Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Is Missional the New Traditional?

Every successful revolutionary movement, becomes the new establishment. It may have a new face, but it becomes the same great power, "the tradition", which they themselves had once sought to overcome. The new leaders find themselves repeating much of the defences that the previous generation used against them.

Anthony Bradley has written an article concerning the "missional" movement, within evangelicalism. Referencing yesterdays revolutionaries, he writes:
So I'm beginning to wonder if it's "a wrap" on this whole "missional" movement splash, especially in terms of church planting? I can definitely see the wind being taken out of the sails for some. I've been particularly curious about crickets I hear when bringing up a few issues among missional Christians (link to article.)
Now, as a church planter and having attended countless hours of church plant training and read many church planting books, i am of a very similar opinion.

It seems like these certain fads come up, and become "the thing" and then like the seed planted in shallow soil, they suddenly wither. Individuals within the movements either mature back to historic Christian roots (Mark Driscoll), or go on to further and further extremes (Clark Pinnock).

The richest irony is how heavily the fads of just a few years ago are mocked by the newest establishment. For example, a decade or so ago, all one heard about was "purpose driven ministry". Then 5 years ago, the Missional leaders derided this "attraction" model as so much huffing and puffing.

In each popular movement that arises, there may be value, and their may be danger. But one thing remains certain, the Word of God still stands, and a very simple ministry philosophy is already provided for us, that will never go out of style, because unlike all the movements of men, God's supernatural power accomplishes his purposes.

We are told that pastoral ministry is a shepherding function.

"Feed My Sheep" Jesus told Peter. To Pastor Timothy, Paul wrote, "Preach the world, in season and out of season" (2 Tim 4:1). An elder, by basic definition is a believer whose life is an example and one who is, as is repeated three times in Paul's letters to Timothy as a necessity: "able to teach" (1 Tim 3:2, 2 Tim 2:2, 2 Tim 2:24).

We are told that pastoral ministry is an equipping function.
"He {jesus} gave some... as pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry" (Ephesians 4:12).

We are told that body ministry is the mutual shepherding and equipping of one another after the example of the pastoral ministry.

"...speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is athe head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, cwhen each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love" (Ephesians 4:15-16).

We are told that the purpose of Assembling together is to minster encouragement to fellow believers.

"consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another" (Hebrews 10:24-25).

The error of going beyond the Scripture.

The list I gave was meant to be illustrative, not exhaustive. There is much more. Paul warns, in regard to following the ministry directions of certain men, even the best of men, that we must, "learn by us not to go beyond what is written" (1 Cor. 4:6).

Now I would never say that we cannot model off of and learn from other leaders. There is certainly value presented in each of these various church fads that come up. I and many others have been blessed by some of the opportunities they opened and some of the biblical content they refreshed for us. However, within every wilting movement there is a sense that a significant part of the model itself has gone beyond what is written. There are other more biblically centered movements, that have proved to be more enduring.

You can see the difference in comparing, for example, the "Prayer Book" movement. The Book of Common Prayer, is a manual for scheduling and organizing church services for every day and each Sunday, and holidays. In the 1500's Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote this book when he sought to conform the English Church to a biblical form of worship. Certainly not everything in that volume is perfect. However in the main, it focused on 1) helping pastors to feed the sheep a well rounded diet, 2) helping ministers to equip their flock with prayers and doctrine, 3) helping the people participate in activities that encouraged one another. At its heart 4) it was a systematic approach to preaching the word. As a result, 500 years later, it is still a living force within the church life of millions of believers, and a template for millions more.

On the other hand, no one is using the the old "walk across the room", seeker techniques anymore. Fewer and fewer are using the "purpose driven model" and now "missional" model churches seem to be slowly dying.

So how should we frame our ministries?

First, I believe it is the the obligation of every believer, and the urgent necessity of every leader to carefully study the New Testament and come to a thoroughly biblical and complete Ministry Philosophy and Practice. Note philosophy AND practice. Many miss the fact that the Scriptures give us the "how to" as well as the "what to".

  • "I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church" (1 Tim. 3:15, emphasis added).
  • Paul warned the leaders of the Church in Corinth regarding the biblical foundations of church ministry, "each man must be careful how he builds on it" (1 Cor. 3:10, emphasis added).

Secondly, as we model off of those who have gone before (after having a biblical foundation established for ourselves), then we are to compare each of their ideas and "be careful how" we adapt it to our foundation. After all the Scriptures according to the Statement of Faith of my denomination are, "the complete revelation of [God's] will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged".

Speaking of the potential collapse of the fad now called missional. There is one surefire way to be ahead of the curve and not caught in the collapse... If we will get in our Bible's and build a biblical philosophy and practice, then we will be free to pick and choose creative approaches to those practices, without the danger of being sucked into the "movement". When the movement flourishes, we will rise with its best features. If the movement withers, we will have no formal part with it, and continue as if it never existed, the solid foundation of God still standing.

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