Monday, May 11, 2009

Missional - Part II: The very Nature of the Church

sorry for the 3 day hiatus - here's part 2 of what looks to be a 3-5 part series:

Probably what bothers me the most about the overuse of the word Missional right now in the Church, is that it seems to me that it is being used by some in much the same way the words "organic" and "green" have been (bandwagon book sales & marketing ploys) - words appended to other concepts in order to make it more palatable because it seems like people want that. Again, I'm not trying to tear down anyone who uses the word. I think it's valuable - and possibly the MOST valuable word that's come along in regard to the Church in a long time, but there are a few things I feel I need to point out.

First, the simple fact is that the concept of Missional should not be separated from the "Church" to which it was originally connected in the book Missional Church. Simply put, you can't be a missional person, at least not as I understand the concept, as put forth by Guder et al in that book. Missional and Church belong together.

Second, and maybe I'm stepping out of my depth on this one, but a Church itself is not Missional or Not - it's not like you can get a scorecard and determine whether you're following 6 things and grade yourself accordingly. It's not a question of whether a congregation does XY or Z and therefore is missional, while another congregation does not do XY or Z and therefore is not missional. It's not like that. THE Church, the church universal - that great body of believers, that bride, created by Jesus, even now, awaiting it's full redemption in the fullness of time, THAT Church is, by it's very nature, Missional. It is not about adding a program and then your church will be missional. It's not about adhering to certain principles which will make it missinoal. The church, and every gathered body of believers whether in a house or an auditorium seating 20,000 people - IS by it's very created existence - Missional.

Third, the word Missional itself, while it may be a creation in the English language, is much more than that - it recognizes the essence of the Church, derived from the very words of Jesus. Jesus commissioning of his disciples, particularly as recorded in John's Gospel. If the Church is the community, called by God, formed by Jesus words and empowered by the Holy Spirit - it is a community that in its first act as a community is on the move - it is about a purpose that exists beyond themselves. The Missional Church, is essentially saying nothing more than The Church. The Missional Church is like saying Jesus Christ. As Christians, as followers of Jesus, we understand that Jesus is God. Jesus is the promised Messiah, Jesus is the promised Christ. So, while you can say Jesus without Christ or Christ without saying Jesus - you can't say the one, at least not in an orthodox Christian sense, without meaning the other as well. Jesus - fully human and fully God.

Fourth - and finally, this concept of the church - this understanding of it's inherent nature as a moving community as a Missional community - is not only derived from the commissioning of God in Jesus Christ, but it is founded in the very being of GOD. God, the Trinitarian God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit, chose to move toward humanity in the person of Jesus. Jesus was sent by God to re-engage with humanity and in the ultimate re-engagement, his death and resurrection, permanently bound God to humanity - and redeemed humanity. This act of movement, this re-engagement with humanity is out of which the Church gets its mandate to be engaged with humanity. The Church, following in the same movement of God toward humanity, in doing so is doing nothing more than what it has always done, what it has always done, and what it has always been created to do.

This then leads to the simple, profound, and very scary realization which would irk those who wrote and hold to the Second Helvetic confession's answer to What Is the Church? " assembly of the faithful called or gathered out of the world..." The Church, in not moving, in not engaging the world, in being holed up with eyes only for itself (and for God of course) the Church is actually not the Church...

Missional - Part I: The New Christian Buzzword


Chris TerryNelson said...

Nice Don. This is great, except for the use of "re-engage," which suggests that God stopped engaging with us at some point. Keep it up!

Don said...

Chris - thanks.

I'll accept that God has always been engaged, but I'll stand by "re-engage" in terms of a specific act that is different in kind than previous engagement. God's presence never left, but the type of engagement in Christ cannot be compared to the engagement that God had with humanity since creation. If you follow an election/covenant path through Biblical history you can see God's specific engagement at Creation, with Noah, with Abraham & then with Moses. God never left in between, but engaged in each of the subsequent acts in a different way - almost upping the ante so to speak, until it was necessary to completely re-do the relationship - and be bound to humanity in the person of Jesus.