Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Missional Church in Perspective: Mapping Trends and Shaping the Conversation (The Missional Network) Paperback – May 1, 2011
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
From the Back Cover
Extending the Missional Church Conversation
"The term 'missional' has been adopted by a wide variety of traditions and attached to many add-on programs. This book brings much-needed clarity to a confused picture. It is no rehash of familiar material but rather breaks new ground and leaves the reader with an appetite for more!"--Eddie Gibbs, Fuller Theological Seminary"
This book is the most precise, informed, and uncompromising parsing to date of the history of the concept of 'missional' both as a sensibility and as a form of praxis. Like all good historical analyses, it provides not only a basis for understanding where we have been but also a well-honed tool for considering where we may need and want to go next."--Phyllis Tickle, author, The Great Emergence
"Concertgoers are familiar with the cacophonous roar that precedes great orchestral performances as musicians tune their instruments. When the conductor takes the stand, however, these same instruments--now focused on a musical score--produce music. The Missional Church in Perspective provides sheet music for all those who want to participate in the missional symphony. The book's scholarship and synthesis qualify it to be a common score for us all."--Reggie McNeal, Leadership Network"
This book is a veritable morphology of the term 'missional.' As such it provides both conceptual tools with which to assess the impact of missional ideas on the Western church and a map that helps us chart possible future trajectories of what is clearly one of the most important movements in our times."--Alan Hirsch, Forge Mission Training Network
"A helpful and well-researched work that traces and evaluates streams within the missional church conversation, showing a wide awareness from evangelical, mainline, and historical sources. I have found a new required textbook for my missional church class."--Ed Stetzer, LifeWay Research; missiologist
"It is a rare book that can clearly and cogently describe a highly complex field while also setting a bold course for the future. The Missional Church in Perspective does precisely this. I have little doubt that it will serve as a centerpiece for the missional conversation for the next decade and beyond."--Jack Reese, Abilene Christian University
About the Author
Craig Van Gelder (Ph.D., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and University of Texas at Arlington) is professor of congregational mission at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the author or editor of a number of books, including The Essence of the Church, The Ministry of the Missional Church, A Field Guide for the Missional Congregation, and The Church between Gospel and Culture. Dwight J. Zscheile (Ph.D., Luther Seminary) is assistant professor of congregational mission and leadership at Luther Seminary and serves as associate rector at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
Part 1: The History and Development of the Missional Conversation.
This section serves as the main survey to date, and anchors the book primarily in the great text published in 1998 by the GOCN: Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America. This is a lucid and rich exploration of the six main themes in that text, as well as an exploration of the dischordant elements. Beginning on page 53, the authors note a lack of integration in key themes, and weaknesses (or omissions) in the Trinitarian rooting (the classic east vs the west).
This section also raises a fundamental question that is not directly addressed in the classic text of 1998. There are two approaches to the missio Dei, broadly speaking: a specialized view that understands God as working in the world through a redeemed people who are called and sent, and a generalized view that understands God as working in the world beyond the church through secular history. In part this divergence hinges around the relationship of the church and the kingdom of God.
The authors nuance this divergence, breaking the two views into two sub-approaches each, and then offering a third, integrated view (56-57). The integrated view runs as follows:
The church participates in God’s continuing creation and redemptive mission. People in the church pursue God’s mission in the world both as cocreative creatures engaging with God in the Spirit’s continuing work in all creation and by bearing witness to the reign of God. Various authors (chapters) of Missional Church came down in various places on their general approach to missio Dei, with chapters 6 and 7 (Dieterrich and Roxburgh) arguing the integrated view.
Missional Church (1998) also developed a variety of approaches to the relationship between church and culture (59ff). Roxburgh’s contribution made it clear that the church is deeply embedded in culture, where Hunsberger’s contribution emphasized the responsibility to build a contrast society.
