Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Not All Who Wander are Lost

Missional.jpgArguably, Darrell Guder’s book (Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America (The Gospel and Our Culture Series)) is the most significant book on the church in the last two or three decades. But, as one of the contributors, Alan Roxburgh, observed, the book was good but it was too impractical for pastors and churches. So Alan, along with M. Scott Boren, have done something about it: they have now written an accessible missional church book called Introducing the Missional Church: What It Is, Why It Matters, How to Become One (Allelon Missional Series)

“… a journeying people who were forced to discover again and again what God wanted them to be doing in the world” (15). So we see an initial sketch of what “missional” might look like. That definition, so I believe, cuts into the tendency of so many today to impose an ancient world on a modern world, of the tendency to return to the Bible and live just like then, and of the tendency to read the Bible in order to retrieve a bygone era and reclaim it for our own. No one in the Bible acted like this. In the Bible, the people of God were empowered by the Spirit to strike with the gospel in new ways for new days. 


Those first messianic Christians — like Peter — were unprepared for what God was about to do through them: instead of boxing the Pentecost-inspired Spirit-driven new people of God into an old container, God prompted Peter to see that if God grants the same Spirit to the Gentiles, then  he was to participate in what God was doing. This event generated what Roxburgh and Boren call the “missional imagination” (17). So they observe: “there is a natural tendency to try to fit the work of the Spirit into old familiar patterns” (17).
They bring back the “attractional” vs. “missional” model idea: “if you build it, they will come” is the attractional model. That is, church is an event and the church provides spiritual goods and going to church is about being spiritual.
But the missional church — here’s a potent line — is not about the church! No, the God of mission is doing something in this world and the church is part of what God is doing. The missional imagination asks “What is God up to in this neighborhood?” But this does not lead the authors to the burn down the church and retrieve the organic origins approach.
Nor is this about creating the “ideal model of the church” and trying to live that out. There is no model; there is Spirit. 
They challenged three ideas:
1. That there is one model for the church.
2. That there is a singular, biblical missional model. Journeying into the unknown is there.
3. That there was a time in history when the church got it right and we need to recover it.
Missional folks are wanderers.
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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted December 9, 2009 at 2:03 am

Hey Scot,
Did your opening sentence mean to cite “Missional Church” instead of “Introducing the Missional Church”? I presume that is the case. Just FYI.

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John W Frye

posted December 9, 2009 at 5:59 am

In an evangelical culture where “models” of church are as varied as over-the-counter drugs, it’s refreshing that a book defuses the search for the “right” one to cure the ails of the church. I like your phrase, Scot, “…this does not lead the authors to the burn down the church and retrieve the organic origins approach.” Good stuff.
Sorry, we can’t connect in Grand Rapids, MI.

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Tim Hallman

posted December 9, 2009 at 6:40 am

The missional imagination asks “What is God up to in this neighborhood?”
What a great question. Sounds like it’s “the” question more of us need to be answering. It’s one of the questions I and others at Anchor have been asking for a long time. Combine that with a fresh, missional emphasis on the Spirit, and it’s a potent combination. I’m very excited about where Anchor (our church community) is headed as we ask the key missional question and learn to lean on the missional Spirit. With Guder and Boren’s book comes a great source of encouragement and direction that has long been needed for me.

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posted December 9, 2009 at 10:01 am

“But this does not lead the authors to the burn down the church and retrieve the organic origins approach.”
Hmmmm….not too sure about that statement. When you say “burn down the church” do you mean the church building or the Western church structure? I do not know of anyone who seeks a more organic approach to church who advocates that. (I know of a couple who are trying to infect it with organic thought or leave it altogether.)
I’m just not clear on the metaphor. If the church is the Body of Christ, constituted by faithful members, I don’t know what “burn down the church” means.
While I can agree that there is not magic in patternism (I grew up in that world!), i.e. the belief that if we just recover the first century pattern of church that the church will magically blossom, I’m not sure why we would not seek to retrieve the organic imagery of the church and create forms that express that. After all, many images are of the church in the NT are precisely organic. (the Body of Christ, a temple built with living stones, etc.)
I have often wondered why we assume first century practices (even if we could isolate them) are somehow God-given. After all, how else would first century churches have organized if not in homes, etc. However, I do believe the pursuit to recapture organic expressions implicit in much of NT writing regarding the church is a worthwhile pursuit.

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Scot McKnight

posted December 9, 2009 at 10:28 am

Jim, my words mostly: an image for start all over but do so by admitting everything got mixed up.

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posted December 9, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Haven’t read the book but it sounds like a good one. I am not one who advocates going back to the “perfect” (1st century church) model, nor do I see value in the recent trend to rush forward with no sense or appreciation of where we came from. The Ancient/Future push by Robert Webber seems to be a good try at remembering and gleaning the timeless fruits of our rich past while at the same time being contemporary in the real (not faddish) sense of the word. As for seeing what God is doing and joining Him (ex. Henry Blackaby) I have to confess that I still don’t comprehend what that looks like??

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Jacob S. Heiss

posted December 9, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Dr. Guder is the single most brilliant, humble, spiritually well-grounded, and positively forceful professor with whom I have been blessed to study. His class on Missional Theology at Princeton was immanently clarifying, even though I had been treading in the missional waters for several years beforehand.
This follow up text looks promising. If you want to see what the publishers of Guder et al’s volume did along these lines, I would also recommend Treasure in Clay Jars: Patterns in Missional Faithfulness and Guder’s more preliminary text, The Continuing Conversion of the Church. Here are a couple Amazon links for reference:

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posted December 10, 2009 at 12:19 am

I don’t know if this was just a brief overview of the entire book, or just part one of a series, but to me it sounds exactly like what was said in “Missional Church.” The authors made that point over and over. On top of that, if this book is supposed to be more “practical,” then I’m not really seeing it. Of course, I understand this was a brief overview, but I didn’t get much of a hint at it.

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posted December 10, 2009 at 12:34 am

Glad you mentioned this. I did a review of the book today on my blog. I will check out the other book you mentioned, also, I am reading “The Missional Leader” which is excellent. I am doing my dissertation on the transition of a congregation to missional.

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