Apparently there’s an important dialogue going on across blogs (in the blogosphere, as some say) about the respective merits of missional churches and attractional (or seeker-sensitive) churches. Here’s a phenomenal quote with a stunning reversal:
To apply statistical analysis to the effectiveness of missional [churches] at this point is about as silly as judging the effectiveness of Jesus ministry at the time of his resurrection. (How many were gathered in the Upper Room?)
“Ah but Bill! Look how quickly the church grew after Pentecost.”
“Ah but Friend! Look how soon the Spirit scattered that church to the corners of the earth. And remember that it wasn’t until Constantine that anything remotely representing a megachurch came into existence. Oh. Sorry. Yes. The Coliseum does resemble some megachurches. Thanks, Joel [Osteen]. And Christians did provide much of the entertainment, now didn’t they.”
Just because churches are entertaining the masses doesn’t mean they are doing anything remotely similar to discipleship. See the full article, which deserves reading, here. It’s worth reading the initial linked post as well.
Ethicist Oliver O’Donovan offers this interesting perspective on the dynamism of church structures:
The catholic identity of the church derives from the progress of the Spirit’s own mission. It is therefore always larger than its ordered structures, taking its shape from the new ground that the Spirit is possessing. It remains for the church’s structures to catch up with this mission, to discern what the Spirit has done, and to construct such ordered links of community as will safeguard brotherly love. Informal Christian phenomena are found all around the margins of the structured church, and to deplore the untidiness of the these is simply to betray an ignorance of what that rock is upon which the church is founded. (The Desire of the Nations, 169-170)
I might want to ask the further question, however, about what role the Spirit might play in reclaiming dead centers of the church—and how this might unsettle church structures.
I’m enjoying my Theology of Mission class, and especially our readings—both of our texts are by Catholic authors, which makes for tasty theology. I found a quote, though, from an evangelical missiologist (theologian of mission), Charles van Engen, who sums up mission perfectly—at least I think so (Constants in Context, 336):
Mission is the people of God intentionally crossing barriers
from church to nonchurch, faith to nonfaith,
to proclaim by word and deed
the coming kingdom of God
in Jesus Christ;
this task is achieved by means of the church’s participation
in God’s mission of reconciling people
to God, to themselves, to each other, and to the world,
and gathering them into the church
through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ
by the work of the Holy Spirit
with a view to the transformation of the world
as a sign of the coming of the kingdom
in Jesus Christ.
Just everything that needs to be said about mission is in this short paragraph: (1) the sent-ness of the Church (“intentionally crossing borders…”); (2) going out from the Church (“from church to nonchurch…”); (3) seeking to stir up faith in Christ (“from faith to nonfaith…”); (4) interrelation of evangelism and social concern (“by word and deed…”); (5) the content of proclamation as kingdom; (6) the centering of the kingdom on Christ; (7) participation in the mission of God (missio Dei to be all exotic and Latin); (8) mission as reconciliation; (9) reconciliation in four directions: with God, self, others and creation; (10) the gathering of the faithful into the new Israel (“gathering them into the church…”); (11) repentance and faith as the modus operandi; (12) the work of the Holy Spirit in awakening to faith; (13) a holistic interpretation of salvation as the God-sourced transformation of created reality; and finally, (14) an eschatological focus on the returning Christ-King.
There you have it. Theology of Mission in a paragraph, and you didn’t even need to take the class. Brilliance.