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Michael Frost on Missional Church…

December 14, 2007

Michael Frost on Being the Missional Church (PGF 2007)

h/t Joe Troyer

 A little over a year ago I read Exiles:  Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture, by Michael Frost.  He was barking up my tree with that book and this message on You Tube. 

I wish every member of Sunnyside Mennonite Church (and every other Christian community) would watch this video.  If we embraced the missional paradigm fully, how might it impact the way we look at…

1.  God

2.  The Church

2.1  Leadership models

2.2  Function and purpose of buildings

3.  The World

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. December 14, 2007 10:38 pm

    We just watched this together.

    Amen! – Chris & Dawn

  2. December 14, 2007 11:29 pm

    ok – that was actually Chris – and now I am actually Dawn –

    what I wanted to say is that the concept of being missional really is hard to explain how it is any different than how we live now. Michael did a super job (and hearing him made me miss our former pastor from Australia!!!! :-)

    BUT I really think that the concept of “missional” is hard for people like Mennonites who have, in essence, SEPARATED themselves from the world and then, in our (LMC)’s case, reached back out to support “missions” in the world. We think it’s the same thing — that we can live in our bubble which is protected from the world and live as “quiet in the land” and still be salt and light. I’m not saying we aren’t salt and light, just wondering if our theology of separation can create a barrier to understanding how being missional can radically change how we live and do church.

  3. just an apprentice permalink
    December 15, 2007 6:34 am

    Dawn,
    I think you are right. Our separatism has created a distance (in our thinking in our perspectives) between us and “the world.” We tend to perceive the world as “icky” (Michael’s word), a dangerous place.

    Our theology of community has also contributed to a tight bounded set way of being church. I don’t think we have fully appreciated the view that Michael brings out–that there is wheat and tares inside as well as outside the church.

    I see points of convergence between what Michael is saying and what we have been learning through the study by Conrad Kanagy. How can we change our way of looking at God, the Church, the World? Where is the center? What role do structures, institutions, and top-down visions have? How can we appropriate Missio Dei, Practio Christi, and Imago Dei ways of seeing God, ourselves, and our neighbors so that organic expressions of missional life emerge out of the soil where we are planted?

    I see these kinds of questions as being pregnant with possibilities? I believe we have been engaging these questions at a certain level at SMC, but I think we can go deeper. The vision among the leadership team is that this season of transition might be one of going deeper in this engagement and transformation.

    What is this place?

  4. December 15, 2007 8:14 am

    I think where we need to start then, is our definition of “community”

    Is it just “us” or is it us and those we have been called to touch too? Includion v. exclusion

  5. just an apprentice permalink
    December 15, 2007 9:28 am

    Yes. How can we better look for how God is at work beyond the walls of the church? In our neighborhoods, at the pub, around the world? How can our church structures facilitate not isolation from the world, but osmotic relationship? What kinds of things limit the church from being expressed in this way?

    Our sense of piety? I love the story Michael told about meeting the women at a pub who was excited about moving to San Diego. He was drawn into meaningful fellowship because of presence in that “third place.” Incarnational theology calls us to be present in every nook and crany of culture. To not take a critical posture (Christ against culture), but to look for ways God (imago dei) is present already–even if the image is broken. Can we see ourselves also as broken individuals–recipients of grace, not separate from the world, but as fellow sojourners, looking for God.

    How can we better uncover the reality of God present everywhere?

  6. December 15, 2007 9:48 pm

    it’s funny how life seems to come full-circle at times.

    Your quote:
    “but to look for ways God (imago dei) is present already…”

    We were told this exact thing when we first went to Cambodia — not by the agency that initially sent us, but by the one we eventually teamed up with. And I can honestly say that the Christians making the greatest impact in the communities there were those who espoused this concept . . . “God was at work there long before we arrived.” It was not our job to come as the pious ones to “save” the people, but through living in community and getting to know one another, we could discover and uncover where spiritual seeds were already planted and nurture them into bloom…relationships were key.

