Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Concerns about Missional

While the idea of missional ministry has some strengths, there are some legitimate concerns. The Tall Skinny Kiwi (Andrew Jones, whom I found to be a very gracious person in some interaction some years ago) highlights one of these for us today, only for him it’s not a concern.

But I think it should be.

He says,

But now it's 2012 and while some young, enthusiastic people are out there planting churches like its 1997, others are focusing on launching more sustainable, more holistic, more measurably transformational Kingdom solutions.

One of the biggest trends in church planting that I observed in my recent 30+ country trek is the SHIFT AWAY FROM planting churches towards NOT planting a church at all but focusing on a wider range of transforming Kingdom activities. Some church planters are delaying the worship service piece of the pioneer missional ministry for as long as possible and sometimes indefinitely. (Emphasis his.)

Much could be said about this, and I will resist that temptation, at least here and now.

But it raises the question of why didn’t the apostles and disciples in the first century focus on “launching more sustainable, more holistic, more measurably transformational Kingdom solutions”?

They thought they were supposed to plant churches. And so they did.

Indeed, it is very instructive (or at least it should be) that those who walked with Jesus, heard his preaching about the kingdom, learned from him how to live and preach, witnessed his death and resurrection, and received his commission first hand went out to plant churches.

They didn’t think Jesus was calling on them to focus on “launching more sustainable, more holistic, more measurably transformational Kingdom solutions.” I am sure Jesus could have called them to do that. But he didn’t.

No, they thought Jesus was telling them to plant churches.

One of the concerns that many have had with the missional movement, and in fact one of the key issues inside the missional movement, is the relationship between church and kingdom, between gospel words and deeds. I won’t rehearse all that history here.

Suffice it to say that the NT model of ministry is not “launching more sustainable, more holistic, more measurably transformational Kingdom solutions” than the church.

The NT model of ministry is planting and growing churches.

There are a lot of ways to do that, and it can look a lot of different ways. But in the end, it is churches that Jesus has called us to plant and build, to be a part of and to serve.

Any model of Christianity that does not have local churches at its center is a defective model of ministry, even if it looks like people are getting helped by it.

Andrew goes on to say in the comments that “the word "church" is tricksy [sic] so i apologize for any confusion, but i am using it here to refer to the typical worship service attractional strategy that most church planters employ to start and grow their church.” He later clarifies it even more, along the lines of the “Church Inc.” mentality.

But I don’t think that helps. I think there are some problems with the way people plant churches on both the attractional and the missional end. But the answer to that is not to not plant churches in favor of “more sustainable, more holistic, more measurably transformational Kingdom solutions.” The answer is to plant churches the right way.

And attractional will be a part of that, as will missional. (Which reminds me I should get back to that series I started a long time ago.)

By the way, as an aside (or perhaps an addendum), this is why the doctrine of the kingdom is actually important. If we don’t know what the kingdom is, or mistake it for something it’s not, we end up pursuing things like Andrew talks about here.

It’s pretty much in vogue for views of the kingdom to take a back seat, and I think this is the ultimate end of that. It’s why I think we can’t relegate eschatology to the back pew. I am not saying it needs to be in the front pew. But it matters.

1 comment:

Joel Shaffer said...

The article about 9 reasons not to plant a church are good arguments for not church planting, but Jones seems to have thrown out the baby with the bath water. You are entirely right that our N.T. model is church planting.

I myself have launched a "more sustainable, more holistic, more measurably transformational Kingdom solutions" when I started Urban Transformation Ministries (UTM) which happens to be a Christian Community Development non-profit ministry reaching out to the urban poor and about 7 years into it, I realized we needed to start a church because it wasn't enough. We were partnering with an existing Baptist Church, but these thugs (gang members and drug dealers) that God was redeeming in our ministry had a difficult time assimilating into this church with over 100 years of tradition. Within UTM, we were able to do evangelism and social ministry, but the discipleship was slow-going.

Since our church plant (New City Church) has started, we have seen phenomenal spiritual growth in many of the inner-city teenagers and young adults that are part of our ministry. The evangelism is more focused, the discipleship is more intentional, and the social ministry to the poor has been more effective since helping launch New City Church.