In chapter 3 (MCiP), taking a cue from Ed Stetzer, the authors chart the recent literature as a part of a missional tree. In that illustration, the 1998 book serves as the trunk; church and missions/mission Trinitarian missiology, missio Dei, reign (kingdom) of God, church’s missionary nature, and missional hermeneutics serve as the roots. The recent literature is grouped by theme to serve as the branches: discovering, utilizing, engaging, and extending. (The key issue is found in two related questions: the extent to which we are dealing with human agency, and the extent to which God’s agency is operative and discernible within human choices).
Discovering Missional. This branch of the conversation reaches back to the previous framework of “church” and “mission” where these are separate but related realities. Missional language is really a tweak to old concepts.
Utilizing Missional. This branch of the conversation is actively trying to utilize the biblical and theological ideas that shaped the initial missional conversation as presented in Missional Church in an attempt to deepen the conversation.
Engaging Missional. This branch is attempting to live out and engage a missional perspective in some aspect of church life. An understanding of the literature is assumed.
Extending Missional. This branch is seeking to further develop the biblical and theological frameworks that undergird a missional understanding.
A variety of authors, traditions and studies are related to these branches: each branch and its associated subbranches are explored in relation to the “biblical and theological themes” that inform them and in relation to recent and representative literature (69). The dividing line between branches revolves around the extent to which one starts with the mission of the church and the extent to which one starts with the mission of God.
As an example, many conversation partners are utilizing missional; these authors are actively attempting to identify implications of God as a sending God as key to understanding the role of human agency. Three sub-branches are identified as follows.
1. Missional as the kingdom of God being an extension of the church’s ministry
2. Missional as the church being a contrast community
3. Missional as participating in God’s mission in the world
"Missional.. is an important word. It describes who we are as Christ followers…Our mission is not our mission at all,, it’s God’s… Our sending God sends the church – the body of Christ – as His missionary in the world…
"God doesn’t limit himself to working only through the church. Though the church is God’s plan for reaching the world, He isn’t limited to us to build His kingdom on earth… So what we’re doing isn’t “taking God to others” by any stretch. We’re simply pointing out to people the presence of God who is already among them."
An example of “engaging” missional is the publication of Clayton Schmidt, Sent and Gathered. Tim Keller and David Fitch find themselves in this branch. The “extending” branch has such notables as Alan Roxburgh and Paul Hooker, and a host of publications from Luther Seminary. George Hunsberger’s 2009 publication, “Proposals for a Missional Hermeneutic” also falls in this branch (find it on the GOCN website).
Part II: Perspectives that Extend the Missional Conversation
Chapter 4 returns to the discussion of the Trinity and develops a more integrated view of the social Trinity and the sending Trinity. This frame provides a more robust understanding of God’s relationship to the world through creation, Christ, and the Spirit. The theme of participation becomes a key for resolving the question of how the work of God continues.
Chapter 5 takes up the complex issue of culture and a missional theology of culture is proposed for framing the church’s public engagement with diverse contexts.
Chapter 6 revisits the impact of missional theology on congregational practices, leadership, and organization. The theological commitments offered in chapters 4 and 5 serve as the basis for deepening the conversation, toward reframing church life in a new apostolic era.
Enriching the Framework
“A more robust missional theology offers the promise of rendering more faithful and more fruitful our imagination of who God is, what God is doing in the church and the world, and how we can better participate in these works of God.” (102)
One of the key questions for the missional conversation is how God’s sending movement is conceived. There are significant differences in the approach to agency, as chapter three made obvious. Rich Trinitarian voices were more evident in the latter part of the twentieth century, with writers like Zizioulas and Volf. But these authors did not deal explicitly with mission, and so ecclesiology and missiology traveled on parallel tracks, with few hints as to how they might connect.
Meanwhile, the doctrine of the Trinity has a complicated history in the West. The relationships between the Father, Son, and Spirit came to refer in the West largely to God’s inner life. Functionally, the church ended up with a monistic way of imagining God’s engagement in the world. (See Douglas John Hall on this subject). This view also fostered individualistic understandings of human personhood, and a kind of “methodological atheism.”
