The Beginnings of a Dissertation

After a few shifts in focus over the course of this week, a focus for the dissertation has risen to the top.  The study will identify common elements and differences in the areas of motivation, organization, and activities among case studies of leading missional churches.  Over the last 10 years, we have developed quite a theological framework for the missional church.  We also have practitioners who are doing things that we call missional church.  However, there is not much information on what all of this looks like.  The belief is that the study will help come closer to a functional definition of missional church.

There are some issues with the study, however.  First, if we are just finding a functional definition of missional church, how will the leading congregations be identified?  Second, if I want to focus in on United Methodist churches, how will I find the leaders in that area?  Third, contextualization of the gospel is central to the understanding of the missional church.  Can I suggest common themes in motivation, organization, and activities without that being a prescribed set?  In other words, can the study be true to its goal of finding common practices without becoming a program about replication of programs and processes?

Does any of this make sense?  Because after a few days with Verna Lowe, I think my head is about to explode!

You can take a look at a more technical summary here.

PS – This could change at any minute.  (But I really hope that it doesn’t!)

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Missional Cravings

For quite some time, the Missional Church movement has been extremely interesting to me.  The focus of the Missional Church is on being the Sent Church, that the very purpose of the existence of the people of God is to announce and show signs of the inbreaking Reign of God.  It’s not about what it looks like.  It’s not about style of worship.  It’s about how the inbreaking Kingdom is lived out and announced.  In many ways, though I was unable to describe it, these were urgings that I experienced as I was recognizing a call to be a leader of Christ’s church.

There are really two primary sources for learning more about the Missional Church movement.  First, there are missiologists and theologians, employed at seminaries, who have been calling the church to a more faithful witness.  Leslie Newbigin is the grandfather of the Missional Church.  Darrell Guder and George Hunsberger are some of the current leading missiologist.  Secondly, there are practicioners of the Missional Church, those who have created communities that reflect the values of the Missional Church.  The problem is that these communities are subversive, understated, and are not based on consumer values.  The goal of growth looks like planting, planting, and planting rather than small, mid-size, and mega.  Therefore, they are unknown beyond the community.  Ever heard of Chris Seay?  Yeah, he leads a growing tribe of new believing, postmodern, outward focused, artsy, everyday missionaries in Houston.  Most of the church has no idea.

There are a few notable exceptions to this.  Alan Hirsch is an Australian pastor.  His work has been some of the more practical treatments for those who are interested.  His book, The Forgotten Ways, has changed many people’s understandings of the who the church is to be.

One of the foundational issues in the missional church is how we are to engage the culture.  Andy Crouch is one of the missiologists that I talked about earlier.  I have added a video of him unpacking the church’s uncorfortable relationship with culture.  I hope it’s as revelatory, affirming, and encouraging for you as it has been for me.