Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Missional Church

I've been giving some of my wishes for the MDIV curriculum at Wesley.

Pastor, Church, and World
Cultural Contexts of Ministry
Bible as Scripture
Introduction to Theology

Here are some of my dreams for the Missional Church course, the first of 6 praxis courses in our curriculum.  The course covers four broad domains: evangelism, service, church multiplication, and global missions.  As the name of the course suggests, it is oriented around becoming part of the mission of God more than an "attractional" philosophy oriented around getting people to my church.  To be missional is to be oriented around God's mission in the world through the church rather than around the narrow interests of my church.  Find out what God is doing in your area and get on board.

Of course there is a balance here, like the balance between giving to others and having healthy boundaries.  I shouldn't worry if someone is better fed at another church than mine.  But if my church can do something great through God's grace, it probably should do it, even if it draws people from other churches.

Some of my passions for this course are that it demolish some of the (thoroughly unwesleyan) misconceptions of twentieth century fundamentalism. For example, social justice is a core biblical value, found in the Law, the Prophets, the Writings, the Gospels and Acts, and the Letters.  And the problem with the social gospel of the early twentieth century was not its interest in helping those in need--this was not the part of the social gospel that was bad.  Rather, its problem was that this was all it had left of Christianity.  It had lost its faith in Christ and God and it's social message was all that was left, rather than the social message being contrary to faith.

This course should embody the current emphasis of the Wesleyan Church on church planting and multiplying.  My colleague Bob Whitesel tells me that "internal" church plants are generally more successful than external ones, that plants do better when they remain in connection to a mother church.  The options have multiplied, as venued ministry becomes more and more common.  These are not just about attracting more people but are a sign of flourishing.

The scene of global missions has changed dramatically.  For one thing, North America is not the only one doing the sending these days.  Christianity is shifting to the two-thirds world. Short term mission trips need to be carefully conceptualized.  Usually, we have little if anything spiritual to contribute, but we can contribute our resources on every level.  A successful trip, in my mind, is one in which we are changed and our love for one another is clear.  Death, however, to the paternalistic mission trip.


james petticrew said...

ken this is my area of expertise/passion so I am very excited by what you are proposing with this course. One thing I wondering is whether it might be better in certain circumstances to think of sending missionaries in our western culture rather than fully funding church plants?

I also think that the "midsized missional communities" or missional clusters as they are some times called as developed by Mike Breen have some great possibilities for helping some established churches become more mission ally orientated.

Have you seen AND: The Sent & Gatherd Church by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay? I don't go for all of their suggestions, paradigms etc but they are raising some issues that any church which seeks to be more missional will face.

james petticrew said...

should also have added that some of the MISSION SHAPED material being published by the Church of England at the moment is very good, good theological reflection and practical material.

I have used a little book called MISSION SHAPED SPIRITUALITY by Susan Hope very successfully with churches to introduce the concept of what it means to be missional.

Robert said...

I think part of our problem is that we've developed an unworldly,individualised understanding of salvation, all about being saved from my personal sins (sin is much bigger than this!), and my soul going off to heaven when I die.

The result is that we've turned social justice into an optional bolt-on. One minister might be keen on it, the next couldn't care less. I think we need to rethink our basic understanding of the faith; salvation in the NTinvolves the lame walking, the blind seeing; good news for the poor, the mighty being torn from their seats, and a vision of rich profiteers weeping at a safe distance while an angel wallops the city of Rome with an overgrown millstone. It's inherently political and economic, and it's long past time we got to grips with that. Where God establishes his rule, there can't be much room left for our current, sinful, man-made world order!