from just being “emergent.” Maybe that statement is unfair. Surely this is to them their adventure in being led by God as his people.Good to see their emphasis on community which is not huddled into some ghetto but extends itself into the community of the world. God can use that in them to spur other churches to get outside the four walls.Yet at the same time, do EM’ers have the edge of Paul, even the edge of Jesus, as they get out into that society? Christ himself is said to be a stumbling block, because all within this world are called to repentance and a new way. I would think that getting out there is half the battle, so I commend them for that.Yes, Jesus ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners, and we must follow. Yet Jesus did not become one with them in their sinning. And in that sense we cannot be of this world. Isn’t culture a mix of that which is of God’s image and that which is turned in on itself?

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Ted Gossard

posted July 13, 2005 at 1:54 am

weakbutaccepted,True and probably a messy challenge, not very clearcut. Because goodness and sin often seem intertwined in culture.But it’s surely better to make some mistakes along the way while being out there “in the world,” rather than just “playing safe” and remaining “clean.”

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posted July 14, 2005 at 10:22 am

I’m enjoying the whole discussion. But above all, I appreciate Scott’s pro missional statements. One of my heroes is a Paris missionary, Todd Burkes, who is trying his best to get Christians to “take the church to the city” instead of getting the city into the church. The challenges are huge. But so are the effects, when salt comes into contact with what it’s supposed to preserve, and light penetrates and illumines the darkness…instead of basking solely in the greater light.Above all, the glory of God is at stake, and we can’t afford to do things in the way most comfortable to us (from our particular Christian sub-cultural perspective) and just “hope” that non-believers in Jesus will “get it.”

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