Picking up where I left off, Missional has become a buzzword that in many ways needs to be carefully defined, and it is best understood as the very nature of the Church. The Christian Church was founded as a mission – a human community formed to continue carrying out the very mission of God, as begun with Jesus’ sending from God the Father.
Backtracking a bit for a second now, Missional is not a Church Growth movement, it is not a method of evangelism, it is not the social gospel recast for a new generation. It is the an accurate description of the Church – a community that lives not for it’s own sake, but for the sake of the world.
All right, so I’m going to show some of my cards with this one. It’s my belief that the word Missional in describing the church borrows heavily from Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics and particularly from Vol IV.3.2 Barth begins, (quoting from (IV.3.2, S72) as I did above, with the call into existence, by stating ”that the Christian community exists as called into existence and maintained in existence by Jesus Christ as the people of His witnesses bound, engaged and committed to Him.” It is also the ”action of the Holy Spirit…[which] is the basis and secret of the existence of the Christian community.” Barth goes on to further describe how it is that the Christian community is to be for the world in the following ways:
1) It knows the world, it’s origins & purpose, and it understands the covenant relationship between the world and God.
2) It is to practice solidarity with the world meaning full commitment to it, unreserved participation in its situation, in the promise given it by creation, in its responsibility for the arrogance, sloth and falsehood which reign within it, in its suffering under the resultant distress, but primarily and supremely in the free grace of God demonstrated and addressed to it in Jesus Christ, and therefore in its hope.”
3) It is obliged to the world in that responsibility for the world is put on the Christian community – meaning the Church is to minister to, serve, help the world just as the Samaritan helped in Jesus’ parable.
This outward movement, this existence for the world as spelled out here through Barth, leads to the obvious question – at what price to the community as it exists as an entity, as an organism, as an organization, does the Church do this? All of the practical questions well up – methods of evangelism, appropriate teaching, form of worship – if the Christian community, the Church itself exists not for its own, but always for the world, how can it even exist in any sense? At what point do the walls become so porous as to be not walls at all? At what point does the Church itself, cease to be the Church and simply be the world to & for which it exists? The answer to this will come from both Barth and Newbigin in the form of two very profound concepts that I’ll entertain in the next post. For Barth, the Christian community is a parable of the Kingdom of God. For Newbigin, the Church is the hermeneutic of the gospel…
Missional - Part I: The New Christian Buzzword
Missional - Part II: The very Nature of the Church