    I am relieved that this is something other Christians feel is universal. It is what feels right and makes sense when considering REAL people. But sometimes American culture is hard to press through. Sometimes it is hard to see people in REAL ways. And if we always surround ourselves with people who appear to have it all together, we start to forget what the REAL world is really like. We can fool ourselves into thinking that missions is all about “those” people “over there” where they can’t see the “real” us, just the pious us. We never allow ourselves to be real to those around us — a huge barrier to being missional.

    Thanks for the prodding to remember our calling!!!!

  7. beinganddoing permalink
    December 17, 2007 10:32 am

    Back to the idea of Mennonite piety and community. I believe we sometimes make community the goal and in so doing we exclude many people. Note the following statements as examples of what I mean.

    “If we include too many new people in our small group we won’t feel as close anymore.”

    “More attention is being paid to those new people.”

    The idea community emerges by all of us falling at the feet of our Lord is too easily subjugated to the idea that we need to seek closeness and community. I believe when we seek our Lord at work in today’s world, throughout history, and in the future, true community can emerge.

    Perhaps my question about all of this is, “Can it happen or is our current version of church – emerging church included- blocking that reality?

    Peace,

    Leon

  8. Chad Miller permalink
    December 17, 2007 11:10 am

    Amen to all of the above, Loen I think you nailed it by saying sometimes “we make community be the goal” not mission. Then church becomes about how do we all live in community so we have have a great church experince and be around like us – inward focus. Even if we try to be welcoming we can’t help it – people still feel like outsiders. Unless we can renew our thinking of Church to missional group of Disciples living the gospel into the world, we’re going to find limited traction.
    Even though the idea of Missional church has been talked about for years in Menn Church Cirlce’s I have yet to see many local congregations reimaging how they do church – I’m sure there out there –

  9. just an apprentice permalink
    December 17, 2007 1:07 pm

    Leon,
    So here’s the question. If our current “version” of church is blocking a fuller expression of missional group of disciples living the gospel into the world (sorry for the long clause), then what will it take to fix it, to re-imagine church, to re-vision our identity and purspose as the Ekklesia?

    Brian McLaren’s diagnosis is similar to yours and he is suggesting a transformation of the Church along the lines of “Everything Must Change.” Full scale, not superficial. Not the “next thing.” He re-situates Jesus in his original context against the backdrop of Roman Empire, and suggests a more radical engagement with the world (missional, peaceful, post-Christendom).

    You both (you and McLaren), as I am, are identifying something inherently wrong with our system, our paradigm, our current version of church.

    What treatment would you prescribe for the Church if we are to move beyond the expressions that center on piety and community?

  10. beinganddoing permalink
    December 18, 2007 7:52 pm

    Here are some thoughts based on your questions and observations. Be warned. Brian you may have had a long clause, but I seem to have created a long answer and I apologize.
    Brian said:
    So here’s the question. If our current “version” of church is blocking a fuller expression of missional group of disciples living the gospel into the world (sorry for the long clause), then what will it take to fix it, to re-imagine church, to re-vision our identity and purpose as the Ekklesia?
    Leon Said:
    I believe our current North American context is probably nearer the experiential reality of the first century church than any other era of North American church history. We have a civil religion which mix political and religious structures (empire?). At the same time there is a growing attitude that Christian faith has little impact on real life, and by the studies out there that would certainly seem to be true among the evangelical community. Can that be fixed? I am not at all sure it can. So we exist in this duality where Christianese is still understood by many, and yet the reality of Jesus (even among those who claim to follow him) seems to be woefully lacking. Essentially we live in a very religious/secular setting.

    Assuming the above to be true, it might be wise for us to take a long and careful look at our first century brothers and sisters. How did they live in a very religious/secular setting? How did they practice spirituality in a very religious/secular? What tools did they employ as they turned the world upside down in their context? How might these tools, practices, and theological understandings serve us in our own lives here?

