7.9 Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America
Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America Darrell L. Guder
Much like Stevens book, this book edited by Darrell Guder challenges the current structures of the North American as being inadequate if we are to join God in what He is doing to redeem His creation. I appreciated the historical background and context in which the present church finds itself. As I evaluate our own church, I see us as largely marginalized and seeking to find answers through various programs. Our larger problem “has to do with who are and what are we for.” (3) Clearly, “the biblical message is more radical, more inclusive, more transforming than we have allowed it to be.” (5) And that applies to my church that has a tremendous legacy of sending out missionaries. This book helps me to understand why our missions program is not growing and full of life. Financially, it remains well funded but it is only a matter of decline before there will be a downward turn. Missions rather than being the reason the church existed is now one of the many programs of the church and one that does not generate a lot of enthusiasm.
I myself was convicted since I have been involved in theological education that I was not very focused on the Mission of God. Like Gruder exposes the North American churches as places which focus on maintainence and security and wait for the world to come to them, it seems that our Seminary has not been preparing leaders with a missional ecclesiology. We have prepared leaders but they are leaders that have perpetuated the present church structure that is no longer reaching into the world as signs and witnesses into the Kingdom of God. One of the areas in which I have neglected to give much attention is the Kingdom of God. My Christian heritage had focused on the Kingdom as something yet to come. Even as a pre-milennialist I would have said that the church is to “extend” the reign of God instead of presenting God’s offer to receive, enter or inherit the kingdom. I would have said that I belong to the Kingdom but I have lacked the discipline of asking how I might move more into the realm of God’s Kingdom on a daily basis.
As Gruder says, “Here lies a path for the renewal of the heart of the church and its evangelism. I wonder how the existing church can ever move to the models of missional communities that represent the reign of God to the world. We must repent of our individualistic approach to church and ministry and live out as a body our unity in diversity, our compassion for the hurting, living a counter cultural life as we proclaim God’s good news. Gruder says that the “church’s being and doing are irretrievably tied to its proclaiming.” 107 One of the most convicting quotes in the book follows, “Churches are called to be bodies of people sent out on a mission rather than the storefronts for vendors of religious services and goods in North American culture.” 108 I need to further process this material in relationship to our local church in Houston and with respect to how we as a mission organization fit in with God’s purposes.