Ordering the Missional Movement

Churches, organizations, seminaries, and theologians use the term “missional” with increased frequency. Reggie McNeal notes that missional has reached the “tipping point” (Missional Renaissance xv). A keyword search on “missional” finds 443 book titles on WorldCat. However, books are not the only measure of the missional movement. In fact, social networking sites and blogs are important links for missional leaders. A quick Google search shows that in one day alone (April 1, 2009), 75 blogs used the word “missional” in the title.

One of the primary areas of confusion about the missional movement is its relationship to the emergent movement. The two movements have been somewhat related in their desire to bring innovation to the church. However, they developed quite differently and have quite different goals. The emergent movement shows more interest in the formation and understanding of the Church. For instance, “emergents” recognize a movement beyond the modernist, bifurcated view of the church that places “liturgicals,” “social justice Christians,” “renewalists,” and “conservatives” at odds with one another (Tickle 140). The goal is to better communicate with the broader culture and have a better understanding of the meaning of “the Church.”

The missional movement has been inconsistent in responding to the emergent movement. On the one hand, Guder warns that the emergent movement is a reduction of the gospel, which tends to tie the Church too closely to culture (Guder, “Promise & Threat”). If the Church is tied too closely to culture, it will simply embody the problems of the culture. On the other hand, Alan Hirsch appears to welcome the emergent group into the missional conversation, referring to the “emerging missional church” throughout one of his primary literature contributions (The Forgotten Ways 66).

The rapid growth of the missional movement, along with confusion about the movement, makes surveying the movement difficult. Therefore, ordering the movement is important in researching the movement. Leadership Journal has been extremely helpful in mapping the movement. Below is a crude construction of the idea. Click here for the original Leadership Journal version from Hirsch’s website). Viewing the movement as a tree, Leadership Journal places Missional Church as the root, while identifying the branches of the missional church movement as “missional leaders,” “missional communities,” and “missional disciples.”

Watch for synopses of the three branches of the missional movement in the next few days.


Source: Leadership Journal


Changed by My Cancer-Free Nephew

Almost There!

Almost There!

In less than two weeks, Christina and I will be running a half marathon.  On April 25 at 7:00am, we’ll leave from the starting line of the Music City Marathon in Nashville.  We are getting excited and geared up.

Of course, running in a half-marathon (or running at all) has never been a goal of mine.  My argument has always been that I could not stand to do the same thing for over 30 minutes.  I would rather play basketball, or walk 18 holes of golf, or just sit and watch television.  I didn’t have much choice but to participate in this marathon business, though.  Christina told me that we were going to run in it.  I would have fought it and told her why it was a dumb idea, but I couldn’t.  This brings me to the real reason that we are running.

Our nephew, Colin Sanders, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when he was 14 months old.  Colin’s parents, Brett and Mindy, chose early to fight as hard as they could for Colin.  Soon after the diagnosis, Colin underwent surgery to remove the tumor that was in his abdomen.  Then, Colin suffered through a year and a half of excruciating and dangerous chemotherapy, including a stem cell therapy that wiped out his immune system.

We are thankful to God and to doctors and researchers that Colin is cancer free today!  The fear of recurrence is always present with neuroblastoma.  However, Colin has had clear scans since finishing chemo, and today he is an active two and a half year old boy who runs and plays and wrestles as much as possible.

In the past year and a half, Brett and Mindy have received incredible support from many in the community of Chattanooga, Tenn., where they live.  Some of those in the support group are parents who have experienced neuroblastoma first hand, including parents whose children were taken by the disease.  We will be running for Colin, for Brett and Mindy, and for all of the children and parents who have and are battling neuroblastoma.

I have been a bit quiet about the training.  I haven’t blogged about it or facebooked about it or tweeted the training because I didn’t believe that I would make it.  It seemed that I would hang in for the early stages and bow out as the distances increased and the race neared.  But there is something about knowing that you are hitting the pavement for a purpose.  On my toughest runs, I haven’t endured the pain of my nephew.  The inconvenience of adding training to my daily routine pales in comparison to the way that Brett and Mindy’s lives have changed.  The cost of the few running gear items that I’ve bought (shoes, nutrients, and water-wicking shirts) is not even close to 1% of the cost of Colin’s treatments.