Irenaeus referred to the Son and the Spirit as the two hands of the Father in the world. “When we lose the Trinity, we lose our way of conceiving of God’s missionary presence in creation.” (104) The missional conversation represents an exception to this, and the Trinity is increasingly being asserted as the hub: the frame within which other doctrines make sense.
The next section in chapter 4 describes “limitations” of the sending view of the Trinity. This recovery is pivotal, but has significant liabilities if not integrated with insights about the church as a political and social expression of God’s life. The functional modalism common in the West led to a Christomonism which appears in missional praxis “under the guise of an incarnational approach to mission. Jesus’ identity as the Son of the Father who is anointed and led by the Spirit can fade from view.” This in turn fosters a view of mission as the isolated province of individual believers, “rather than the participation of the church in the Triune” life of God. (106)
But there are other liabilities of an add-on Trinitarianism. The sending movement from Father to Son to Spirit to church to world can result “in making the church primarily an instrument and rendering the world a mere ‘target’ of mission.” (106) This programmatic, technical approach is all too obvious among Western churches. The corrective, in part, is renewed submission to the Spirit, and renewed awareness of the church as a sign, foretaste and instrument of the kingdom of God.
The authors note that missional ecclesiology is also representational. Newbigin indicates how the church as a visible community provides the interpretive key to God’s wider purposes for humanity: the church embodies the future toward which God is drawing all humanity. The church is not a collection of individuals “who choose to associate in order to have their spiritual needs met,” but rather “a community of mutual participation in God’s own life and the life of the world” (107). They reference John 17:21b-23.
There is, then, simultaneously a recovery of a fuller view of imago Dei. We are moving from a conception based on isolated individuals to a relational, communal view: the image of the Trinity (imago Trinitatis).
Moreover, the biblical narrative suggests a deeply reciprocal understanding of the Trinity and God’s relationship with the world, played out clearly in the passion. As Moltmann asserts, “the grief of the Father is just as important as the death of the Son.” God’s own inner life is affected by the world.
“A participatory understanding opens up a highly reciprocal view of the God-world-church relationships, in which the church shares in the Triune God’s own vulnerable engagement with the world… Imitation tends to stress what God has done. Participation invites us into what God is doing and will continue to do as God’s promises in Christ are brought to fulfillment.” (111, italics original)
This is a comprehensive map to the conversation to date, as well as a rich and suggestive resource. Simply outstanding!
"Part 1: The History and Development of the Missional Conversation" serves as the book's greatest contribution to the understanding of the term mission. Van Gelder is uniquely qualified to explore the varied usage of the term, since it was popularized as the result of a book he contributed to: Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America (1988). In addition to exploring and critiquing the 1998 text, Van Gelder charts the recent literature as a part of a missional tree. In that illustration, the 1998 book serves as the trunk; church and missions/mission Trinitarian missiology, missio Dei, reign (kingdom) of God, church's missionary nature, and missional hermeneutics serve as the roots; and the recent literature are grouped by theme to serve as the branches: discovering, utilizing, engaging, and extending. Each branch and its associated subbranches are explored in relation to the "biblical and theological themes" that inform them and in relation to recent literature that is representative of it (p.69).
"Part 2: Perspectives That Extend the Missional Conversation" seeks to apply the wealth of information in the first part to the contemporary church through chapters focusing on theological frameworks, engaging culture, and church life and leadership. While Zscheile offers numerous helpful insights that enable readers to understand how the missional church should be embodied, this section does not significantly extend the missional conversation by introducing new or controversial possibilities. Instead, it offers data points to encourage readers to think more about concepts and, ideally, to engage others in that conversation with the intent to act upon those discoveries.
In the introduction, Van Gelder and Zscheile suggest the recent missional church literature includes four common themes:
(1)God is a missionary God who sends the church into the world.
(2)God's mission in the world is related to the reign (kingdom) of God.
(3)The missional church is an incarnational (versus an attractional) ministry sent to engage a postmodern, post-Christendom, globalized context.
(4)The internal life of the missional church focuses on every believer living as a disciple engaging in mission (p. 3-4).
Given its rapid development and widespread usage, the term missional church is likely to be one most North American Christians will hear often in the coming years.