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Missional church…

May 27, 2008

Too much existing Bible teaching happens to passive groups of Christians, many of whom are not involved in any kind of risky missional activity.  A missional church mobilizes all its members to be sent into the community.

We have found that among many missional church leaders and thinkers there is a concern to balance ideas that are normally considered opposites.  It is called both/and thinking and has been a feature of the emergent postmodern culture.  Missional church thinking allows the dialogue between liberation theology, which says context is everything, and the post-liberals like Hauerwas and Brueggeman who say we need to get our story right.  The missional church will take context seriously, but will also work on recovering the biblical narrative with its richness and potency for today’s world.  When story and context are equally embraced, we are beginning to think and act missionally. 

The Shaping of Things to Come, Frost & Hirsch (27)

7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 27, 2008 3:26 pm


    I’m pretty sure I understand the “context is everything/liberation theology” lens but what does it mean to connect this thinking with the “need to get our story right.” What does it mean to take context seriously AND also work at recovering the biblical narrative?

    Do Frost & Hirsch give any examples to illustrate this?


  2. just an apprentice permalink
    May 28, 2008 5:08 am

    Good questions. I will only respond to your first at this point. The “story” which we need to get right is the Story we learn in the biblical narrative. It is a dynamic story that frames our understanding of the world, and calls us to live in a way that makes visible God’s purposeful and redemptive action made visible in Creation and Incarnation. Here is the quote from McLendon (from the SMC website). McLendon, Hauerwas (and perhaps Brueggeman–whom I am not as familiar with) are working with a narrative-theology construct. I would see this as an embodied, incarnational way of relating to Story, living the Story. Orthopraxy becomes just as important as Orthodoxy. One can know Christ as one follows Christ in all of life. It is not just mental ascent to a set of dogma.

    We participate in the ongoing biblical story, being formed and informed by it (thus narrative generates character), discovering the world of the Bible to be our own real world (thus narrative provides a setting), and finding its great signs and lesser signs significant episodes not only of the great story it tells but also of our own stories therein contained (thus narrative issues in event). It is a story in which, though we supposed ourselves to be seekers, we found we were in reality the sought; not hounds, but the hares.

    The Bible is for us the word of God written; it is that text in which the One who lays claim to our lives by the act of his life makes that claim afresh in acts of speech; it is for us God speaking; it is the word of God.

    The story you are living out now is the story related in the text. History is real, history matters, exactly because in God’s mysterious way the past is present. So the church of the New Testament is the church now; time, though not abolished, is in this manner transcended, and the church that reclaims its past stands today before the great final Judge as well. “This is that” and “then is now.” (McClendon, Ethics)

    Frost & Hirsch do provide some case studies of communities attempting to live in this way–Incarnationally. Tending both to the biblical narrative and the context.

  3. just an apprentice permalink
    May 28, 2008 5:17 am

    Frost & Hirsch identify three mistakes endemic to the Christendom-mode church. They propose that the missional church will operate in a different mode. (I wonder if this process might involve some deconstruction of old paradigms, so the new mode can emerge. I suspect we are living in a time when these two different modes of church are expressed along side each other within Church bodies–congregations, conference systems, etc.)

    F & H propose that 1.) rather than being attractional, the missional church will be incarnational. It will leave its own religious zones and live comfortably with non-churchgoers, seeping into the host culture like salt and light. It will be an infiltrating, transformational community. 2.) rather than being dualistic (us/them, sacred/secular, spiritual/social gospel…) it will embrace a messianic spirituality. That is, a spirituality of engagement with culture and the world in the same mode as the Messiah himself. 3.) The missional church will develop an apostolic form of leadership rather than the traditional hierarchical model.

  4. beinganddoing permalink
    May 28, 2008 12:27 pm

    I would be interested in knowing how F & H define “apostolic form of leadership?” That kind of phrase that gets used a lot these days – but people may mean different things when they use it.


  5. just an apprentice permalink
    May 28, 2008 1:26 pm

    They anchor their theology for apostolic leadership in Ephesians 4:1-16:

    “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it…. It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…”

    F & H examine some of the implications of this text by seeing it through two perspectives: theological and sociological.

    They state their working assumption that the book of Ephesians is one of the General Epistles that was circulated among the house churches in the region of Ephesus.

    They note that this letter provides insights into Paul’s general teaching and practice in all the churches, not just one.

    They note that Ephesians is the Apostle Paul’s primary tract on the nature of the church itself and the nature of the ministry of the church. Ephesians and its teaching forms part of Paul’s fundamental ecclesiology which ought to be read as a fundamental description, even a prescription, of the church in all ages.

    The footnote this commentary with these words: “There is no New Testament hermeneutic principle, other than the ones based on purely ideological assumptions, that would limit the scope of this text to just the early church period.”

    I will anticipate the question beneath your question. How are those who function in an apostolic mode in the contemporary missional-incarnational church engaging/interacting with the witness of the early apostolic community? A legitimate question for F & H. I am in the early part of this book. I skipped ahead to find the answer to your question. I will let you know if I come across any evidence of a response to this question.

  6. beinganddoing permalink
    May 28, 2008 7:40 pm

    Thank you kindly. That helps me understand what they mean when they use the term apostolic. Look forward to hearing more.

  7. May 29, 2008 4:21 pm

    Leon, Hirsch does spend more time with the Apostolic leadership question in “The Forgotten Ways.”

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