This Saturday, Christina and I will run 10 miles.  We wish that we could make a grander contribution to cure neuroblastoma, but as a student with four children, our primary participation has been emotional support.  In a very small way, our 10 miles this weekend continues that contribution.

Take a look at this video.  It tells Colin’s story.  I encourage you to contribute to Emily’s Power for a Cure, one of the primary support groups for Brett and Mindy.  They do incredible things for research and for families struggling with the disease.  To donate, visit this site and enter Mindy Sanders in the fields “Find a fundraiser to support.” The group has not raised its goal yet.  However, you can help them, and in the process you will make a difference for a child and family.

Now, it’s about time for my holy discipline.

Breaking the Silence

Easter is a celebration that breaks the silence.

There is a silent period within the Bible.  There were over 500 years between the writing of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, and the birth of Jesus.  The intertestamental writings give great insight to what was happening during that time.  However, Protestants do not recognize those writings to be Scripture.  God was silent.

It was the resurrection that broke the silence.  Yes, Jesus was active and had followers while preaching and teaching throughout Judea.  Stories of healings and teachings probably circulated around the area.  We already know that following the death of Jesus, someone compiled a document of sayings attributed to Jesus.  However, the truth is that without the resurrection, these sayings would simply be good insights for healthy living.

Instead, God would not keep his silence.  Jesus was resurrected, and the truth of the identity of Jesus was proclaimed by angels and humans.  The Gospel writers’ inspired words became the newest revelation of God, and we are still hearing the story today.

The New Testament does not only include the story of Jesus, of course.  Acts tells the story of the early church following God’s mission.  The letters of the New Testament are instructive about life in a missional setting and shape our understanding of God.  However, the resurrection that broke the silence is also the final and definitive word.  It is all that we need to tell the world about a redeeming God with power to save.

Faithfulness in South Africa

Methodism still means sacrifice and identity with the oppressed in South Africa.  CNN recently produced a story about a Methodist Bishop who decided to deeply identify with those in need.  Embedding CNN reports requires a higher IQ than I have, apparently.  So, click the link below to watch the story about Bishop Paul Verryn.

Here is an inspiring story that is not all together nice and neat.

Franchises, Denominations, and the Missional Church

Missional church is completely tied to local context. Craig Van Gelder reports that one of that one of the phases of denominational history (1920-1970) could be called the Corporate Denomination. During this phase, the church adopted corporate structures and expectations. One of the values in corporate culture of the time was uniformity (Van Gelder 38). McDonald’s mastered the idea that a burger would taste and be presented the same in Flagstaff, Arizona and Brundidge, Alabama. Within denominationalism, a similar expectation was set. No matter where you are, the Methodist franchise will be structured in this way, will worship in this way, will do ministry in this way, will have pastors trained in this way. In modernity, this worked fairly well. We knew what to expect, and that was valued.
The disunity of postmodernity has called uniformity into question and has devalued predictability. During his political life, Tip O’Neill often said, “All politics is local.” Today, all things are local. Everything is gauged by local cultures and values. Interestingly, when O’Neill used the phrase, he was referring to a physical location. A particular geographic area has specific political needs. With the information age, physical location has been replaced by cultural, or even technological, location. Therefore, where the parish mentality previously seemed appropriate for geographic locations, the missional church appeals to the church to target specific cultures and microcultures.

Extreme Sports & Leaders

Extreme Swing“What’s the fastest you’ve ever driven?”

“Have you ever been skydiving?”

“How many times have you bungee jumped?”

These are not questions that we tend to ask potential leaders in the church, but a recent study*** shows that sensation seekers may have a great inclination to lead in significant ways.

The study included nearly 1100 extreme sports participants, asking about their civic involvement and their desire to lead. There were some very significant findings. While the participants did not seem to be more involved in civic organizations than any other broad base of people, they did report a preference to lead. “Higher sensation seeking was also significantly related to a desire and preference to lead an organization that will act as a change agent in society.” This was true for both male and female respondents.

