I in the middle of reading a book called “Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture.” The book is by Michael Frost. Much of the content of the book centers around how the Western church has become a noun rather than a verb. The western church is about the institution, practices/ritual, and titles where as the missional church seeks to be the church in the world. Rather than building great edifices, the missional church focuses on building disciples. Somewhat of a simplistic summary.
Frost goes on to talk about a “neo-apostolic” movement that David Barrett and Todd Johnson identified. They point out four characteristics of the movement.
1. They reject denominationalism and restrictive, overbearing central authority.
2. They seek a life focused on Jesus.
3. They seek amore effective missionary lifestyle
4. They are one of the fastest growing movements in the world.
Barrett and Johnson are predicting that by 2025 that there will be nearly 581 million Christians associated with this movement- 120 million more than all Protestant movements put together. Frost tells of how this church movement is exploding throughout the world (except in the West). “When the evangelist has led a handful of people to put their trust in Christ, he or she (usually he in the South) gathers them, equips them, and then leaves them to their own devices, relying on the evangelist’s occasional return visits. As fragile as it sounds, God is blessing this new movement in astonishing ways.”
As I have read about the missional church on many sites (http://www.friendofmissional.org/ being the main one), there are many that believe that a traditional church cannot be/become ‘missional.’ You’ll have to check them out for their definition of missional. As I read these sites, I agree that it would be a struggle for an established, especially mainline church to truly be missional. I do think that an established church can become missional.
This leads me to think about my current denomination. I am a part of the United Methodist Church. I have been a part of the UMC since I was about 10…and am now in the ordination process in the church (for better/for worse). As I’ve learned about the Methodist Church, I believe that in our early days, we were a missional church. We were also “neo-apostolic” before clever scholars/professors/emergent-type people were using the term “neo-apostolic.”
Any study of early Methodism will go to show how John and Charles Wesley began a renewal movement within the Anglican Church and how that movement spread throughout Britain and in America. It was not a formal church structure, but an organic and fluid organization of people who were compelled to share their faith and care for God’s people. In America, Methodism exploded up until the mid-1800’s when we began formalizing a strong central government for the church.
Since then, in America, our numbers have been in general decline. This year at Annual Conference- delegates will vote on constitutional ammendments that will create more beauracracy. The UMC just launch a $20 million dollar ad campaign where that money could have gone to feed the hungry, help fight AIDS, malaria, or provide clean drinking water. We have lost our missional heart.
The good news is that there are young Christians, like myself and others, who are tired of doing church the way we are currently doing it. Church needs to move from being a noun to a verb. The people of God should be less concerned with the way in which we gather for an hour on Sunday morning, and more concerned about how we are living testimonies to the transformational love of God through Jesus Christ. We should be more concerned about discipling our people than building new edifices. We should be more concerned about feeding the poor and opposing unjust structures than whether we should do traditional/contemporary/modern worship. As we build up and live as the church, we need to teach people to dream about what God desires us to do…and who God desires us to be.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t summon people to buy wood, prepare tools, distribute jobs and organize the work; teach people the yearning for the wide, boundless ocean.”
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery