Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

The Three Central Missional Conversations

Missional.jpgAlan Roxburgh and M. Scott Boren are onto something: in their new book called Introducing the Missional Church: What It Is, Why It Matters, How to Become One (Allelon Missional Series) ,  contend there are three central issues and questions and topics at the center of the missional theology of the Church:

First, understanding that the West is now the mission field.
Second, rethinking the gospel itself in terms of what God’s dream is and what God is doing in this world instead of the gospel that satisfies my needs and meets my issues.
Third, recasting the church itself as sign, witness and foretaste of God’s dream for this world. The church must become a contrast society if it is to become missional.
I would add a fourth: this is all home-brewed, that is, it all occurs in the crucible of the local. Missional people have to develop one major gift: the gift of listening to the culture and to the place — in your specific neighborhood.


Perhaps one of the most important elements of this missional vision is the place that is given to the Spirit of God to reshape and reframe what the local church is. 
Finally, this book then focuses on elements involved in shifting to a missional church:
1. Awareness
2. Understanding
3. Evaluation
4. Experimentation
5. Commitment
Would you like examples of missional churches? I don’t recall that Roxburgh and Boren mentioned this book, and I don’t have it in front of me right now — I’m writing this last paragraph in a different setting a few days after I wrote the post above — but I really like Ronald Sider’s book; it influenced my perception of the meaning of “missional” a few years back and it helped me see the central question was about listening to the community and shaping ministry by the community: Churches That Make a Difference: Reaching Your Community with Good News and Good Works
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posted December 16, 2009 at 7:35 am

“The church must become a contrast society if it is to become missional.”
But what exactly does that look like/include? It seems Christians has differing answers to what that means.
Another way to ask that is this: what makes that contrast unique?

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Randy G.

posted December 16, 2009 at 9:35 am

I heartily affirm your addition of locality.
I believe that this listening aspect is essential not only to the missional church, but to any work with others that respects those others and the other elements of God’s good creation.
I have seen the importance of this principle of “listening first” and then respecting the people and creation applied in sustainable agriculture, sustainable engineering projects for third world development, asset-based community development, and large-scale resource management issues, as well as missional church — and I believe that it powerfully works against our Western temptation to agrandize and concentrate knowledge and power.
The challenge, of course, is that listening to others valuing what they have to say may lead we who think we know or think we are experts to have to take a back seat.
This principle is something that the Spirit has led us to in another example of how God works among those we least expect him to. Listening first and valuing what “indigenous” folks (folks present on the ground in one place) have to say removes the power of our expertise – something many of us have spent a great deal of time cultivating. But the upshot of this principle is that “technological” solutions, where we make a model and plop it down here, there and anywhere, no longer work. We have to listen and look and get to know a place and people before we act. — Another point that Roxburgh and Boren make.
I close with an excerpt of a message I received from friend today. They are leading an effort from a Christian College to build a learning community in an old school in Three Rivers, Michigan.
“Throughout the day, we met with local members of the Three Rivers Area Faith Community (TRAFC), where the vision for a youth and family center at Huss School originated. Their perspective on what the Three Rivers community needs and how our resources might meet those needs will continue to be invaluable as we cultivate relationships of love and accountability.”
Randy Gabrielse

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posted December 16, 2009 at 3:11 pm

I’m in the missional leadership cohort at Fuller Seminary with Alan and for the last five years have been trying to flesh out what missional transformation looks like in a traditional Presbyterian context. We certainly don’t have it figured out but I have learned that as we are attentive to our local context and the gospel narrative stuff starts happening. One of my favorite lines from Alan is that as we are attentive to the stories of our church, community and gospel, and as we get those stories in conversation with one another “the pennies will start to drop.”
For us that has included turning our parking lot into the front lines of witness and connection to our neighbors. We run a farmers’ market, do a monthly food distribution, host 5k runs, among other things, all staged out of our parking lot. We took a run down set of storefronts the church bought years before with the intent of tearing down and turned into a youth community center in partnership with the school district and other area organizations.
For me as a pastor it has evolved into writing a blog for the city newspaper around issues of sustainability and local food and learning the rhythms of being a community organizer. I like to say a conversation about renewing a church has become a conversation about renewing a whole community, with the church as a key catalyst toward that end.
I’ve come to see missional transformation as less about generic strategies for ministry and more about specific faithfulness to a set of generative conversations. And maybe most importantly for the church to take a posture of listening and learning from neighbors and community groups.
I’m glad to see Alan’s work is finding a wider audience. I’ve followed the path he outlines in the book and have found it to be incredibly helpful.

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Travis Greene

posted December 16, 2009 at 3:32 pm

Rick @ 1,
We do have different ideas of what that looks like, which is to be expected based on our different localities. But for a good place to start, we can’t go wrong with the Sermon on the Mount.

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Common Loon

posted December 17, 2009 at 8:21 pm

I have no quibble with the 3+1 issues mentioned here, but is it really much of a contrast to downplay Sunday morning worship services in order to elevate the importance of having spiritual discussions at Starbucks instead?
Is the goal to become a contrast with certain church stereotypes we dislike (i.e. cheesy, narrow-minded, Republican, outdated, too structured, inauthentic etc.) or does being missional require us to become a redemptive contrast with what the New Testment writers call “the world?”
My concern is that much of the missional conversation (so far) has been more about being in contrast with straw men stereotypes of the church rather than being in contrast with the kingdoms of this world.

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alan roxburgh

posted December 18, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Scott: Thanks for the review. Really appreciate that. Interested in your observations and the local – the book is all about that so I’m fascinated that its not coming through? My basic position is that the God of Scripture can only be known in the materiality and ordinariness of the local. That is why I am struggle with the new gurus who are more like Platonists and Gnostics than Christians.

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Scot McKnight

posted December 18, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Thanks for the tweak! Yes, you do have local but I’d raise you one by making it a fourth point in the missional set of conversations. That’s all I saw myself doing; not a criticism so much as a strengthening.

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posted December 18, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Thanks for the review. I have a question of 4
What if the space that Jesus is acting in is not just local. Do we have to lose the global nature of our mission, to regain the importance of mission in our local context? Where do you see partnership with the worldwide church playing out for a missional community?

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Employee ID Cards

posted July 29, 2014 at 10:06 pm

What a great blog post!

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