If there is to be movement and innovation in the church, the leaders must be willing to take risks. We could choose to not think about leadership as a risk taking venture, and in fact, we could lead without taking risks. However, the kind of leadership that does not risk most likely does not have reward for the individual or for the gospel of Jesus Christ. We take precautions, but we know that movements are made when leaders are thrilled when daring to go beyond our current situation.

It sounds like the Book of Acts was full of sensation seeking leaders.

***  Wymer, Walter, Donald Self, and Carolyn Sara (Casey) Findley. “Sensation Seekers and Civic Participation: Exploring the Influence of Sensation Seeking and Gender on Intention to Lead and Volunteer.” International Journal of Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Marketing 13.4 (2008): 287-300. 

The Seoul Review

It’s been a busy couple of weeks.  Yesterday, I returned from an experience in Seoul Korea.  It was great to be there, along with the other Beeson Pastors as well as the Beeson International Leaders.  Below are some of the reflections.

The DMZ – Being at the line between North and South Korea is unbelievable.  Just days before our trip began, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Asia and mentioned North Korea.  Just the mention of the Communist country heightened security.  Thankfully, we were able to get to the DMZ with the help of Bishop Sundo Kim and a military official who is a part of the Kwanglim congregation.  At one point, we were actually standing in North Korea.  The pain of the separation was felt often.  Nearly everywhere we went, people prayed for unification, and I will join them.


Kwanglim Methodist Church – The people of Kwanglim were our hosts for the week, and they were wonderful. The largest Methodist Church in the world is a highly structured ministry.  Their worship style is very traditional.  On the day we were there, a full orchestra led singing, including a beautiful violin solo.

One of Many Group Photos at Kwanglim with Pastor Chungsuk Kim

One of Many Group Photos at Kwanglim with Pastor Chungsuk Kim

Yoido Full Gospel Church – The Yoido Church is an incredible experience.  There were thousands of young people worshiping in full charismatic expression.  The Yoido Church is the largest church in the world.

Ecstatic worship at Yoido

Ecstatic worship at Yoido

Korean Hospitality – Of course, we didn’t get a fair representation of the population.  We were escorted within church circles and ate food that appeared to be modified for western tastes.  With that said, in our experience, the people were incredibly gracious and hospitable.  We received gifts (four mugs!) and food at just about every stop.

Robbie Phillips & I visited the home of church members with a pastor.  Notice the gift and the food.

Robbie Phillips & I visited the home of church members with a pastor. Notice the gift and the food.

Korean Culture – The culture of Korea has been heavily influenced by the west.  Western suits with ties are the business dress code.  McDonalds, Starbucks, Papa Johns, KFC, and Baskin Robbins are everywhere in Seoul.  In many ways, the overall culture feels like what America may have felt 50 years ago.  There is great deference to elders, paying high honor to those in certain positions.

Will Korean children ever refuse to wear robes?

Will Korean children ever refuse to wear robes?

Church Practices – The church in Korea is doing extremely well.  It really is incredible.  My hope is that the church will continue to be creative and forward thinking.  My guess is that much of the Korean culture will change in the next 20 years.  How the church responds to that change will be incredibly important.

Bishop Sundo Kim speaks at a church that was built only three years ago.  Notice the very traditional architecture and appointments.

Bishop Sundo Kim speaks at a church that was built only three years ago. Notice the very traditional architecture and appointments.

Prayer – Apparently, fervent prayer is a universal practice among Christians in Korea.  Hours of daily personal prayer, extensive small group prayer, and powerful and emotive public prayer seem to mark spiritual lives.  Perhaps, it will be through prayer that the church is moved to find new ways to reach and transform lives as the surrounding culture shifts.

We were honored that Bishop Sundo Kim opened his prayer room to us.

We were honored that Bishop Sundo Kim opened his prayer room to us.

If you are interested in pics, click the flickr stream on the left.