The need for a missional church…

People often ask me what we are trying to accomplish out here in LA, and I explain that what we doing is planting neighborhood missional churches in the LA area. That is our goal. Since there is some confusion of what ‘missional’ is, and after explaining it many times I decided to post something here that explains it better than I can.

It is a paper on what the Missional church is, and it is written by Tim Keller, who is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. I have great respect for him, and the ministry out there. The following is simply an excerpt from the larger article…

“The British missionary Lesslie Newbigin went to India around 1950. There he was involved with a church living ‘in mission’ in a very non-Christian culture. When he returned to England some 30 years later, he discovered that now the Western church too existed in a non-Christian society, but it had not adapted to its new situation. Though public institutions and popular culture of Europe and North America no longer ‘Christianized’ people, the church still ran its ministries assuming that a stream of ‘Christianized’, traditional/moral people would simply show up in services. Some churches certainly did ‘evangelism’ as one ministry among many. But the church in the West had not become completely ‘missional’–adapting and reformulating absolutely everything it did in worship, discipleship, community, and service–so as to be engaged with the non-Christian society around it. It had not developed a ‘missiology of western culture’ the way it had done so for other non-believing cultures.”

“One of the reasons much of the American evangelical church has not experienced the same precipitous decline as the Protestant churches of Europe and Canada is because in the U.S. there is still a ‘heartland’ with the remnants of the old ‘Christendom’ society. There the informal public culture (though not the formal public institutions) still stigmatizes non-Christian beliefs and behavior. ‘There is a fundamental schism in American cultural, political, and economic life. There’s the quicker-growing, economically vibrant…morally relativist, urban-oriented, culturally adventuresome, sexually polymorphous, and ethnically diverse nation…and there’s the small town, nuclear-family, religiously-oriented, white-centric other America, [with]…its diminishing cultural and economic force….[T]wo nations…” Michael Wolff, New York, Feb 26 2001, p. 19.

“In conservative regions, it is still possible to see people profess faith and the church grow without becoming ‘missional.’ Most traditional evangelical churches still can only win people to Christ who are temperamentally traditional and conservative. But, as Wolff notes, ‘this is a shrinking market.’ And eventually evangelical churches ensconced in the declining, remaining enclaves of “Christendom” will have to learn how to become ‘missional’. If it does not do that it will decline or die.. you can read the rest here…


2 responses to “The need for a missional church…

  • Joshy

    very interesting ariticle. I have to admit from the onset that terms such as “missional” and “ermerging” (that is not to say that the two belong together) make me nervous. As you well know of me, the battle cry of my heart is scripture, and so I get weary of inventing the new way to reach the people of our time. Having said that, I mean not to paint the “missional” church with such a broad brush and admittedly this article has helped in presenting a better understanding of the goal of a “missional” church. I especially appreciate the ideas under “Theologically train lay people for public life and vocation”. It has become in my opinion imparitive in our cultural climate to have very good understanding of what we believe and why and how. I do not think seminary is the only way to learn that, but I do believe that one must seek out to know their faith at that level. Also, I appreciated the idea of being counter-cultural with your money. I am really becoming sesitive to this issue and more and more appreciating the idea of not stacking up my treasures here on earth (maybe thats easy because I have no money :)). thirdly, I very much appreciate the call to unity amongst christians especially between denominations. It is a particularly important time in history and we need our brothers and sisters working together for the one father that we worhship and call our Lord Jesus Christ.

    I would like to take it one step further though and say that wether our approach is one of a missional nature or through the practices of engaging in Christendom culture, I would argue that those methods are the cars we use to drive on the road that is paved with the grit of biblical preaching. If we preach the word on sunday mornings and live it missional starting on sunday afternoon through saturday it is a message that will freely cross cultural and generational boundries. If we get everone to the dinner table hungry and eager to eat, yet fail to deliver a soul sustaining meal, have we not fallen short of the calling we have been given.

    Again, I do not mean to soley accuse missional churches of this issue but more of a general observation that I am seeing that scares me and makes me sad and angry. My fear sometimes as willow creek so abtly has pointed out is we can get so concerned about the invition that we forget to provide the meal.

    I am sticking with the food anology because I am hungry.

  • greglarson

    Josh, thanks for the comment. it was nice to hear from you. I would say this that the words of emergent and missional do not mean the same thing at all.

    I think the more that you read about the missional church, the more that you personally would agree with it. it has much more to do with how to connect with the world around us, than it has to with how we look at scripture and at ‘truth’.
    Anyway, glad you enjoyed the article.
    hope you are well. Greg

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