Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Comprehensive Character of Mission

I am continuing to enjoy The Continuing Conversion of the Church by Darrell L. Guder. The major burden of the book is to look at theology through the lens of evangalism/witness/mission, which is proving to be an extremely fruitful way of talking about the Kingdom of God, God’s revealed Word and the life of the church.

When it comes to the Emergent Church, I have appreciated the emphasis on the life of the church needing to be missional. It is easy for a church to become enrobed in its own establishment and to turn the vast majority of its energy inward instead of outward. There are many voices calling us to refocus ourselves missionally-to see the life of the church as a witness to Christ. Gruder makes this very point.

Although the predominant meaning of witness has to do with oral communication, there is ample reason to understand witness in a much more comprehensive sense, as defining the entire Christian life, both individually and corporately. (55)

He quotes this gem from William Abraham:

…to think of evangelism in terms of mere proclamation fosters the practice of disconnecting evangelism from the life of the local church. (56)

In this spirit, then, Gruder goes on to note the comprehensive character of mission or witness in Scripture. As a partial extraction of his list, he mentions: Witness is theocentric, Witness is Christocentric, Witness is pneumatological, and Witness is historical. Given my own concerns about the direction of the EC, Seeker/Church Growth movements, and other waves in evalgelicalism, I was thrilled to read this list of Gruder’s. Every true revival, restoration or reform of the Church begins exactly where his list begins-with God at its center.

I wonder if any readers have thoughts or experiences to share about missional church? As you may have seen I am part of a team planting a church, and I am praying that we take on a missional character. Any thoughts?

P.S. Guder makes some additional comments about “universals” and history which refine my earlier criticism. I will get to those soon, but I want to see if we can get any discussion flowing on missional church before I do.


Jeff Downs said...

Phil, sorry to see that no one has taken you up on this discussion. A "missional" church is something I've been looking for and struggling with for some time. I was attracted to a church (OPC) because I knew of its orthdoxy and their website had a statement regarding equipping Christians and engaging the culture. This has been my motto for some time. Well, after being there more than a year... I ain't seeing it. I've voiced my concerns to the session only to be told they don't discuss these type of things through email. That is fine and I await some good discussion.

Anyway, much more could be said. As I mentioned, this has been something I've been thinking about for some time. Especially as it relates to my particular interests: apologetics and Countercult ministry.

Phil Steiger said...


The concern you expressed about your church is exactly what I want to avoid in ours. It is so easy for a pastor/pastoral team to talk vision and direction, but it is another thing altogether to implement it and become what you say you are going to become.

Hopefully there are some out there who read this blog who would be willing to share more of their thoughts!