    Brian Said:
    Brian McLaren’s diagnosis is similar to yours and he is suggesting a transformation of the Church along the lines of “Everything Must Change.” Full scale, not superficial. Not the “next thing.” He re-situates Jesus in his original context against the backdrop of Roman Empire, and suggests a more radical engagement with the world (missional, peaceful, post-Christendom).
    You both (you and McLaren), as I am, are identifying something inherently wrong with our system, our paradigm, our current version of church. What treatment would you prescribe for the Church if we are to move beyond the expressions that center on piety and community?
    Leon Said:
    I agree that a superficial “fix” won’t do the trick. This is not about tweaking something or starting a new church. Rather I believe we must reach back and grab hold on the life-giving, transforming reality that our elder brothers and sisters experienced and allow that reality to change us. This will undoubtedly mean that we will need to come to new theological understandings, new expressions of spirituality etc. However we do not need to create them. I believe they already exist even though much has been forgotten – especially here in North America. We don’t need to restart something, but perhaps we can rejoin an already existing reality.

    Personal piety is not a bad thing. On the contrary piety is what gives expression to spirituality. However often piety can be expressed for piety’s sake and not for spirituality’s sake. That seems to be where piety can be less than helpful. Similarly community for community’s sake seems to me to be far less helpful than community for the sake of the kingdom of God.

    This is an example of when I mean when I say we have much to learn from those who have gone before.

    I am not advocating a return to some golden age. We live now and not then. However, I do believe that we too easily fall into the snare of believing we need to re-imagine, re-envision, dare I say re-create the church, because we know best. And I am not sure we do.

    Peace,

    Leon

  11. December 19, 2007 9:45 pm

    No Leon,

    As soon as we start talking about how we do church – you start talking about a form. That is not it!

    I don’t think Michael Frost would care how you worship, be it the Orthodox way or the Presbyterian way or the Mennonite way – that’s not what I think he is talking about. It is not something we re-create – you are right, but it IS something some people need to see — and some for the first time. I do not think the first century church focused their missional lifestyle on inviting people to Jewish worship. I do think they spent a lot of time around the table, breaking bread and sharing daily life. THAT’s that part we are missing. I am more convinced than ever that the form of our worship is not nearly as important than the form of living of the worshipper – if that makes any sense. I think our piety is seen in our righteous living and commitment to the Body and I do not believe that the Body is limited to a form of worship or structure or place – the Body of Christ was incarnate and mobile and WITH people – THAT’s the missional part.

  12. December 19, 2007 9:46 pm

    Sorry, I keep forgetting to look at the name in our comment box – that was me – Dawn

  13. December 19, 2007 9:53 pm

    My comment is not posted yet – needs moderation – but I do want to clarify one more thing, Leon, I am concerned that you really do think that people talk about community for community’s sake. That’s not it either. It’s like someone said one time that all we do is talk about peace – as if that is how we think we are saved. Of course that is not true, but maybe people don’t see the deeper theological roots – or maybe rhizomes are better examples – things connect together, but if it’s underground, it’s not obvious. You can understand the connection between community and the theology of the Body and being missional, I am sure, so don’t second-guess people with comments like that.

  14. December 20, 2007 4:09 pm

    Brian, this was an amazing talk. I agree with Dawn/Chris that he brings some great clarity to what “missional” means.

    In terms of fleshing it out, I suggest the work of Frost’s close personal friend Alan Hirsch. I’m re-reading “The Forgotten Ways” in which he looks at Jesus movements (including the early church and the modern house church movement in China) for clues about what “missional” looks like. He describes an mDNA (missional DNA) in which the characteristics of the missio dei take root and flourish. Good stuff.

  15. just an apprentice permalink
    December 20, 2007 4:20 pm

    Craig,
    I will look for the book by Alan Hirsh.
    Brian

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