Missional Christianity

Posted: August 19, 2005 in Everything

I love these words about missional Christianity from Brian McLaren’s book, A Generous Orthodoxy.

“Missional Christian faith asserts that Jesus did not come to make some people saved and other condemned. Jesus did not come to helps some people be right while leaving everyone else to be wrong. Jesus did not come to create another exclusive religion–Judaism having been exclusive based on genetics and Christianity being exclusive based on belief (which can be a tougher requirement than genetics!)

Missional faith asserts that Jesus cam to preach the good news of the kingdom of God to everyone, especially the poor. He came to seek and save the lost. He came on behalf of the sick. He came to save the world. His gospel, and therefore the Christian message, is Good News for the whole world.” (A Generous Orthodoxy, pg. 109-110.)

  1. KentF says:

    What if we placed our traditions in Jesus, rather than externals? Do we really believe Jesus saves? If so, why are churches often run by the disgruntled and soured patriach who is always complaining? We go to the ends of the earth not to upset these folks, but that is often at the expense of our mission.

  2. CL says:

    Great post Sean, I love that quote. That book has been such an encouragement to me. Blessings brother!

  3. Deb says:

    Thanks, Sean.

    But why do we need more trendy terminology to explain how Jesus modelled His love to others so clearly? Is it because people have become too lazy to re-read the stories of His relationships, and of the ways He reached out to complete strangers, and then go out and apply it in our modern-day world?

    I guess I just do not see how the term ‘missional’ genuinely resonates with those who need us to get to know them and love them as Jesus would. If I were not yet a Believer, and I had Believers coming to me confessing that they were going to be more ‘missional’ in their interactions with me, I would think they were just posturing, and want to run away from them as far away as I could.

    No one like to be anybody else’s ‘project’. And ‘missional’ has a slightly condescending cast to it.

    Apologies if this seems to dampen your excitement over McLaren. He’s not really very big or well-know in the UK right now. The last thing people want or need here right now is yet another trendy theologian from America to come over and re-spin the wheel of Christ’s examples in loving and getting to fenuinely know them.

    McLaren is correct in saying that Jesus did not come to create another exclusive religion. But what we have seen so far from EmergentUK has been exactly that.

    God bless! 🙂

  4. R Debenport says:

    Sorry for the late comment, but here it is anyway… I’m in the middle of a gospel contextualization/ church planting seminar over here. Really fascinating and helpful in my understanding of the mission of Jesus. Here’s a good quote from a book entitled Beyond Duty: “The church doesn’t have a mission in the world. The God of mission has a church in the world.” Deb, the difference between being missional and being a church with a missions program is profound. The latter sees “missions” as merely a duty or element of their faith, while “missional” is much larger – giving us purpose on earth and being ingrained into our discipleship DNA. Missional churches will likely take generations to develop. So these are similar sounding words with vastly different implications.


  5. Deb says:

    Thanks, Russ, for the lesson. Thought I might add some thoughts and queries along this thread of discussion. Sean, I hope you do not mind. And apologies for making your Comment area a mess … go mess up mine!! 😉

    I don’t think I mentioned a church with a ‘missions program’. I grew up in a Christian family who lived several places in the world. No ‘mission board’ or board of elders ever ‘supported’ us financially, as my father was a diplomat. What always use to get us was when we would have to go back to the US churches, kindly Christian people would ask us ‘Oh, are you missionaries?’ like that could be the only reason we as Americans would be living in a ‘foreign country’. We would scratch our heads. It always bugged church people that we could not fit into a tidy little category, so they labelled us ‘vocational missionaries’. It made them feel better. Whatever. There will always be a disconnect. American Christians seem to think they have the best mission principles and practices in the world. They tend to compartmentalise and parse their faith into so many ‘programmes’. Why is that?

    Whether one uses the terminology of yesterday or today — missions or missional — the bottom line is that as followers of Jesus we are all given, as you say, ‘purpose on earth’ … to love others as ourselves as we embrace the Cross of Christ and follow The Great Commission. A lot of churches have lost the plot when it comes to discipling the various levels of Believers they claim on their registry roles, and the regular discipline of study in the Scriptures seems reserved for an exclusive and select group, those with theological minds, or those who are going to become Readers or ordained for ministry, etc. Regular Believers, including those who attend church every week, are scared stiff to crack open the Bible and delve into the wonders inside. In a lot of churches today there is no reason for congregants and visitors to open a Bible, as the scripture readings are flashed on high-tech screens or printed in the weekly worship notices. That’s okay and convenient, but it can seem to make embracing the Word less personal. As more churches preach Jesus-Lite, more Believers, non-Believers and Seekers are terrified to have to delve into the Word on their own or even in a small, nurturing group (especially here in the UK). Commitment is a harsh word. Church leaders and those who are not afraid or intimidated by ‘in-depth’ Bible study need to find more non-threatening ways to get the Word across without watering down the content and message. Getting the balance just right seems to have become a bit tricky, and too politically correct.

    Granted, Bible study is just one facet, or spiritual discipline if you will, of our life as Believers. But without it, how does one develop ‘discipleship DNA’? And why would one want to develop discipleship DNA in the first place? DNA is a set code, and implies that change and growth are not a part of the welcome package. Discipleship is all about change and growth!

    God endows each of us with gifts/talents. Together with those passions he blesses us with we seek to know and love others we meet along the journey he has set us on. I have never viewed The Great Commission as a duty, but as a holistic expression of my faith.

    I am only one generation. If ‘missional churches’ are going to take generations to develop, then obviously I’m not going to be around to witness them when they’ve finally grown up. And there are several generations living today who I don’t think Christ intends to see shelved until the theologians get the ‘missional’ thang worked out and the new spin put into play.

    As to the quote from Beyond Duty: ‘The church doesn’t have a mission in the world. The God of mission has a church in the world.’ Did someone really write that? How do you translate it? Does this mean that God is missional but his church is not? Is this statement attempting to redefine the meaning of ‘church’ and hand God a new assignment?

    God has always been present in a pluralistic world and each Era with its own modernity. Not recognising or dealing honestly with the times as they change has been a glaring oversight of church leaders and individual Believers. I have faith though, and see glimmers in progress as contemporary church leaders are openly dialoguing. My diocese, which is extremely diverse, has been brilliant recently in its efforts to get to the heart of the matter.

    Perhaps the Emergent dialogue will be a new road marker in the overall journey towards acceptance of — and Christian practice within — today’s pluralism.

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