Saturday, June 16, 2007

How Missional Is Your Church?

Jonathan Dodsen, writing for the Acts 29 Network:

Moving from the theological tower to the church planting trenches, more than my clothing changed. This transition exposed me to the broken-in look of various theological concepts, notably the concept of being missional. As an interdisciplinary academic discipline, missional theology is incredibly robust. On a more pedestrian plane, the concept and practice of missional is, at times, a bit thin-blooded. If being missional is hot and hip among young evangelicals, it's blazing and blown-up among church planters. And I guess I am hot and hip, if in using the word missional we are referring to participating in the trans-historical, multi-cultural, global missio Dei. However, among many churches and church planters, broken-in missional fashion faces the danger of loosening from its theological stitching and consequently declining in its universal appeal.

Ed Stetzer has made a point of focusing on the cultural dimensions of being missional. In his opening chapter of Planting Missional Churches he writes: "The first major message of this book is to understand missional. Establishing a missional church means that you plant a church that is part of the culture you're seeking to reach" (latter emphasis added).[1] In fact, Stetzer links the missio Dei with missional cultural savvy: "a church or church planter who is missional is focused on God's mission (missio Dei), being aware of what God is doing in the culture and joining him in his work."[2] So, according to Stetzer, missional church plants are a part and aware of their target cultures-a thoroughly biblical idea.

However, while I agree that being missional includes being culturally alert and active, church planters often appropriate this idea monoculturally. Our notion of being culturally aware is often radically ethnocentric, primarily restricted to American culture. As missional people, we can become so committed to reaching our own culture that the cultures and peoples of the rest of the world end up taking a backseat. As a result, "missional" becomes a codeword for Western, ethnocentric, monocultural church planting, which leads to churches that aren't fully missional. In turn, this missional short-sightedness produces churches and disciples of Jesus that are not shaped by the insights and challenges of the global church.

Read the whole thing.